Lal Bahadur Shastri

Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indian prime minister at the time of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, was born on October 2, 1901, at Mughalsarai, Uttar Pradesh. Shastri graduated from Kashi Vidya Peeth in Varanasi in 1926, attaining the degree of shastri (equivalent to a bachelor’s degree).

His surname, Shastri, was taken by him from this degree. He was attracted to the freedom movement while at school and participated in the noncooperation and civil disobedience movements launched by Mohandas K. Gandhi.

After India’s independence Shastri became the home minister of Uttar Pradesh state. He then joined politics on the national level, became the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in 1951, under Jawaharlal Nehru as president, and became a close confidant of Nehru.

Shastri was a humble man and tolerant of opposing viewpoints, but never wavered from his convictions. He resigned as railway minister after an accident near Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, taking responsibility for the event. Shastri was a very capable organizer of the Congress Party and contributed to the success of his party in general elections.

After Nehru’s death on May 27, 1964, party stalwarts favored the noncontroversial Shastri as his successor as prime minister. As prime minister, he tried to solve the rising problem of food shortage in the country and worked to ameliorate the condition of the peasantry.

Shastri showed strong determination and iron will in his dealings with Pakistan. These had been bad since independence. But the second Indo-Pakistani Wars began during Shastri’s premiership. India had been humiliated in the Sino-Indian War of 1962, and Pakistan exploited the situation by fomenting trouble on the western border of India. Shastri made diplomatic efforts to solve the problem but failed.

The conflict began in the Rann of Kutch region in Gujarat in March 1965 when Pakistani infiltrators entered Kashmir. The war was a stalemate. The United Nations Security Council called for a cease-fire on September 22. Then a meeting of the premiers of India and Pakistan, arranged by Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin, took place in the city of Tashkent.

The Tashkent Agreement was signed by Shastri and Pakistani president Ayub Khan on January 10, 1966. It restored normal relations between India and Pakistan. Both armies went back to the positions they had held before the war, and the cease-fire line became the de facto border between the two countries.

Shastri suffered a heart attack and died the next day. A grateful nation awarded him with the highest honor, Bharat Ratna, posthumously. Shastri had left an indelible mark in Indian politics because of his leadership quality, honesty, and steadfast determination.

Shining Path

Shining Path
Shining Path

Founded in the 1960s but not active in guerrilla activities until May 1980, the Maoist-oriented Communist Party of Peru (Partido Comunista del Perú), popularly known as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), was the brainchild of former university professor Abimael Guzmán.

For 12 years, from 1980 until Guzmán’s capture by the Peruvian military on September 12, 1992, in Lima, Shining Path waged a rural and urban guerrilla campaign against the Peruvian state.

Based mainly in rural areas, Shining Path controlled sections in the south and central part of the highlands, and had taken their struggle to the shantytowns of Lima and other cities. The insurgency prompted a security crackdown by three successive presidents in which the Peruvian military committed tens of thousands of documented human rights abuses.

The Shining Path movement provided President Fujimori with a pretext for his "self-coup" of April 1992, when he dissolved the Peruvian Congress and suspended constitutional guarantees, soon followed by a purge of the judiciary and his assumption of dictatorial powers.

The Shining Path movement, in conjunction with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru, MRTA)—and the state repression that these guerrilla movements engendered—had the effect of heightening the militarization of the country and creating a legacy of violence and impunity that endured into the 21st century.

The ideology inspiring Shining Path’s guerrilla movement was an amalgam of various strains of leftist and Marxist theories of imperialism, capitalism, and armed struggle that gave primacy to the political thought of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong.

Senderistas (as members of the group were known) rejected the concept of "human rights". In keeping with this ideology, Shining Path’s principal weapon was its use of terror and violence against civilians it identified as its enemies.

Alienating large sectors of the peasantry, not only by its brutality but by its lack of respect for indigenous and rural customs, the group also tried to outlaw alcohol, ban community celebrations, and close markets in city and countryside, with the aim of starving Lima and ultimately seizing state power.

Many peasant communities responded by forming rondas, or community patrols, to defend themselves against Sendero assaults. The group survived its leader’s 1992 capture, though its activities dropped off markedly, and it no longer posed a threat to the state.

According to the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation of Peru, in the final two decades of the 20th century a total of 69,280 civilians were killed or disappeared by Shining Path, the MRTA, paramilitary squads, and the Peruvian military, with the Shining Path responsible for more than half (54 percent) of the total.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

A former shoeshine boy, street vendor, metalworker, and longtime labor leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (universally known as "Lula") was elected president of Brazil in 2002 with some 61 percent of the popular vote; four years later, despite an unfolding corruption scandal, he was reelected for a second term.

His rise to political power represented a key element in a broader shift in Latin American politics in the 1990s and 2000s toward a pragmatic and democratic left-populism that viewed the neoliberal economic policies espoused by the United States and international financial institutions (particularly the International Monetary Fund and World Bank) as antithetical to the interests of their nations’ citizens and of Latin America’s and the world’s poor.

