The 1990s collectively refers to the years between and including 1990 and 1999. During this time, the widespread adoption of personal computers, the Internet and the increased economic productivity led to the equity market booms around the world, and caused an influx of wealth to the United States, Europe and Asia.
This decade started with the fall of Communism and the United States liberation of Kuwait, as well as the cementation of free-market capitalism in many countries worldwide, both developed and developing. During this decade, racial prejudice against minorities lost moral acceptance, and the gender roles for women began to increase dramatically in many industrialized countries.
Throughout the decade multiple attempts to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestinian territories were initiated including a near settlement in the mid-1990s with the Oslo accords when Israel allowed the creation of the autonomous Palestinian National Authority. Also, the 165 years of British control over Hong Kong ended with the transfer of jurisdiction to the People's Republic of China. In Europe, the decade was dominated by the Yugoslav wars, which resulted in the dissolution of Yugoslavia as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia declared their independence.
Many countries, institutions, companies, and organizations experienced the 1990s as a prosperous time. High-income countries such as the United States, Western Europe, and South Korea experienced steady economic growth for much of the decade. However, in the former Soviet Union GDP decreased as their economies restructured to produce goods they needed and some capital flight occurred.
Oil and gas were discovered in many countries in the former Soviet bloc, leading to economic growth and wider adoption of trade between nations. These trends were also fueled by inexpensive fossil energy, with low petroleum prices caused by a glut of oil. Political stability and decreased militarization due to the winding down of the Cold War led to economic development and higher standards of living for many citizens.
- Personal incomes doubled from the recession in 1990, and there was higher productivity overall. After the 1996 Welfare Reform Act there was a reduction of poverty, and the Wall Street stock exchange stayed over the 10,000 mark from 1999 to 2001.
- After the 1992 booming of the US stock market, Alan Greenspan coined the phrase "irrational exuberance".
- GATT update and creation of the World Trade Organization and other global economic institutions, but opposition by anti-globalization activists showed up in nearly every GATT summit, like the demonstrations in Seattle in December 1999.
- With the creation of the E.U. there is free movement of labor between member states, such as the 1992 and 1995 free trade agreements. The EU agreed to have a single currency, and the Euro began circulation in March 1999 in 12 member states.
- The Philippines saw great economic development after The People Power revolt. The economy gains 5% from its deficit until the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
- The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which phases out trade barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada is signed into law by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
- From 1990 until 1998 inclusive, the economy of Russia and some former USSR states was in a severe depression. Eastern European economies struggled after the fall of communism, but Poland, Hungary, Estonia and Lithuania saw healthy economic growth rates in the late 1990s.
- Except for the United Kingdom and Ireland, much of Europe had serious economic problems, such as the massive 1995 general strikes in France during its worst recession since World War II. The French economy mildly rebounds at the end of the decade.
- Democracy, economic reform and peace arrive in Latin America, while the sluggish economies of Brazil, by a new emphasis on free markets for all their citizens, and Mexico, under economist president Ernesto Zedillo elected in 1994, were their best shape by the late 1990s.
- Financial crisis hits East and Southeast Asia in 1997 and 1998 after a long period of phenomenal economic development. Japan was heavily affected, as was Indonesia when the 30-year rule of President Suharto ended in his resignation after widespread protests in May 1998. See East Asian Tigers.
Significant events that occurred during or after 1990 which would influence the course of history and character of the decade, include:
- The release of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela from jail in February 1990 after thirty years of imprisonment for opposing apartheid and white-minority rule in South Africa.
- The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 2 1990 and the subsequent Gulf War in 1991.
- The German reunification in october 3 1990 as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall
- The breakup of Yugoslavia beginning on June 25, 1991 after the republics of Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia which was followed by the subsequent Yugoslav wars.
- The World Wide Web becomes the first publicly available service on the internet on August 6, 1991, beginning the eventual expansion of public use of the internet.
- The Moscow Coup and subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union on December 21 1991.
- Signing of the Oslo Accords by Israeli and Palestinian leaders on September 13, 1993. Israel permits the creation of an autonomous Palestinian National Authority consisting of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, while the Palestinian Liberation Organization recognizes Israel's right to exist.
- The enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on January 1, 1994, creating a North American free trade zone consisting of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
- The Rwandan Genocide which began on April 6, 1994 until mid-July 1994 results in serious criticism of the United Nations and major countries for failing to stop the genocide.
