1991: An Amazing Year!

1991: An Amazing Year!

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History is replete with examples of the rise and fall of once great empires. December 1991 saw the end of a two super power world with the fall of the Soviet Union. In December, “as the world watched in amazement, the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen separate countries” (Cold War Museum). The United States was overjoyed as its enemy was, “brought to its knees, thereby ending the Cold War which had hovered over these two superpowers since the end of World War II” (Cold War Museum). The split of the Soviet Union made extremely large transformations in the world’s political and economic situation, which resulted in a reduction of global nuclear weapons, world economic cooperation, and the commercialization of once classified military technology.

In Moscow on July 31, 1991, President Bush and Gorbashev, the leader of the Soviet Union, signed the START treaty to reduce nuclear weapons on both sides to 6,000—which was a 30-percent reduction of the previous amount being used. This was the first large-scale reduction of nuclear weapons in the history of the Cold War. As a result of this treaty, “The dangerous category of missiles with multiple independently targeted warheads (MIRVs) was reduced by half” (End of the Cold War). On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned from presidency and the Soviet Union was officially broken up. All the former, “dependent republics within the old USSR proclaimed their independence, secured international recognition, and were admitted to the United Nations” (End of the Cold War). As a result of the strong working relationship between President Bush and Michael Gorbashev, as well as the relationship between Baker, the Secretary of State, and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union began to drastically reduce its military spending.

This cooperation between Gorbashev and the West led to a backlash by the Soviet military and resulted in a failed coup attempt, which ended Gorbashev’s rule and resulted in the final collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia, no longer the Soviet Union, was now under a new leadership. Boris Yeltsin became the head of Russian republic and continued to integrate with the Western world. Russia took over the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and was invited to join the G-7 gathering of the world’s largest economic powers, therefore making it the G-8. This created a level of cooperation and communication between the two countries that did not exist during the Cold War.

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The reduction in worldwide tensions resulting from the end of the Cold War also allowed the declassification of technology that had previously been reserved for the military. Taking away these restrictions allowed important technologies to go mainstream and be used by the public. This was a major economic benefit for the United States and the world’s economy. The internet, for example, was made available to, “unrestricted commercial use in 1991” (Cold War Museum), and the number of computers on the net reached one million. Before this, the internet was considered strategic and only allowed to be used by academic institutions. Additional use and free access opened the route for the entire world to use internet and benefit from the use of free information and data.

The final demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War took place in 1991. It forever changed the political and economic life of the world. Where there was once confrontation, there was now cooperation. The United States and Russia worked together to reduce nuclear weapons under the START treaty. They also discussed economic policy together at the G8 and promote capitalism through new businesses and commercialization of once classified technology. In doing these things, they formed a relationship that was beneficial to both countries while improving their economic and political strategies.

How has music in 1991 helped shape/influence music and artists today?

Just as the United States changed and advanced politically and technologically in 1991, music did as well. Nirvana’s album “Nevermind” changed the music industry forever. The album dropped in 1991 with their single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but started off slowly, selling only 250,000 copies in its first two months. It eventually climbed to the top of the charts and even knocked off Michael Jackson's album "Dangerous.” To this day, “Nevermind” has sold over 40 million copies. The album, “sparked the beginning of a new genre of music. ‘Grunge,’ a combination of heavy metal and alternative rock, and officially marked the end of the hair metal stage that plagued the late 80s” (Easterhouse). The album’s success was not only on the charts, but it inspired other artists to work more with the “grunge” theme, and has had, “a more noteworthy impact as an influence for now successful artists of all musical genres” (Easterhouse).

For instance, Dave Grohl, the drummer of the Foo Fighters, played with Nirvana, and became inspired by their music, so he practiced and recorded songs and rhythms on his own. After Kurt Cobain died, Grohl, “used these tracks as a stepping-stone for the Foo Fighters” (Easterhouse), who went on to have very successful music career. Nirvana’s former bassist, Krist Noveselic, played on the Foo Fighter’s latest album, "Wasting Light,” which was extremely successful and sold over 235,000 copies in one week. “The Foo Fighters recorded the album in a garage, which gave it a grunge-tone similar to Nirvana’s, as “Nevermind” was recorded in the same way. Just recently, Jared Leto, the lead singer of 30 Seconds, spoke about "Nevermind" and the how it changed his perspective on music and inspired him begin his career. He states that, “Nirvana gave him and other musicians permission to pick up an instrument and create, and without their influence he would not be here.” “Nevermind” changed the way a lot of artists look at music, and inspired them to work off the grunge genre or to create their own classification of music. Ben Folds, a singer and producer, claims that after hearing Nirvana perform "Nevermind" in Australia, "I left feeling inspired in a way I hadn't felt before, and the next day I did the thing that punk rock was always meant to make you do. I started a band." Although Nirvana was only a band for seven years, its influence the music industry is incredible. Without Nirvana, many bands that fall under the “grunge” or hard rock category would not have had the influence and inspiration to express themselves and create the kind of music that they are passionate about. Nirvana provided a sense of empowerment to the music world will never be forgotten.