Along with Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and other political leaders swept into office in the post–cold war era, President Lula has worked to deepen democratic institutions and improve the living standards of the majority, while at the same time working within the structures of global capitalism dominated by the more advanced industrial countries of Europe and North America.

Born in October 1945 to a poor peasant family in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil’s impoverished northeast, as a small child Lula moved with his mother and seven siblings to the coastal city of Guarujá in São Paulo state. Like many poor working-class children, he received a spotty education, instead working in the city’s informal economy to help his family make ends meet.

When he was 11, his family moved to São Paulo, where he worked in a number of factories, including a copper processing facility and an automobile plant. As a young man he became increasingly involved in union politics; this was during the period of military dictatorship (1964–85), when state authorities violently suppressed militant labor activism.

Lula’s involvement in the labor movement deepened through the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978, following an AFL-CIO-sponsored tour of the United States earlier in the decade, he was elected president of a local steel-worker’s union.

After being arrested and jailed for illegal union and strike activities, in 1980 he helped found the Worker’s Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT); three years later he was a founding member of the Central Worker’s Union (Central Única dos Trabalhadores, or CUT). In 1982, in the midst of these union and political activities, and with the country still in the grip of military dictatorship, he ran for office in the São Paulo state assembly.

He was defeated, but four years later, following the democratic opening after 1985, won a seat in the National Congress as a Worker’s Party member. Using his congressional seat as a platform, he ran for president in 1989, losing the election but gaining national attention for his plainspoken left-populism.

He ran again in 1994 and 1998 and, after softening his party’s platform to ease the jitters of the investment and financial sectors, captured the presidency in 2002. His administration’s policies can be described as moderately left-reformist, with an expansion of public sector spending in health care, education, social security, energy, and related arenas, coupled with careful debt and monetary management.

The response of the international financial community, and of the Brazilian electorate, has been mostly positive, though many of his erstwhile supporters have expressed disappointment at what they see as excessive compromise and dilution of his socialist vision. Whether his administration will be able to maintain the delicate balance between meeting the needs and aspirations of transnational capital and of the country’s laboring classes remains to be seen.



Singapore became in independent country on August 9, 1965. This island nation at the southern tip of western Malaysia has since become a regional powerhouse. Singapore’s 4 million citizens, by marked contrast with many other countries of Southeast Asia, enjoy a high standard of living second only to Japan’s in Asia.

Singapore has ancient beginnings. It was part of the Sultanate of Johore until 1819, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, representing Great Britain, made a treaty with the sultan and established the island as a British trading settlement. The name Singapore comes from the word Singapura, meaning "Lion City".

As a Crown Colony of the British Empire, it became an impregnable fortress. In 1941 Japan entered World War II, simultaneously attacking Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Malaysia. By early 1942 the Japanese army was progressing rapidly down the peninsula.

The city was shelled and bombed, and several thousand troops and civilians were killed in the fighting. The garrison on Singapore surrendered on February 15, 1942. Thousands of Allied troops were marched into captivity.

The Japanese found themselves in possession of a valuable stronghold and significant quantities of Allied weapons and ammunition. Japan established an infamous prisoner of war camp at Changi, where Allied prisoners languished under inhumane conditions.

After World War II Singapore resumed its busy trading focus, and in 1959 it became a self-governing Crown Colony with Lee Kuan Yew, a British-educated barrister, as its first prime minister.

On September 2, 1962, a referendum was held on whether to form a union with Malaya. Seventy-three percent of the electorate voted in favor. On September 16, 1963, Singapore became part of the new nation of Malaysia, a self-governing dominion of the British Commonwealth.

Statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in Singapore
Statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
in Singapore
Four areas were combined to make up Malaysia: the Federated Malay States, Singapore, British North Borneo, and Sarawak. Indonesia and the Philippines opposed the union, and Indonesia supported rebels in Malaysia after its formation.

In 1965 Singapore left the Malaysia Federation to become a sovereign country. The island section of Malaysia was expelled over the status of ethnic Malay and Chinese in the population.

Singapore, as a separate nation, was a success. On September 21, 1965, it became the 117th member of the United Nations. President Lee Kuan Yew is regarded as the father of modern Singapore.

As leader and founder of the People’s Action Party (PAP), he campaigned energetically to form a multiracial government along nonracial lines. He maintained law and order and emphasized hard work. The government is famous for efficiency, and its people for being hard-working and forward looking.

In August 1967 Singapore joined Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand to form ASEAN—the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The association pursued aims of accelerating economic growth, social progress, and cultural development, and the promotion of peace and stability in the region. In 1971 Britain ended its military association with Singapore with the closure of the British Far East Command.

Lee retired in 1990 as Singapore’s reputation for efficiency and hard work grew. Today, the nation-state is crowded—population density in 2003 was just over 6,000 people per square kilometer. Life expectancy is 77 years for males and 81 for females. Singapore has become the success story of Southeast Asia.

