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Top ten historical figures of the 1990s

The 1990s saw the end of the Cold War and an intensification of Middle East problems. The U.S. expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. At the same time, much of the world breathed the air of freedom for the first time in decades. However, the troubles with Iraq had just begun and new enemies lurked waiting to ambush the west. Few noticed as the tech revolution took hold and created an artificial economic bubble. Essentially, the 21st century began in the early 90s. The following are the ten most important people in the decade in alphabetical order.

President George H.W. Bush evicted Iraq from Kuwait, signed the last major piece of civil rights legislation, set the U.S. on the course to a balanced budget, and helped realign the world.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The 1990s have been described as a "holiday from history." Nirvana shook things up in the early part of the decade and the world has yet to recover.

George H.W. Bush: President George H.W. Bush won a sweeping electoral victory in 1988. He passed the first major piece of civil rights legislation since the 1960s, removed Manuel Noriega from power in Panama, and is credited with putting the country on the path to a balanced budget. In 1991, Bush led a coalition of nations against Iraqi aggression in the Middle East. The Bush coalition evicted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in spectacular fashion. The president's approval rate topped 90%, but a mild recession undermined his support in the country. On top of this, the budget deficit led to the third party candidacy of Ross Perot. Perot's appearance on the ballot cost Bush re-election in 1992.

Bill Clinton: President Clinton rode economic dissatisfaction and Ross Perot's candidacy into the White House. His first two years were abysmal and the Republicans captured Congress. Clinton's fortunes changed in 1995 when he abandoned progressive policies. His administration, with Republican help, balanced the budget and reformed welfare. Overseas, Clinton helped end the bloody Yugoslavian conflicts. On top of this, the tech bubble revitalized the economy. However, storm clouds gathered as scandal beset the White House. The Clinton impeachment saga allowed Osama bin Laden to organize the 911 attacks and the administration's advocacy of low income mortgages eventually collapsed the economy.

Hillary Clinton: First Lady Hillary Clinton proved a double edged sword for her husband. On one hand, she helped insulate him during the Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky Scandals. Her support saved Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and softened the public in Lewinsky's wake enabling the president to survive. On the other hand, she created Obamacare 1.0, which angered the American people into throwing Democrats out of office. Perhaps no person is more responsible for the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994 than Mrs. Clinton.

Bill Gates: The personal computer revolution began in earnest in the 1970s. By the mid-90s, Bill Gates and Microsoft literally ran the world. Microsoft Windows provided the tech revolution's operating system. Then, Gates jumped into the internet race, created Explorer, and ran competitors into the ground. Gates is the man most responsible for the tech boom and the economic expansion in the decade.

Stephen Hawking: Stephen Hawking united quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity. Hawking's work revolutionized science, helped explain the Big Bang and black body radiation emanating from black holes, and even validated the theory of multiple universes. He became a media star in the decade with a best selling book, appearances on Star Trek and The Simpsons, and vocals on a Pink Floyd album. He continued his work and frequently appeared in the news well into the 21st century.

John Paul II: John Paul II’s efforts to undermine communism came to fruition. The U.S.S.R. completely collapsed in 1991. Throughout the nineties, the pontiff worked to bridge the chasm between religions. Additionally, he worked to maintain traditional church positions on social issues. Lastly, John Paul II oversaw the Catholic Church’s transition into the 21st century.

Nelson Mandela: The South African government jailed Nelson Mandela in 1962. The anti-apartheid activist transitioned from non-violent protest to training as a guerilla fighter. He was arrested, sentenced to life in prison for treason, and became a symbol of white South African oppression. Apartheid fell and the government released Mandela in 1990. The people elected Mandela the first president of a multiracial South Africa in 1994. President Mandela worked at reconciliation, battled racism and history, worked on land reform, battle extreme poverty, and became the world’s foremost moral authority.

Slobodan Milosevic: Yugoslavia disintegrated with communism’s collapse. A series of civil wars plagued the region throughout the 1990s. The Yugoslav Wars turned brutal, personal and genocidal. In 1999, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was charged with crimes against humanity and genocide for his role in the wars. The president became a symbol for genocide in the post Cold War era. Demonstrations forced Milosevic from power in 2000.

Yitzhak Rabin: Israel’s fifth Prime Minister worked for peace in the Middle East. He signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 in order to establish permanent peace in the region. Oslo set forth a path for Palestinian self determination, established the Palestinian Authority, and gave limited autonomy to the Palestinians. His efforts led to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. The following year, a militant Israeli who opposed the Oslo Accord assassinated Rabin. Later, Palestinian militants disavowed the peace process and continued their attacks on Israel.

Boris Yeltsin: Originally, Boris Yeltsin supported Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms. Over time, he evolved into Gorbachev’s fiercest critic. In 1990, he became the chairman of the Supreme Soviet. The next year, the people elected Yeltsin President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Meanwhile, Soviet hardliners attempted to overthrow Gorbachev. Yeltsin rallied the people against the coup. His efforts undermined the hardliners, saved Gorbachev, and led to the Soviet Union’s collapse. Yeltsin was elected Russian president. However, economic problems associated with the communist collapse, the rise of oligarchs, corruption, incompetence, and perhaps health issues undermined Yeltsin’s presidency. He resigned in 1999 leaving Vladimir Putin to run the country.

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