A discussion of the media’s coverage and a key event from that year

On December 5th, 1991, Terry Anderson was released from captivity after seven years in Beirut. He spent, “almost seven years as a hostage of Islamic Jihad, an offshoot of the nascent Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, a Shiite group” (Tristam). Though he did not release a lot of details of his kidnapping to the media, he wrote a book about his captivity, called Den of Lions. The media continuously gave updates on his situation, although they had no way of getting in touch with Anderson himself. In an excerpt from his book, he listens to a newscast, and hears that, “…I've been turned over to the Syrians already, and I'm on my way to Damascus. They say there's a delay because of snow in the mountains between Beirut and Damascus. Of course, I'm in the Bekaa, and there's no snow. It's been interesting, listening to the news analyses, and the recaps of the last seven years. The newscasts are full of praise for me--I don’t know for what, except perhaps for surviving. It's like listening to your own obituary." Anderson claims that there was a lot of false information, but with advent of 24 hour live news channels, and “breaking news” specials, it was essential to continually provide updates as they occur, though sometimes without the benefit of editorial accuracy. Reporting news as it occurred was now the standard with the advent of 24-hour news stations and technology that could bring video content live from around the world as events occurred.

For example, On December 25 1991, CNN had exclusive coverage of the collapse of the Soviet Union. They had live access to Boris Yeltsin as he became the first Russian president and live commentary from Michael Gorbachev, the former Soviet Union leader. CNN, “aired the speech…whether on its own channel or through other networks that had bought the right to show it, in over 150 countries; history-making news broadcast around the world instantaneously” (Deady). This was the first time in history that, “a news organization had broadcast, live, an interview with a world leader the same night he had resigned” (Deady). 1991 was a year of live news coverage, whether it was the return of Terry Anderson or the fall of the Soviet Union. These stories were covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, up to the minute as they occurred.

An account of a specific trial or political problem and address its significance

Though 1991 is mostly seen as a year of political improvement, it does not mean that there weren’t any conflicts within the government. In 1991, Clarence Thomas, a Supreme Court nominee, was questioned about claims of sexual harassment from Anita Hill. Just after George Bush nominated Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court, “Thomas underwent nomination hearings in the U.S. Senate and a vote was scheduled” (CNN). Two days before the vote, Anita Hill, a teacher at University of Oklahoma, “told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the Education Department and the EE” (CNN). When Hill finally agreed to go out with Thomas, “Thomas told her that if she ever told anyone about his behavior it would ruin his career” (CNN). The media “went crazy over Hill’s testimony” (CNN) as it was broadcasted live on both radio and television. The public had a split opinion, but many believed that someone who is being accused for sexual harassment should not even be considered to run for Supreme Court. Others who were supportive of Thomas, “questioned Hill’s truthfulness and even her mental state” (CNN). Thomas fought back against the allegations with a statement saying, "During my tenure in the executive branch as a manager, as a policymaker, and as a person, I have adamantly condemned sex harassment. There is no member of this committee or this Senate who feels stronger about sex harassment than I do. As a manager, I made every effort to take swift and decisive action when sex harassment raised or reared its ugly head” (CNN). The government allowed the voting to be pushed back a week in order for the conflict to settle before decision time. Against many people’s wishes, “the Senate confirmed Thomas' nomination on October 15, 1991, on a 52-48 vote, the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote in history” (CNN). It was frustrating to many that the Supreme Court continued followed through with the nomination after the accusations were made against Thomas. The Court was aware that Thomas’s behavior constituted as harassment because it, “created an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, and sexually offensive work environment” (CNN), yet they nominated him anyway. The controversy in their decision is still discussed today. On top of foreign policy concerns with the Soviet Union, there were still domestic problems within the traditional branch of government.

Works Cited:

"The Cold War Museum." Cold War Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 26

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"Miller Center." State of the Union Address (January 29, 1991)-.

N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014.

"Profiles of U.S. Presidents." The End of the Cold War. N.p.,

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Easterhouse, Jim. "Cultural Impact of Nirvana's 'Nevermind' Still Resonates Today." The

DePauw. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014.

"When Terry Anderson Was Released After 2,454 Days As
Hezbollah's Hostage." About.com Middle East Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014.

Deady, Carolyn. "How the Fall of the Soviet Union Changed the

News Media." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 19 Dec. 2011. Web. 28 May 2014.

"Anita Hill Scandal Almost Sank Clarence Thomas." This Just In

RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2014.

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