Sino-Soviet Treaty (1950)

The People’s Republic of China was proclaimed on October 1, 1949, and won immediate recognition from the Soviet Union and Eastern European communist nations. Not yet secure after winning the civil war against the Nationalists, China needed support from the Soviet Union.

Thus Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), declared his "lean to one side" policy to form an international united front with the Soviet Union.

Mao went to Moscow in December 1949, his first trip abroad, ostensibly to help celebrate Joseph Stalin’s 70th birthday but more importantly to negotiate a treaty with the Soviet Union. A 30-year treaty of friendship, alliance, and mutual assistance was signed on February 14, 1950, clearly directed against the United States.

A second agreement allowed the Soviet Union to continue its presence in Port Arthur and Dairen in China’s southern Manchuria and to operate a railway in the region (rights Stalin had obtained at Yalta in 1945 without agreement from China) until 1952. The treaty provided for a $300 million loan from the Soviet Union in five equal annual installments between 1950 and 1955.

During the next decade the Soviet Union sent tens of thousands of scientists and advisers to help the Chinese army, navy, air force, and 156 industrial enterprises during China’s First Five-Year Plan.

A total of 6,500 Chinese students went for advanced studies to the Soviet Union instead of Western countries; Russian replaced English as the compulsory second language in Chinese schools. In 1952 the Soviet Union returned to China the over U.S. $1 billion of loot it had taken from Manchuria at the end of World War II.

China agreed to recognize independence for Outer Mongolia, a part of China that had become a Soviet satellite in 1924. In October 1950 China intervened in the Korean War to prevent the collapse of North Korea, an ally of both China and the Soviet Union.

By the late 1950s the Moscow-Beijing Axis was collapsing for many reasons. Although both nations were ruled by communist parties, the CCP had from its inception resented Moscow’s domination and interference. Although Mao respected Stalin’s seniority in the communist world, he firmly rejected Nikita Khrushchev’s similar claim after Stalin’s death, and Mao offered himself as the world communist leader.

Mao also denounced Khrushchev as revisionist for his de-Stalinization policy after 1956. In 1959 Khrushchev withdrew an earlier promise to help China build a nuclear bomb and recalled Soviet aid workers from China. Mao called Khrushchev a coward for backing down before the United States in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

Mao’s claim to be an original contributor to Marxism-Leninism, with special relevance to the non-Western world, was rejected by Moscow. Finally, China felt aggrieved over large territorial losses to imperial Russia in the 19th century and wanted the Soviet Union to acknowledge that they were the result of unequal and therefore illegal treaties, claims that the Soviet Union firmly rejected.

Relations deteriorated further when Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sent troops to Czechoslovakia in 1968 and announced his doctrine that the Soviet Union had the right to intervene in communist countries that deviated from its interpretation of the socialist cause. Serious border clashes between the Soviet Union and China occurred in 1969, and war loomed.

Solidarity Movement

Solidarity Movement
Solidarity Movement

Despite the fact that from 1945 to 1989 the Soviet Union imposed significant control over the internal and external affairs of eastern European nations, that control was never complete. At one time or another that situation was true in all Eastern bloc nations, but nowhere so much as in Poland. The Poles demonstrated their independent streak at intervals in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.

In many instances there were riots and bloodshed, and Soviet troops stationed in Poland ostensibly as defense against a Western attack were used to keep order. In 1953 the Polish premier informed the Soviets that while he would accept military assistance from Soviet troops already in the country, he would mobilize the entire Polish army to fight them if more were sent in. In 1980 a labor union that named itself Solidarity would come into being. It would eventually play a principle role in the ending of the communist regime in Poland.

Solidarity was founded in September 1980 in immediate response to increasing food prices, which had already precipitated several strikes. There was already a basic organization in place around which representatives of the striking workers could meet and discuss issues. This was the Workers Defense Committee, which had come into being as a result of strikes, riots, and the killing and injuring of workers in the 1970s.

The month before Solidarity was formed, almost 20,000 workers struck at the Lenin Shipyard in the city of Gdansk. These strikers, led by Lech Walesa, a shipyard electrician, locked themselves in the shipyard and were soon communicating with other groups who were joining in strikes of their own.

The workers presented a list of demands that were granted by the government, which included the ability to organize free unions that were not sponsored or sanctioned by the Polish Government. With this victory, Solidarity would come into being, replace the old Workers Defense Committee, and then begin to grow throughout the country.

In December another group, calling itself Rural Solidarity, which was the agricultural equivalent to the industrialized organization, also came into being. Growth was dramatic, and by mid-1981, nearly all laborers were members of or represented by Solidarity.

Lech Walesa. Trade Union leader who challenged Poland's communist government. Eventually became President of Poland in its post-communist years.
Lech Walesa. Trade Union leader who challenged Poland's communist government.

