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Today’s History Spotlight
The Soviet Union dissolves, ending the Cold War. The eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union – Mikhail Gorbachev – announced his office as dissolved and handed all of his executive power to Boris Yeltsin, the first President of the Russian Federation. The end of the Cold War marked the closest point in world history in which two superpowers averted direct war with one another.
With the fall of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire, as well as the dissolution of the British Empire, at the end of World War II, the US and USSR were left as the world’s primary superpowers, each with opposite ideologies. The Cold War officially began in 1947 with the Berlin Blockade, and the proxy wars and battles fought across the world took a large toll of lives. These conflicts were fought in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, Angola, Afghanistan, and numerous other locations.
What Happened On This Day – December 26
- 2004 Massive tsunami causes damage and kills thousands in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The tsunami was precipitated by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake was the third strongest earthquake ever measured using the Richter scale in recorded history. The other two were the Valdivia earthquake in Chile in 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5 and the Prince William Sound earthquake in Alaska in 1964, with a magnitude of 9.2. The Indian Ocean earthquake killed about 200,000 people and is considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in recent history.
- 1982 The December issue of Times magazine proclaimed the personal computer as the “Man of the Year.” The Man of the Year tradition began in 1927 at Time magazine as a way to identify and showcase those that influenced the year and its events significantly. In 1999, the feature was renamed Person of the Year.
- 1966 First Kwanzaa celebrations. The week-long cultural holiday is celebrated among African diaspora in the United States and was created by Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies and a key figure in the Black Power movement. The holiday is celebrated annually from December 26 to January 1, and it is a recognition of African culture and heritage.
- 1941 Fourth Thursday of November set as Thanksgiving Day in the US, The holiday has been celebrated officially in the United States since 1863. The first Thanksgiving is thought to have been observed by early settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony after their first harvest in 1621.
- 1898 The Curies announce the existence of Radium. The radioactive element has an atomic number of 88 and is known by the symbol Ra. In its pure form, it is a highly toxic element and is not used extensively for scientific purposes.
Births On This Day – December 26
- 1956 David Sedaris – American comedian, author, radio host
- 1893 Mao Zedong – Chinese military leader, politician
- 1891 Henry Miller – American author, painter
- 1837 George Dewey – American Admiral
- 1791 Charles Babbage – English mathematician, engineer, invented the Difference engine
Deaths On This Day – December 26
- 2006 Gerald Ford – American politician, 38th President of the United States
- 1997 Cornelius Castoriadis – Greek economist, philosopher
- 1974 Jack Benny – American actor, comedian
- 1972 Harry S. Truman – American colonel, politician, 33rd President of the United States
- 1890 Heinrich Schliemann – German archaeologist
The sections “What Happened On This Day,” “Births On This Day,” and “Deaths On This Day” originally appeared at TimeandDate.com and is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.