- The first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep is confirmed and reported by global media on February 26, 1997.
- The government of the People's Republic of China announces major privatization of state-owned industries in September 1997.
- The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on December 11, 1997
- The rival countries India and Pakistan in succession reveal their acquisition of nuclear weapons in 1998 with two separate missile tests amid escalating tensions over the disputed region of Kashmir.
- The Belfast Agreement (a.k.a. the Good Friday Agreement) is signed by U.K. and Irish politicians on April 10, 1998, declaring a joint commitment to a peaceful resolution of the territorial dispute between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom over Northern Ireland.
Significant events that marked the passing of the decade include:
- Physicists develop string theory and M-theory.
- Detection of extrasolar planets orbiting stars other than the sun.
- Dolly the sheep is cloned.
- Human Genome Project begins.
- DNA identification of individuals finds wide application in criminal law.
- Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990; revolutionizes astronomy.
- Protease inhibitors introduced allowing HAART therapy against HIV; drastically reduces AIDS mortality.
- NASA's spacecraft Pathfinder lands on Mars and deploys a small roving vehicle, Sojourner, which analyzes the planet's geology and atmosphere.
- The Hale-Bopp comet swings past the sun for the first time in 4,200 years in April 1997.
- Development of biodegradable products, replacing products made from Styrofoam; advances in methods for recycling of waste products (such as paper, glass, aluminum).
- Genetically engineered crops are developed for commercial use.
- Discovery of dark matter, dark energy, brown dwarfs, and first confirmation of black holes.
- The Galileo probe orbits Jupiter, studying the planet and its moons extensively.
- The Global Positioning System (GPS) becomes fully operational.
- Proof of Fermat's last theorem is discovered by Andrew Wiles.
- Construction starts on the International Space Station – 1996
Some technologies invented and improved during the 1990s:
- The Pentium processor is developed by Intel.
- Explosive growth of the Internet, perhaps caused by a decrease in the cost of computers and other technology.
- Advancements in computer modems, ISDN, cable modems and DSL lead to faster connection to the Internet.
- Pagers are initially popular but ultimately are replaced by mobile phones toward the end of the decade.
- Hand-held satellite phones are introduced towards the end of the decade.
- CD burner drives are introduced.
- Digital SLRs and regular Digital cameras become commercially available.
- The DVD media format is developed and popularized along with a plethora of Flash memory card standards.
- Apple introduces the iMac computer, initiating a trend in computer design towards translucent plastics and multicolor case design, discontinuing many legacy technologies like serial ports, and beginning a resurgence in the company's fortunes that continues unabated to this day.
- IBM introduces the 1-inch wide Microdrive hard drive in 170 MB and 340 MB capacities.
- The first GSM network is launched in Finland in 1991
- The first MP3 Player, the MPMan, is released in late spring of 1998. It came with 32Mb of flash memory expandable to 64Mb.
- The introduction of affordable, smaller satellite dishes and the DVB-S standard in the mid-1990s expanded satellite television services that carried up to 500 television channels.
Computer and video games
- 3-D graphics become the standard by end of decade. Although FPSs had long since seen the transition to full 3D, other genres begin to copy this trend by the end of the decade.
- Lara Croft became the first video game sex symbol, becoming a recognisable figure in the entertainment industry throughout the late 1990s.
- The console wars, primarily between Sega (Sega Mega Drive (marketed as the Sega Genesis in North America), introduced in 1988) and Nintendo (Super NES, introduced in 1990), sees the entrance of Sony with the PlayStation in 1994, which becomes the first successful CD-based console (as opposed to cartridges). By the end of the decade, Sega's hold on the market becomes tenuous after the end of the Saturn in 1998 and the Dreamcast in 2001.
- Mario finds a rival in Sonic the Hedgehog with the release of the original game on the Genesis in 1991.
- Arcade games rapidly decrease in popularity.
- Fighting games like Capcom's Street Fighter II, Sega's futuristic Virtua Fighter and the more violent Mortal Kombat from Acclaim prompted the video game industry to adopt a game rating system, and hundreds of knock-offs are widely popular in mid-to-late1990s.
- Sony's PlayStation becomes the top selling game console and changes the standard media storage type from cartridges to compact discs in consoles.