The Polish government, which had made the concessions that allowed Solidarity to legally come into being, began to view developments with alarm. The same concern applied to the Soviet leadership. Leonid Brezhnev and members of the Soviet Politburo made their concerns increasingly clear to Poland’s head of state, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who would feel pressure from the Soviet Union and at home.

Encouraged by its newfound legalized existence and successes thus far, Solidarity became active in 1981, calling for additional strikes and increasing its demands. By late 1981, faced with the demands of Solidarity, Jaruzelski was coming under increased pressure. He received frequent calls from Brezhnev demanding that he put a stop to Solidarity’s activities.

At the same time the Soviet army moved closer to the Polish border and conducted substantial maneuvers with other Warsaw Pact troops, thus underlining the threat that if he did not act on his own, Jaruzelski could face an invasion. At least that is what Jaruzelski said years later when on trial for treason.

General Wojciech Jaruzelski
General Wojciech Jaruzelski

That trial, from which he was later acquitted, tried to resolve whether Jaruzelski had saved Poland from invasion by what he did to Solidarity or had betrayed Poland’s independence, however limited that might be.

In mid-December 1981 Jaruzelski finally took action. Solidarity was suppressed. Lech Wałesa and the other leaders of the union were imprisoned, and martial law was imposed. The Polish army now ran everything in the country, and any union activities, strikes, or demonstrations would be met with force.

Eventually the leaders of Solidarity were quietly released, and, although the organization was illegal, it did remain active. Its leaders remained in contact with each other, and an underground organization, based on those that had existed during World War II, emerged. Western journalists were able to bring to the West a picture of Solidarity, no longer legal and not functioning as it had but still alive.

Having imposed order, Jaruzelski was now compelled to improve the Polish economy. Brezhnev had died in 1982, and his two immediate successors were also dead by 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev assumed responsibility for leading the Soviet Union.

In the 1980s the Soviets were beginning to exercise looser control and endless assistance to the Eastern bloc nations. Jaruzelski’s attempts at reform were now opposed by Solidarity, which was reemerging as a political force.

Widespread strikes in Poland forced Jaruzelski to begin conversations with Wałesa and the Solidarity leadership. Solidarity was once again legalized in April 1989, and that same year it won a crushing majority in the national elections.

A coalition of Solidarity and Communists formed a government in August 1989, and Wałesa, who less than 10 years before had been jailed for his union activities, was now president of Poland.

Since that time, Solidarity has declined in both membership and influence. There were personality and philosophical clashes among several of the leaders, not least of whom was Wałesa. It can also be argued that once it had defeated a common enemy that posed a major threat, it could not maintain cohesion on all issues. It did not have any of its candidates elected in 2001, and the membership is about a tenth of what it was in the early 1980s.

Somalia (1950–2006)

Somalia civil war
Somalia civil war

Following the end of World War II, the British administered Somalia until 1950, when it was divided, with southern Somalia put under Italian trusteeship and the Ogaden returned to Ethiopia, with the remainder of Somalia, held by the British, prepared for independence.

The decision to allow the Italians to supervise any part of Somalia was controversial given their colonial record in the region, and it sparked riots in 1950. Elections were held in southern Somalia in 1956, and these were won by the Somali Youth League.

In February the Somali National League won a majority in elections in northern Somalia. The platforms of both groups were to reunify Somalia and achieve independence which was granted on July 1, 1960.

The first president of Somalia was Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, who had served in the Italian colonial administration until 1941. He had been president of the National Assembly until 1960 when he became president of the Constituent Assembly, a position he held until independence.

The first prime minister, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, was from British Somaliland; he joined the Somali National League Party in 1956 and became its secretary-general two years later.

He held the position for just over two weeks before stepping down on July 12, 1960, to become minister of defense. Replacing him was Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, from the Somali Youth League, who had studied political science at the University of Rome.

Unfortunately, not long after independence, Somalia became embroiled in a dispute with the British who granted the Somali-dominated Northern Frontier District of Kenya to the Republic of Kenya. Somalia broke off diplomatic relations with Britain in 1963.

The main problem facing Somalia was the integration of the two halves of the country, plagued by ethnic rivalries, and worries that infrastructure development in one part of the country was disadvantaging the other.

Tensions with Kenya and Ethiopia proved intractable. War with the latter broke out over the Ogaden in 1964. Although it did not last long, it served to destabilize the country, which was becoming beset with factional troubles and the proliferation of political parties and corruption.

In 1964 Shermarke was replaced as prime minister by Abdirizak Haji Husain, also from the Somali Youth League, and on July 10, 1967, Shermarke was elected as president of Somalia, a post he held until his assassination on October 15, 1969, by Somali police officers.

The assassination led to a military coup six days later, which brought Major-General Mohammed Siad Barre to power. He then became president of the Supreme Revolutionary Council and head of state, also serving as prime minister until January 30, 1987.

Siad Barre was involved in introducing a program he called "scientific socialism", by which he sought to integrate Somalia. One of these policies was the creation and dissemination of a written Somali language.

