Starting this blog by writing the phrase “thirty years ago” really makes me feel older than I often think I am. To think that the 1990s are now 30 years ago is a mathematical fact but that doesn’t stop me feeling like time has passed by incredibly quickly.
In 1991 I was just two years old for the majority of the year (I turned 3 in November) so it is safe to say that I was probably not very aware of what was going on in the world around me. I do have some memories which heavily feature going on holiday with my parents to the Gold Coast, which meant my first plane ride (I vividly remember getting in trouble for screaming because my ears ached but the nice stewardess told my parents it was alright and she gave me a lolly, it’s amazing the moments the mind remembers but I guess when you’re two or three lollies are life). I also remember that I found out I was to become a big sister, so this was my last year as an only child.
My life was set to change and so was the world.
I recently shared a brief look at the Fire News magazines from 1991 over on the Museum of Fire blog. To read this blog please click here.
Around The World
In a word, it can only be described as a bit of a mess.
Georgian troops invaded South Ossetia initiating a war. The Gulf War featured operation Dessert Storm and this was just one war that was taking place around the globe,
Coups were attempted in Haiti, Thailand and Lesotho with varying results while civil war began in Somalia with Somaliland officially ceding from Somalia and to this day remains an unrecognised entity.
The IRA set off bombs in London while Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia separated from the Soviet Union beginning the process of dissolution. Yugoslavia also dissolved this year.
On a positive note, the 17th June marked the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Following this the world began to resume relations with the nation.
In The Philippines an iconic photograph was taken by Alberto Garcia on 15 June as Mt. Pinatubo erupted. The volcano has a long history of eruptions and the force of this explosion created a crater lake. This eruption was the second largest terrestrial eruption of the twentieth century with ash travelling and covering more than 4,000 square km from the epicentre. Villages around the volcano were completely wiped out with approximately 350 lives lost in the initial eruption. This number would grow to over 770 in the aftermath.
Establishment of UNPO
In response to everything taking place around the world the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) was established in The Hague. Their goal is to provide advice and support for those seeking self-determination.
Did you know that the Australian Aboriginals advocacy group were a founding member along with Estonia, Latvia, Tibet, Crimean Tatars, Armenia, Georgia, Tatarstan, East Turkestan, East Timor, The Cordillera, Greek Minority in Albania, Kurdistan, Palau, Taiwan and West Papua. Five of these groups remain members today while others are no longer members for such reasons as becoming full members of the UN after they were granted independence.
UNPO have five principals and any group seeking support must adhere to these:
· Equal right to self-determination
· Adherence to internally accepted human rights
· Adherence to the principles of democracy
· Promotion of non-violence and rejection of terrorism
· Protection of the natural environment
There were a number of maritime disasters including the Moby Prince that saw all bar one of the 141 on board die on 10 April 1991 and MTS Oceanos on 12 July whose final moments were captured by the ABC and whose crew famously abandoned the ship leaving all on board to find their own way off. Thankfully all 571 people on board survived no thanks to the captain and crew.
The other incident of note was the MV Salem Express on 15 December which has an estimated loss of life around 480 however exact numbers were never ascertained.
Quick News and Pop culture
Sonic the Hedgehog was released and the first website info.cern.ch is created just two years after the world wide web was invented.
Otzi the iceman found in the Alps while in the Netherlands thieves stole 20 major artworks from Vincent Van Gogh Museum only to abandon them in a car 35 minutes later. They had remained hiding in the museum after it closed at 5pm, revealing themselves at 3am the next morning when they spent 45 minutes selecting the works they wanted. This 14 April heist would go on to become one of the largest valued at $500 million but shortest lived-in history. Unfortunately, three of the works were damaged and the thieves were never identified.
The year brought the birth of Ed Sheeran, but the death of Dr. Seuss (24 September) and Freddie Mercury dies 24 November.
The highest grossing film of the year was Terminator 2: Judgement Day followed by Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The best picture Oscar was won by Dances with Wolves which also took home wins in 6 other categories.
The best or most well-noted TV shows to make their debut were Home Improvement, Dinosaurs and the Jerry Springer Show.
On the Billboard music charts Bryan Adams was number one with “(Everything I do) I do for you” while in Australia the number one song of the year was “The Horses” by Daryl Braithwaite. This year also brought the iconic "baby floating" image album by Nirvana which featured the song of the generation, "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
Speaking of Australia, things were less hostile to an extent but there were still tensions, especially over political issues.
Thirty-five thousand people marched in Melbourne demanding the resignation of the government. Whilst this occurred Australia sent troops to the Gulf War. Paul Keating attempted multiple overthrows of Bob Hawke and eventually won in December becoming Prime Minister.
Warner Bros Movie World Opens on the Gold Coast and the Channel 7 morning show Sunrise debuted following the presentation of an early morning news bulletin covering the Gulf War.
In sport Victoria won the Sheffield Shield while the Penrith Panthers won the NRL Grand Final, defeating the Canberra Raiders.
This is just a quick snapshot of a very busy and full year!
Do you have memoires from 1991? Head over to my Instagram @mof_ceo to share your memories with me!
Sources and Further Reading:
Australia Through Time, 2004 Edition (Sydney: Random House, 2004)
The Visual History of the Modern World (Sydney: Funtastic, 2005)
Dateline: People, Places and Events (Sydney: Murdoch Books, 2006)
"Lost and Found: Hugh Van Gogh Theft Fails", New York Times (15 April 1991)
YouTube Documentary: Oceanos: A Sinking Analysis by Jesse Gillett (4 August 2021); <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1LW8mJEUvo>