This Day in History

1777: Articles of Confederation: The U.S. did not always have the Constitution. The original idea was that each state would be a semi-independent nation. The Articles of Confederation was drafted ratification of the idea that the only federal institution would be Congress and the states would control everything else. This had a lot of appeal, and they were sent to the states for ratification on this day in 1777. The Articles of Confederation held sway until the 1789 passing of the Constitution, after the Articles proved to create a federal government that was too weak.

1903: Russian Communists split into 2 groups: The Russian Social Democratic Labor Party had been the uniting force of the Russian revolution left since 1898. In 1903, the party split into the “Bolsheviks,” or majority, and the “Mensheviks,” or minority. The reason for the original split was the definition of party membership; the Bolsheviks had a stricter definition. Closer to the revolution in 1917, however, the Bolsheviks pushed harder for revolution, and it was the Bolsheviks that took power, killed the czar, and established the Soviet Union.

1939: Nazis execute Czech students: Jan Opletal was a Czech medical student, killed during anti-Nazi protests. Students took to the streets to protest his death, and nine of them were executed. The Nazis also shut down all Czech universities and sent over 1,000 Czech students to concentration camps. This prompted International Students day, celebrated on Nov. 17 to commemorate those students who died.

1973: I am not a crook: In 1972, the Nixon administration got caught up in a scandal known as Watergate. It was named after the Watergate Complex, where Nixon operatives searched for records and wiretapped telephones of political opponents and members of the Democratic National Committee. As the scandal widened, the press and public became more aware of Nixon’s involvement. In 1973, he uttered this now famous phrase to 400 Associated Press Reporters: “I am not a crook.” Nixon would resign one year later, and though his successor Gerald Ford would pardon him, he is known as one of our most corrupt presidents.

1989: Velvet Revolution: Czechoslovakia had been under the rule of the Communist Party since 1948. No political opposition was allowed, and the regime squashed all resistance. In 1968, people pushed for Prague Spring, but the Soviet Union invaded and quelled and possibility of enduring reform or liberalization. By 1989, however, the Soviet Union and the communist grip on Eastern Europe was collapsing. Led by students and inspired by International students day, the Velvet Revolution was a nonviolent collapse of communist party rule. Vaclav Havel was elected president the next month as the first democratically-elected leader since 1948. Czechoslovakia would peaceably split into two nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1993.

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