In 1975 a drought struck Somalia, and this led to a famine which saw thousands of people in Somalia, and also in neighboring Ethiopia, dying. Two years later Somalia attacked Ethiopia, with Siad Barre keen to create his Greater Somalia which was to include the Ogaden (from Ethiopia), Djibouti, and also northern Kenya.

In 1977 Somalia was in news headlines all over the world when a German Lufthansa Flight 181 from Majorca, Spain, was hijacked to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. There the GSG-9, a crack German antiterrorist commando force formed after the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, stormed the plane and released the hostages unharmed.

Forced to Flee

Surviving an attempted military coup in April 1978, Siad Barre came to lead an increasingly autocratic regime that started to face trouble from internal Somali resistance groups. In particular, the Somalia Salvation Democratic Front used bases in Ethiopia to attack Somali soldiers, eventually overrunning parts of northern Somalia.

In August 1990 the Somali Salvation Democratic Front allied with two other groups, the Somali Patriotic Front and the Somali National Movement (SNM), to form a loose coalition. Siad Barre himself had been seriously injured in a car accident in May 1986, but remained in control of Mogadishu. He was forced to flee the country on January 26, 1991, going first to Kenya and eventually settling in Nigeria in 1992.

With the victorious rebels seizing control of Mogadishu, Ali Mahdi Muhammad became the president of the country, with the task of bringing together the various factions. Northern Somali separatists appointed the leader of the SNM, Abdurahman Ahmed Ali, as president of the breakaway Somaliland Republic.

Fighting continued, and Ali Mahdi hastily left the Somali capital in November 1991 after the supporters of General Mohammad Farrah Aydid attacked Mogadishu, capturing the city after bloody street fighting. Aydid then proclaimed himself head of the new government, managing to fight off an attack in April 1992 by supporters of Siad Barre.

Aid agencies estimated that as many as 2,000 people were dying each day from hunger in and around Mogadishu alone. With Aydid holding food supplies only for his supporters, the United Nations felt the duty to act, and on August 12, 1992, they had permission from Aydid to deploy troops to protect the aid workers.

The result was 500 armed United Nations soldiers being deployed and a massive relief operation taking place. This part of the aid operation went well, although there were some problems in the towns of Baidoa and Bardera in the west of the country.

By mid-1993 the aid mission had been changed with the U.S. marines being deployed to achieve political objectives. This seemed to include the overthrow of the Aydid government, which led to a U.S. helicopter attack on an alleged Aydid munitions base on July 12, 1993, killing a large number of Somali clan leaders who had gathered for a conference.

The political climate moved against the Americans as the clan alliances reformed. On October 3, 1993, some 140 U.S. marines abseiled from Black Hawk helicopters into Mogadishu, with their mission being to abduct two senior lieutenants of Aydid.

The operation was planned to last no longer than an hour, but some U.S. Marines were pinned down by thousands of armed Somalis; by the time they were evacuated the following morning, there were 18 U.S. Marines killed and more than 70 badly injured.

Factional Shifts

With the United States clearly against General Aydid, he moved to form alliances with some of his erstwhile enemies, the Americans unable to keep up with the factional shifts. In November 1994 Aydid called a General Conference on Somali Reconciliation, but Ali Mahdi boycotted it, as did the Somali Salvation Alliance.

In June 1995 Aydid himself was ousted by Osman Ali Ato. Following the death of Aydid in 1996, his son, Hussein Aydid, a former U.S. Marine who had been involved in the Somali operation, became the leader of the United Somali Congress and took his father’s title as interim president of Somalia.

Hussein Aydid refused to take part in the National Salvation Council when it was formed by leaders of 26 of Somalia’s factions in January 1997. They agreed on a peace formula that saw the introduction of a federal system for the country, allowing the warlords to retain their local power bases.

This meant that by 1998 the country was effectively divided into three parts: Somalia, consisting of the southern provinces around Mogadishu; the former British areas in the north becoming Somaliland; and Puntland in the northeast. Frequent peace conferences were to be held to try to work out common policies on certain issues.

Although the infighting had died down, the problems over the famine continued with 650,000 people facing food shortages in April 2000. This led to food riots and instability in Mogadishu, forcing the warring factions to declare Baidoa the "provisional capital". By this time, large numbers of educated Somalis had fled.

An interim Somali National Assembly was formed in October 2001 with Salad Hassan Abdikassim (Abdiqasim Salad Hassan) as the interim president. Problems with Ethiopia continued, and the interim prime minister, Ali Khalif Galaydh, accused Ethiopia of trying to destabilize the country, supporting some of the clans that wanted separatism. Abdikassim appointed himself interim president of the Transitional National Government, and in November 2001 Abshir Farah Hassan was elected as the interim prime minister.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the subsequent War on Terror saw the U.S. military take a keen interest in Somalia and the level of Islamic fundamentalist influence in the country. Since then the Somali "government" has gradually come to support, however reluctantly, the United States in its War on Terror. The United States has consequently rewarded pro-U.S. groups in the country.

