June 15, 1988 – With the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev receiving mixed marks for his Perestroika reforms, all eyes in Moscow were gazing towards the south and regions of Armenia and Azerbaijan as a potential flashpoint in ethnic outbursts. Seems the issue at hand was the long-simmering dispute between the two republics, and tensions were increasing by the minute. The Armenian legislature backed the hundreds of thousands of striker and demonstrators who had been demanding that a region in a neighboring republic be turned over to Armenia. The dispute centered on a region called Nagorno Karabakh, made up mostly of Armenian Christian, but inside Muslim Azerbaijan. It has provoked violent ethnic clashes in Azerbaijan. It was imposition of Perestroika that brought about the Armenia protest, but Gorbachev didn’t want to offend the Azerbaijanis, or encourage similar elsewhere in this land of many nationalities. Whichever Republic he chose to rule against would be likely to cause trouble. And there were bound to be a lot of delegates at the National Communist Party Conference in the upcoming two weeks who would play to Armenia and Azerbaijan and say “if this is what Perestroika brings, it’s got to be stopped.
Gorbachev was confronted with more ethic pressure as thousands of people demonstrated in three Baltic republics in official and unofficial marches which condemned Stalin’s forced deportations of Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians in the 1940s. Reports said the KGB arrested two people who raised the Lithuanian flag.
And in Afghanistan, reports said the Afghan rebels punched through the Russian defenses at Kandahar, the country’s second largest city and delayed Soviet troop withdrawal.
And the problem in Europe this day wasn’t political, it was Football (Soccer), as the uptick in violence at games was blamed squarely on the presence of rowdy and drunken British fans, or Soccer Hooligans as they were coming to be known. Fights and rioting took place in the streets around the train station in Dusseldorf, where British fans arrived for a game between England and Holland. German police wound up arresting over 130 attempting to break up the mobs; two thirds of those arrested were English, prompting Prime Minister Thatcher to announce to Parliament that she was thoroughly ashamed of the goings on. While the newspaper The Sun ran the headline “It is sickening to be English”.
And so went this day – with a lot more going on, as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.