Timeline of the 1990s and the Last Hurrah of the 20th-Century

Peace and prosperity, but also haunting tragedies.

Illustrated timeline of events from the 1990s


The 1990s were a relatively peaceful time of prosperity. For most of the 1990s, Bill Clinton was president, the first baby boomer to live in the White House as the commander-in-chief. The Berlin Wall, the prime symbol of the Cold War, fell in November 1989, and Germany was reunited in 1990 after 45 years of separation. The Cold War officially ended with the fall of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991, and it seemed as if a new era had dawned.

The '90s witnessed the deaths of super celebrities Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy Jr. and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which did not result in a conviction. In 1995, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman in what's been called the trial of the century.

The decade closed with the sun coming up on a new millennium on Jan. 1, 2000.


Watch Now: A Brief History of the 1990s


History of Nelson Mandela
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The '90s began with the biggest art theft in history at the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Germany was reunited after 45 years of separation, South Africa's Nelson Mandela was freed, Lech Walesa became the first president of Poland, and the Hubble Telescope was launched into space.


Laying a Smoke Screen During Military Maneuvers
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The year 1991 began with Operation Desert Storm, also called the first Gulf War. The year went on to see the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines that killed 800 and the airlift of 14,000 Jews from Ethiopia by Israel. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested, and South Africa repealed its apartheid laws. A Copper Age man was found frozen in a glacier, and on Christmas Day 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, officially ending the Cold War that had begun in 1947, shortly after World War II ended in 1945.


LA Riots 1992
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The year 1992 marked the beginning of the genocide in Bosnia and devastating riots in Los Angeles after the verdict in the Rodney King trial, in which three Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the beating of King.


View of emergency equipment at World Trade Center during the police investigation after a terrorist's truck bomb, New York, New York, February 26, 1993.
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In 1993, New York's World Trade Center was bombed and the compound of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, was raided by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. During the gun battle that followed, four agents and six cult members died. The ATF agents were trying to arrest the leader of the cult, David Karesh in connection with reports that the Davidians were stockpiling weapons.

The lurid tale of Lorena Bobbitt was in the news, as well as the exponential growth of the internet.


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Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994 as genocide was occurring in another African nation, Rwanda. In Europe,  the Channel Tunnel opened, connecting Britain and France.


O.J. Simpson Criminal Trial - Simpson Tries on Bloodstained Gloves - June 15, 1995
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Many landmark events occurred in 1995. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by domestic terrorists, killing 168 people. There was a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

On a lighter note, the last "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip was published and the first successful air-balloon ride was made over the Pacific.


The process through which Dolly, a female Finn Dorset sheep, became the first successfully cloned mammal in 1996.
Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG / Getty Images

The Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta was bombed during the Olympic Games in 1996, mad cow disease hammered Britain, 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was murdered, and the Unabomber was arrested. In better news, Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal, was born.


Bouquets Outside Kensington Palace
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Mostly good news occurred in 1997: the first "Harry Potter" book hit the shelves, the Hale-Bopp comet became visible, Hong Kong was returned to China after years as a British Crown Colony, Pathfinder sent back images of Mars, and a young Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament.

The tragic news: Britain's Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris.


Bill Clinton At White House
David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

Here's what to remember from 1998: India and Pakistan both tested nuclear weapons, President Bill Clinton was impeached but escaped conviction, and Viagra hit the market.


Save 100s of euros by planning well
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The euro made its debut as the European currency in 1999, the world was worried about the Y2K bug as the millennium turned, and Panama got the Panama Canal back.

Tragedies not to be forgotten: John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, died when the small plane Kennedy was piloting crashed into the Atlantic off Martha's Vineyard, and the ​killing spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, took the lives of 15, including the two teenage shooters.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Timeline of the 1990s and the Last Hurrah of the 20th-Century." ThoughtCo, Sep. 9, 2021, thoughtco.com/1990s-timeline-1779956. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2021, September 9). Timeline of the 1990s and the Last Hurrah of the 20th-Century. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1990s-timeline-1779956 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Timeline of the 1990s and the Last Hurrah of the 20th-Century." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1990s-timeline-1779956 (accessed January 31, 2023).