On October 14, 2004, Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed became president, taking over from Salad Hassan Abdikassim, and in November 2004, Ali Mohammed Ghadi became prime minister of the transitional federal government. However, after a failed assassination attempt, Prime Minister Ghadi fled Mogadishu, returning in 2006 when Ethiopian troops, aided by the United States, backed him and on December 21, 2006, started a new war in Somalia.

South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)

SEATO's flag
SEATO's flag
The South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), or the Manila Pact, was formed in Manila on September 8, 1954, by the United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines.

A special protocol added Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam to the protection of SEATO. The main reason behind the formation of a collective defense treaty in Southeast Asia was the containment of communism. The United States in the cold war period wanted to prevent communism from spreading.

After the defeat of the French in Indochina the Geneva Conference had been called in 1954. While the peacemaking process was going on in Geneva, the United States initiated SEATO. The main architect was the U.S. secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, who wanted collective defense against communist aggression.

After the establishment of communism in China, there was apprehension in the United States that South and Southeast Asia faced a threat from communists. North Vietnam had become communist, and in Laos the Pathet Lao had become powerful.

Bangkok was the headquarters of SEATO. The post of secretary-general was instituted in 1957, and a Thai diplomat named Pote Sarasin was the first person to hold the post. The articles of the treaty spelled out the motives, principles, and functioning of SEATO.

In the preamble, the sovereign equality of states was recognized. The members pledged under the provisions of article I to settle disputes by peaceful means. Article III envisaged economic cooperation and social well-being. SEATO had a provision that all members should agree on intervention in case of a dispute.

This became an obstacle to intervening in the crises of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, as there was no unanimity among members for intervention. There were joint military exercises each year among the signatories. According to the provisions of the Geneva Conference Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam could not join a military alliance.

The leaders of some of the SEATO nations in front of the Congress Building in Manila
The leaders of some of the SEATO nations in front of the Congress Building in Manila

A Pacific Charter was added to the treaty at the insistence of the Philippines, calling for the upholding of the principles of self-determination and equal rights. Any attempt to destroy the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states would be checked. There would also be cooperation in economic development and social welfare among signatories.

The treaty was viewed as another attempt to bring the cold war to South and Southeast Asia. Only three Asian states, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand, had joined it. India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar were in favor of a policy of nonalignment. In its ongoing conflict with India, Pakistan thought SEATO might be helpful. It also had a dispute with another neighbor state, Afghanistan.

The Philippines and Thailand had close military cooperation with the United States. Manila was in favor of a multilateral pact due to the influence of the United States. The joining of the Philippines invited criticism from the Afro-Asian bloc, alleging that it was serving the designs of neocolonialism in the region. Thailand joined SEATO because of security concerns.

Great Britain wanted its presence felt in the region and was also concerned with the security of Hong Kong and Malaya. France lost interest after the debacle in Indochina but it considered SEATO a barrier to the expansion of communism. Australia and New Zealand were committed even though an alliance with the United States, the ANZUS pact, had been signed in 1951.

The Soviet Union, China, and North Vietnam condemned the treaty. They pointed out that the inclusion of Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam in the sphere of action of SEATO was contrary to the spirit of the Geneva Conference of 1954. China attacked SEATO for threatening peace in Asia.

SEATO was not helpful to the United States and Thailand in preventing ongoing communist victories in Indochina, including during the Vietnam War. Thailand and the Philippines helped the administration of the United States by providing air bases and sending troops, but in the civil war in Laos in 1961–62, it was more out of their close relations with the United States rather than an obligation under SEATO.

One of the factors was the clause that demanded unanimity before action could be taken. In the meeting of the SEATO Council of Ministers on March 27, 1961, multilateral intervention was not possible due to the French opposition. Great Britain also did not support intervention, lest it jeopardize the peace effort in Geneva in 1961 pertaining to Laos.

It was only a question of time before SEATO would end. The United States relied on its military might in the Vietnam War while Great Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand did not want to get involved. Pakistan and France withdrew from SEATO in November 1973 and June 1974, respectively.

After the communist victory in the Indochinese states in 1975, SEATO became an anachronism in the region, and it was decided to disband the treaty in a meeting in September 1975 held in New York. SEATO was formally dissolved two years afterward.

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant body in the United States. Baptists emerged after the First Great Awakening in New England and quickly found the southern United States a fertile region for growth. Committed in equal degrees to a conservative doctrine, aggressive evangelism, and local congregational autonomy, Baptists felt the strains of slavery.

In 1845 tensions led to the formation of the SBC, which allowed Baptists in the South to pursue missions and educational efforts on their own. Their regional seclusion protected the denomination from the schisms of the early 20th century. Indeed, Baptists eschewed the kind of denominational controls exercised by many other churches, particularly regarding doctrine.

Free of theological controversies and experiencing numerical, institutional, and regional expansion, Southern Baptists enjoyed great self-confidence. Baptists believed that they were called to convert the South, that the South would lead the nation, and that the United States would lead the world.

