December 31, 1991 – New Years Eve on a year that saw change, upheaval and unrest. And tucked in there was a modicum of optimism, but if you blinked, you might have missed it.
The big story was the one going on in Russia and the breakaway republics; the fall of the Soviet Union and the adjustment to a new Russia; one which promised an open market, the spirit of competition and an end to government controls. It was a big promise and even the Russian people were skeptical. Once the painful transitions were over, they were promised, the new and prosperous Russia would emerge. So far, same old. Only this time the lines were longer and the cynicism just as dark as before. There were grumbles that things were better under Communism, but the attempt to bring that horse back into the race failed miserably during the attempted coup and overthrow back in August. Still, it was winter and things hadn’t changed – and now there were signs of further unrest coming from Georgia and The Ukraine as rebels took to the streets to settle old scores and to create new ones. Meanwhile, The Ukraine was busy restructuring its financial sector and the lowered prices of goods brought on fears that a glut of Russians pouring over the border to buy cheap products at a time when goods at home were at record highs was going to spell disaster.
Back home it was a recession and the dawn of en election year. 1992 promised to be better than 1991 was, and President Bush was busy mending fences overseas starting with Australia where Paul Keating, the new Prime Minister met with Bush over the issue of Farm subsidies – both countries were suffering from high unemployment and solutions were eagerly sought after.
And the situation in the former Yugoslavia was just getting started, as United Nations Special Envoy Cyrus Vance held talks in Belgrade with Serbian political and military leaders in what was called a “first phase” in a Yugoslav peace mission. Vance expressed dismay that the level of fighting in Croatia was worsened since his last visit -it was now his fifth visit with the hopes of establishing a United Nations peacekeeping force in the region if and when the war in Croatia comes to an end.
The Stock market was showing signs of optimism as the Dow was up five points to close at 3868.8 – a record high to end the year.
And a look back in song at the year just ending and you get the idea 1991 was a helluva year, all presented via National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.