By Javad Talei
In his latest book titled “Turning Point 1979: How Today’s World Began,” Frank Bosch, a professor of contemporary European history at the University of Potsdam in Germany, highlights a series of events in 1979 which, in his view, profoundly changed global political, social and cultural landscape.
Professor Bosch, who is also the director of the Center for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam, argues that Pope John Paul II’s trip to Poland, Margaret Thatcher’s election as UK prime minister, the Soviet-Afghan War, China’s opening under Chairman Deng Xiaoping, and the Islamic Revolution in Iran were critical events in 1979 that changed the world significantly.
In the first chapter of the book, titled “Revolution in Iran, the West and Radical Islam,” the author gives an in-depth analysis of the Islamic Revolution and its wide-ranging impact on the world which, in his view, enabled “Islamic fundamentalism to become a global political phenomenon in 1979.”
The book’s first 56 pages outline events that led to the downfall of the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power. Bosch suggests that the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran by student protesters in November of that year, also known as the Iran hostage crisis, marked the start of hostilities between Islamists and the West.
Revealing a series of unseen documents, Bosch alleges that Germany played a crucial role in negotiating the release of the American hostages.
“Shia clerics’ rise to power in Iran and the Soviet-Afghan War enabled Islamic fundamentalism to become a formidable force against modernism in the Middle East,” he writes.
In the second chapter of the book, Professor Bosch says Pope John Paul II’s trip to Poland “sent a shock wave” through the Eastern Bloc, strengthening the Solidarity movement under trade unionist Lech Walesa who successfully challenged Moscow’s authority. Soon after, other countries in Eastern Europe followed in Poland’s footsteps, demanding their independence from the Soviet Union.
The next few chapters in the book cover other significant world events in 1979. According to Bosch, the UK and China’s market-economy reforms under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping paved the way for an economic liberalization policy.
Other notable events he lists I nclude the Nicaraguan Revolution, which brought the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to power; the start of mass Vietnamese immigration, which reached the two-million mark by 1995; the second oil crisis caused by a sharp drop in production; and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident which was a turning point in the global development of nuclear power.
“Zeitenwende 1979: Als Die Welt von Heute Began.”
By Frank Bosch
Published by C.H. Beck Verlag, Munchen 2019
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]