Denominational unity was critical to fulfilling this mission, but by the second half of the century expansion brought diversity, and a series of small theological rifts in SBC educational efforts portended greater controversies in the future.

Although their divisions were mild in comparison with debates in other denominations, Baptists in the South suffered a more shattering blow during the Civil Rights controversies of the 1940s–70s. Many southerners saw these changes as a threat to their traditional way of life.

Conservatives grew anxious and less tolerant of change of any kind; progressives felt remorse over decades of SBC inaction. By the 1970s prosperity and urbanization seemed to be taking the South into the secular currents sweeping the rest of the nation. It was against that background that a bitter battle between conservatives and moderates exploded during the 1980s.

For years, conservatives contended, denominational boards and seminaries had been controlled by liberals who were allowing liberalism to undercut the theological foundation of the church’s evangelistic mission. Now they were organizing to take back their church.

From the moderates’ perspective this same effort appeared a departure from Baptist traditions of respect for local autonomy and the right of believers to interpret the Bible for themselves. Moderates charged that conservatives were advocating the kind of coercive denominational intrusions and the mingling of religion and politics that Baptists traditionally rejected.

Conservatives successfully framed the debate as one of accepting or rejecting the Bible, and the majority of SBC members sided with them. Moderates charged them with securing power through questionable parliamentary maneuvers, but, by the end of the 1980s, the conservative takeover of the SBC was all but complete.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

In 1989 eastern European countries of the Warsaw Pact, which had been beholden to the Soviet Union since the end of World War II, had their communist governments replaced with noncommunist governments. For the first time in over 30 years the borders between eastern and western Europe were opened.

The following year the Congress of People’s Deputies changed the Soviet constitution and removed the Communist Party’s monopoly from the constitution by allowing multiple parties. In March the Baltic States held elections and their national independence parties gained majorities in each of the republics. At this time Lithuania decided to declare its independence from the Soviet Union, the first republic to do so.

In June 1990 Russia declared its right to rule itself separate from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. During the remainder of the summer the other republics also declared their right to self-rule. Mikhail Gorbachev tried to find a way to salvage the Soviet Union.

His efforts were to be put to a vote in August 1991, but hard-line communists launched an unsuccessful coup in Moscow. The failed coup brought the Communist Party down, and none of the republics was interested in trying to save the Soviet Union. On Christmas Day 1991 Gorbachev resigned, ending the Soviet Union.

Throughout 1989 Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, which had been under Soviet control since the end of World War II, established democratic governments and cut their ties with the Soviet Union.

Seeing these events, the Baltic countries started to voice their desire to be free of the Soviet Union also. The Baltic countries had been absorbed by the Soviet Union as part of a treaty (the Nazi-Soviet Pact) it had made with Nazi Germany in 1939.

Gorbachev did not care how a republic had come to be part of the Soviet Union; in his view none of the republics should be allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Seeing the events in eastern Europe only encouraged the Baltic republics. Attempts to buy off the republics with token freedoms only encouraged them to continue to push for separation from the Soviet Union.

Following the Baltic republics’ lead was the Moldavian Republic. Originally part of Romania, Moldavia was given to the Soviet Union as part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Independence movements also appeared in the Trans-Caucasian region of the Soviet Union, made up of the republics of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

In Armenia and Azerbaijan, the growth in nationalistic parties also led to a dispute between them over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In Georgia, the massacre of female protesters in the capital of Tbilisi in April 1989 only fueled the desire to be free of the Soviet Union.

In early February 1990, the Communist Party’s Central Committee met to consider a draft proposal to allow multiple parties. The congress also created the office of the president of the Soviet Union and elected Gorbachev to the office.

After the congress, in April, Gorbachev announced the Law of Secession, which laid out the process that the republics would have to follow in order to gain their independence. The process was long and drawn out.

Vytautas Landsbergis
Lithuanian president: Vytautas Landsbergis

One of the first uses of the law was to pressure Lithuania to do as the Soviet government said or face the consequences. Lithuanian president Vytautas Landsbergis refused, saying that a foreign power had no right to make decisions about how his country should be run. On April 18, the Soviet government started an economic blockade of Lithuania.

The Soviets lifted the blockade on June 29 when the Lithuanian parliament suspended the independence decree. Latvia (May 4) and Estonia (May 8) followed Lithuania’s lead, and even though Gorbachev outlawed their decrees, they did not suffer the blockade as Lithuania did.

The Baltic republics were not the only ones moving toward independence. In Russia, the Russian Supreme Soviet elected Boris Yeltsin as chairman on May 29. Running against 13 other candidates, Yeltsin introduced a platform that pushed for Russian sovereignty in the Soviet Union, making Russian law take precedent over Soviet law; provided for multiparty democracy; and declared that Russia should conduct its own foreign policy with all other countries, including other republics of the Soviet Union. The actual declaration came on June 12, 1990, at which time Russia also declared its right to control the natural resources of its country. Other republics followed suit.

