TEXT 9. Contemporary History




Contemporary history describes the period timeframe that is without any intervening time closely connected to the present day and is a certain perspective of modern history. The term "contemporary history" has been in use at least by the early 19th century. In the widest context of this use, contemporary history is that part of history still in living memory. Based on human lifespan, contemporary history would extend for a period of approximately 80 years. Obviously, this concept shifts in absolute terms as the generations pass. In a narrower sense, "contemporary history" may refer to the history remembered by most adults currently living, extending to about a generation or roughly 30 years. From the perspective of the 2010s, thus, contemporary history would include the period since the mid-to-late 20th century, including the postwar period and the Cold War.

While there have been scientific accomplishments and humanitarian achievements during the present age, the contemporary era has seen scientific and political progress, not so much in what has been originated as by what has been developed. Notable achievements have been those such as the redefinition of nationalities and nations and the ongoing technological advances that marked the 20th century.

In contemporary Science and Technology, history notably includes spaceflight, nuclear technology, laser and semiconductor technology and the beginning Information Age, and the development of molecular biology and genetic engineering, and the development of particle physics and the Standard Model of quantum field theory.

In contemporary African history, there was apartheid in South Africa and its abolition, Decolonization, and a multitude of wars on the continent. In contemporary Asian history, there was the history of the People's Republic of China, Indian independence, the Korean, Vietnam, the ongoing Afghan civil war, and the US Forces stationed in Japan and in South Korea. In the Middle East, there was the Arab-Israeli conflict, the conflict between Arab nationalism and Islamism, and the (still ongoing) Arab Spring. In contemporary European history, there was the Revolutions of 1989, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the ongoing process of European integration.

At the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the world saw a series of great conflagrations, World War I and World War II. Near the end of the first great war, there were a series of Russian Revolutions and a Russian Civil War. In between the great wars, the 1920s saw a great rise in prosperity where progress and new technology took hold of the world, but this was soon ended by the Great Depression. During this time, the League of Nations was formed to deal with global issues, but failed to garner enough support by the leading powers and a series of crises once again lead the world into another epoch of violence.

Notable events of this modern period of universal history include two World wars and the Cold War, characterized by the dispute for world influence between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Cold War began in 1945 and lasted into 1989. The Space Age was concurrent with this time, encompassing the activities related to the Space Race, space exploration, space technology, and the cultural developments influenced by these events. Pax Americana is an appellation applied to the historical concept of relative liberal peace in the Western world, resulting from the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States of America and, in its contemporaneousness connotations, the peace established after the end of World War II in 1945.

The post-1945 world experienced the establishment and defense of democratic states. Throughout post-1945 period, the Cold War was expressed through military coalitions, espionage, weapons development, invasions, propaganda, and competitive technological development. The Soviet Union created the Eastern Bloc of countries that it occupied, annexing some as Soviet Socialist Republics and maintaining others as satellite states that would later form the Warsaw Pact. The United States and various western European countries began a containment policy of communism and forged alliances to this end, including NATO. The conflict included defense spending, a conventional and nuclear arms race, and various proxy wars; the two superpowers never fought one another directly.

The post-1989 World saw the abolishment of totalitarian regimes of the Cold War and the abolishment of Cold War superpower client states. By the Democratizing Revolutions of Eastern Europe in 1989 and the Cold War effectively ended by the Malta Summit on December 3, 1989. The Soviet Union was dissolved on the last day of 1991. The "post-Cold War regimes" established were democratic republics, not the oligarchic republics.

(Source: Pamela Campbell. The Main Trends of Contemporary History (2011). Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 2010, 159-168.)

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TEXT 10. Tunguska Event

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The Tunguska event, or Tunguska blast or Tunguska explosion, was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, at about 7:14 a.m. KRAT on June 30, 1908.

The explosion, having the hypocenter, is believed to have been caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5–10 kilometres above the Earth's surface. Different studies have yielded varying estimates of the object's size, with general agreement that it was a few tens of metres across. It is the largest impact event in recorded history.

The number of scholarly publications on the problem of the Tunguska explosion since 1908 may be estimated at about 1,000 (mainly in Russian). Many scientists have participated in Tunguska studies.

Although the meteoroid or comet appears to have burst in the air rather than hitting the surface, this event is still referred to as an impact. Estimates of the energy of the blast range from 5 to as high as 30 megatons of TNT, - about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The explosion knocked over an estimated 80 million trees covering 2,150 square kilometres. It is estimated that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. An explosion of this magnitude is capable of destroying a large metropolitan area. This possibility has helped to spark discussion of asteroid deflection strategies.

At around 7:17 a.m. local time, Evenks natives and Russian settlers in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal observed a column of bluish light, nearly as bright as the Sun, moving across the sky. About 10 minutes later, there was a flash and a sound similar to artillery fire. Eyewitnesses closer to the explosion reported the sound source moving east to north. The sounds were accompanied by a shock wave that knocked people off their feet and broke windows hundreds of kilometres away. The majority of witnesses reported only the sounds and the tremors, and not the sighting of the explosion. Eyewitness accounts differ as to the sequence of events and their overall duration.

The explosion registered on seismic stations across Eurasia. In some places the shock wave would have been equivalent to an earthquake of 5.0 on the Richter scale. It also produced fluctuations in atmospheric pressure strong enough to be detected in Great Britain. Over the next few days, night skies in Asia and Europe were aglow; it has been theorized that this was due to light passing through high-altitude ice particles formed at extremely low temperatures, a phenomenon that occurred again when the Space Shuttle re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. In the United States, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Mount Wilson Observatory observed a decrease in atmospheric transparency that lasted for several months, from suspended dust.

(Source: Clark Mitchell. The Mistery of Tunguska Event (2010). Scientific Research and Information Technology. Vol. 1, 125-144.)

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