This Week in World History, 8th-14th February: 1990 & 1945   Leave a comment

1990: Twenty-five years ago (in South Africa and Moscow).

8 February: In South Africa, Adriaan Vlok, Minister of Law and Order, says death threats from extreme Right and rival factions of the ANC are delaying Mandela’s release.

9 February: Mandela meets twenty-two of the biggest anti-apartheid groups inside South Africa. He also poses for a photograph with F. W. de Klerk (below). The photograph, published in newspapers throughout the country, has a profound effect, seeming to place the two leaders on the basis of equality, and thereby arousing feelings of foreboding as well of hope.

 

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9 February: US Secretary of State James Baker meets Gorbachev in Moscow to propose what he calls a “Two-plus-Four” solution to the problem of German re-unification: the two Germanys  and the four wartime Allied occupying powers, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union, will determine the conditions under which re-unification will be countenanced.

10 February: Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher are in Moscow. Gorbachev signals that he will not oppose  German re-unification.

10 February: De Klerk announces that Mandela will be released on Sunday, 11 February at 1 p.m. GMT.

11 February: Nelson Mandela is released from prison, presaging the transition to democracy in South Africa. White opinion is shocked his call for the continuation of ‘the armed struggle’ and for foreign governments to maintain sanctions.

 

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12 February: At a rally at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto, Mandela calls on the children to go back to school, for an end to crime and an end to the violence in Natal and Cape Town, which has broken out since his release. These appeals have gone largely unnoticed, even by the liberal white press. In a TV interview, Mandela is trapped into confirming that the ANC’s military wing will continue its attacks on government buildings. Liberal whites begin to doubt that Mandela really is the man to lead them into a new, non-racial South Africa, while on the Right there is a feeling of betrayal and alarm at the prospect of renewed guerrilla violence.

In the Soviet Union, street demonstrations show that public opinion is impatient but divided; the Right complains that Gorbachev is going too fast, the Left that he is not moving fast enough. The supreme Soviet vote him sweeping presidential powers.

13 February: In Ottowa, the “Two-plus-Four” stratagem is approved.

14 February: In the past month, including Mandela’s release, which has seen greater progress towards reform than any other comparable period in the previous fifty years, seven blacks have died in police custody. At a time when the government is trying to find a new relationship with the black opposition, the South African police show no sign of changing the tactics they have always used.

1945: Seventy years ago (in Budapest).

9 The Budapest Police HQ announces that since 18 January, the Soviet authorities have removed the police from the headquarters and the barracks. Policemen have to make their way every day, and scarcely half of them reach their places of duty: they are picked up and up to three thousand are already in a prison camp at Gödöllő. The Soviet security services have raided police stations and headquarters, taking away  the police officers they find, resulting in chaos.

11 Red Army soldiers ‘liberating’ Budapest and supposedly looking for remaining German soldiers, rape Hungarian women living in the cellars of houses and apartment blocks.

13 Eventually, worn out by the sheer force of the Red Army attack, the German SS and Hungarian Arrow Cross attempt to break out of the Buda Castle area, and all but a few thousand are killed or captured. The city finally surrenders.

 

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