Through the end of 1990 Lithuania continued to try to work out a deal with the Soviet government, but the Soviets continued to stall. Therefore, on January 2, 1991, Landsbergis withdrew the suspension of the independence decree. In response to this action, paramilitary police in Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania) and Riga (the capital of Latvia) seized various buildings.

Then on January 7 the Soviet Ministry of Defense ordered troops into all three of the Baltic States as well as Moldavia, Georgia, and the Ukraine. The Soviet military continued to occupy buildings belonging to the Lithuanian government, and on January 13 it attacked the capital’s television center and in the process killed 14 people and wounded over 200.

At about the same time, Gorbachev was telling the Soviet government that force would not be used against the people of Lithuania. These contradictory actions and talk hurt Gorbachev, who claimed not to have had any advanced knowledge of what the military was going to do.

A few days later, on January 20, violence broke out in Latvia when Soviet paramilitary police stormed a government building in Latvia and killed two local police officers. The Baltic republics gained support from Russia when Yeltsin signed a document recognizing the independence of the Baltic States on behalf of Russia, which was exerting its right to conduct its own foreign policy separate from that of the Soviet Union.

Although the Baltic republics had started out leading the move toward independence from the Soviet Union, Russia now began to take a more prominent role. In January 1991 Gorbachev issued a decree that the Soviet army was to patrol the streets of the larger cities in the Soviet Union to help stop crime and control protests; Russia objected.

When Yeltsin attacked Gorbachev during a television interview, Yeltsin found himself under attack by various groups. Although Gorbachev’s actions might be decidedly anti-independence for the republics, he still had the support of many of the people in the Soviet Union and Western countries.

On March 17, 1991, the idea of maintaining a union of the republics was put to a vote of the people of the Soviet Union. The vote passed, although six of the republics (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldavia) did not participate in the referendum since they claimed that they were not part of the Soviet Union.

Yeltsin claimed that the referendum was nothing more then an attempt by Gorbachev to generate support for his leadership. Gorbachev then called a conference and invited Yeltsin and the presidents of eight other republics to talk about a proposal for a new Union Treaty and new Union Constitution. Gorbachev and the other presidents signed a declaration supporting the drafting of a new treaty and constitution.

May saw more changes as the republics continued to move away from the Soviet Union. On May 5 the Russian branch of the KGB separated itself from the Soviet Union’s institution. Moldavia changed its official name to the Moldavian Republic, dropping the words Soviet and Socialist. Then on May 26 Georgia had its first-ever direct presidential election.

The Coup

Coup to remove Gorbachev from power (1)
Coup to remove Gorbachev from power (1)

Gorbachev and Yeltsin continued to work out the details of the new Union Treaty. The treaty would keep the Soviet Union alive, but would limit the areas over which it could exercise control and make participation in the union voluntary. Before the treaty was enacted, a group of hard-line communists launched a coup to remove Gorbachev from power. The coup lasted for only three days.

The committee in charge of the coup announced a state of emergency and placed Gorbachev under house arrest, cutting off his ability to communicate with the outside world. They then tried to get him to sign a decree declaring a state of emergency, but he refused. With Gorbachev’s refusal to cooperate, the coup started to come unraveled.

The plotters had planned to arrest Yeltsin also, but missed their chance. Instead, Yeltsin went to the Russian Parliament building and appealed to the citizens of Moscow to ignore the unlawful coup. The military was unwilling to move against the civilians, and the coup ended on August 21.

Gorbachev returned to Moscow. Because of the coup, Yeltsin became the hero of the hour, and his popularity grew rapidly. Unfortunately for Gorbachev, his popularity plummeted and accelerated the decline of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin forced Gorbachev to return control of the natural resources and enterprises on Russian territory back to Russia from the Soviet Union.

Coup to remove Gorbachev from power (2)
Coup to remove Gorbachev from power (2)

December saw the Soviet Union brought to an end. On December 1 the Ukraine held a referendum to allow the people to vote in support of or against the declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. The referendum passed by a wide margin.

Then the leaders of Russia, the Ukraine, and Belarus met to determine the future of the Soviet Union and their republics. On December 8 they announced the end of the Soviet Union and the creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Membership in the CIS was open to all former members of the Soviet Union and any other state interested in joining.

On December 12 Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan joined the CIS. More meetings were held on December 21, and Moldavia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia joined. During this meeting the republics agreed to abolish the position of president of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev still held the position, but on December 25, he announced his resignation. With Gorbachev’s resignation the remaining members of the Soviet Parliament had the Soviet flag removed from the Kremlin, and at midnight on December 31, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Post Soviet Union states
Post Soviet Union states: Armenia(1), Azerbaijan(2), Belarus(3), Estonia(4),
Georgia(5), Kazakhstan(6), Kyrgyzstan(7), Latvia(8), Lithuania(9), Moldova(10),
Russia(11), Tajikistan(12), Turkmenistan(13), Ukraine(14), Uzbekistan(15)