1980 World Events

Published: 1980
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (L) joins President Richard Nixon and Russian leaders in a toast after the signing of agreements at the Kremlin on July 3, 1974 following a seven-day summit. The Soviets are (L-R) President Nikolai Podgorny, Communist Party Chairman Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin. (UPI/File)

Nick Charles: 1980 also saw the resignation of Soviet Premier Kosygin on October 23. He stepped down because of health reasons and was succeeded by Nikolai Tikhonov, a man only one year younger.

Kosygin and Anastas Mikoyan are the only top Kremlin leaders known to have left office voluntarily.

In Yugoslavia President Tito's left leg had to be amputated early in the year to prevent the spread of gangrene caused by circulation blockage, but Tito's health continued to deteriorate and he died at the age of 87 leaving his country without an heir apparent.

Ousted Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza died in September of 1980 in Paraguay. Killed in a hail of machine gun fire which came from two cars and a bazooka rocket fired from a nearby building.

In Japan a heart attack claimed the life of Premier Ohira ten days before the parliamentary elections, and the Italian government failed again. In October it became necessary to establish Italy's 40th government since the end of World War II.

In Poland the government also underwent changes as 17000 workers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk unhappy with labor conditions and the government's interference in their unions provoked nationwide labor unrest. This was only one of the problems plaguing the communist world during 1980, as Jay Dyer reports.

Jay Dyer: As 1980 began the echoes of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas day 1979 was still echoing around the world. More and more Russian divisions poured through Kabul airport and to the leaders of eastern block states no less than the west, the Afghan adventure was a clear sign of the Kremlin's determination to maintain a tight grip on its slice of the world.

That warning must have been clear in the minds of Yugoslav leaders during the agonizing three months when President Tito's health declined inevitably towards death. When the end came however on May the 4th the Russians confined themselves to a bit of discreet saber-rattling on Yugoslavia's border and let the collective leadership, Tito had grooved to take over the country uneventfully.

The signal for the next and most far reaching upheaval in the communist world came from a decision of the Polish Communist leadership. Wojciech Jaruzelski arrived in Warsaw just in time for the explosion.

Unknown Speaker: It began almost overnight after the government raised the price of meat up to 60%. Workers who were already complaining about meat shortages were hitting the pocket books, and they responded by hitting the communist government right back, with sudden one and two days strikes. The government tried to settle most of the disputes quietly with pay increases and although new walkouts kept popping up all over the map, the strategy seemed to be working. Then came August 14 and the Lenin shipyard workers, they declared the first political strike against the State and the battle was on.

Jay Dyer: While the Polish crisis simmered on there was one more change at the very heart of the Communist world. On October 22, Soviet Premier Alexey Kosygin possibly the second most powerful Soviet leader after President Leonid Brezhnev yielded to his failing health and resigned to be replaced by Brezhnev Protégé, Nikolai Tikhonov.

Back in Poland as the Solidarity Union coalition won its battle to be accepted legally without formally acknowledging the primacy of the Communist Party, the threats of another Russian invasion group. By early December, American Reconnaissance Satellite showed more than 300,000 Russian, Czech and East German troops drawn up on Poland's borders ready to move in. This is Jay Dyer reporting.