- Doom (1993) bursts onto the world scene and instantly popularizes the FPS genre, and even how games are played, as Doom is among the first games to feature multiplayer capabilities. It is not until Quake (1996), however, that game developers begin to take multiplayer features into serious consideration when making games. Half-Life (1998) features the next evolutionary step in the genre with continual progression of the game (no levels in the traditional sense) and an entirely in-person view, and becomes one of the most popular computer games in history.
- The real-time strategy (RTS) genre is introduced in 1992 with the release of Dune II. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) popularizes the genre, with Command & Conquer and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1995 sets up the first major real-time strategy competition and popularizes multiplayer capabilities in RTS games. StarCraft in 1998 becomes the second best-selling computer game of all time. It remains among the most popular multiplayer RTS games to this day, especially in South Korea. Homeworld in 1999 becomes the first successful 3d RTS game. The rise of the RTS genre is often credited with the fall of the turn-based strategy (TBS) genre, popularized with Civilization in 1991. The Civilization franchise is the only TBS franchise that remains popular.
- Final Fantasy first debuted (in North America) in 1990 for the NES, and remains among the most popular video game franchises, with 12 new titles to date, with another in development, plus numerous spin-offs, sequels, movies and related titles. Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997, especially popularized the series.
- Zelda continues its massive popularity with a series of groundbreaking games, including The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released in 1998, which is considered one of the best and most groundbreaking games of all time.
- Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing games (MMORPGs) see their entrance into the computer game world with Ultima Online in 1997, although they don't gain widespread popularity until EverQuest and Asheron's Call in 1999. MMORPGs go on to become among the most popular genres in the 2000s.
- Pokémon entered the world scene with the release of the original Game Boy Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green games in Japan in 1996, later changed to Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue for worldwide release in 1998. It soon becomes popular in the U.S. and is adapted into a popular children's anime series and trading card game, among other media forms. Its popularity remains well into the 2000s with several new games and spin-offs.
- Youth culture in the 1990s was characterized by environmentalism and entrepreneurship. Western world fashions were often individualistic, tattoos and body piercing gained popularity, and "retro" styles inspired by fashions of the 1960s and 1970s were also prevalent. Some young people became increasingly involved in outdoor activities that combined embracing athletics with the appreciation of nature.
- The first McDonald's restaurant opens in the Moscow in 1990 with then-President of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR and future Russian President Boris Yeltsin attending, symbolizing Russia's transition towards a capitalist free-market economy and a move towards adopting elements of western culture.
- In 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. Increasing acceptance of homosexuality occurs in the western world throughout the 1990s.
- The ethnic tensions and violence in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s create a greater sense of ethnic identity of the nations in the new countries, especially involving increased popularity of nationalism.
- The 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Americas in 1992 was popularly observed, despite controversy and protests against Columbus' expeditions victimization of Native Americans. The holiday was labeled by some as racist, in view of Native American experiences of colonialism, slavery, genocide and cultural destruction.
- The U.S. animated television comedy series The Simpsons becomes a huge domestic and international success in the 1990s.
- The Internet becomes available to public use in the 1990s and expands rapidly.
- With the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa's first black president. South Africa drastically moves away from the previous society of white-minority Apartheid rule to becoming a multicultural society.
- Reality television began on MTV; this would grow in importance in the western world into the 2000s.
- Video games became more advanced and popular, with the development of 3-d graphics.
- Dogme 95 becomes an important European artistic film movement by the end of the decade.
- Eurodance music dominates discotheques and has numerous major mainstream hits in European (and to a lesser extent, North American) music charts.
- Mainstream "Techno", as it is dubbed by the media, became hugely popular in Europe and the U.S. From the early raves of 1990 to about 1996, electronic music gradually gained widespread recognition as a new genre in its own right. This trend reached a head in the latter part of the decade as underground parties were largely replaced by massive commercially sponsored parties, and as music media such as MTV began coverage of it.
- Media consolidation leads to increased segmentation in styles of music.
- 24-hour CNN coverage during the Gulf War leads to increased awareness and coverage of world events and Infotainment shows.
- Hip-hop culture grows in western societies; by the end of the decade hip hop gained more and more popularity.
- The 1990s in popular fashion in the Western world is typically referred to as the decade of "anti-fashion". In reality, anti-fashion was only one of many trends in fashion in the 1990s. The fashion of the 1990s was characterized by minimalist styles, and many overlapping, often contradictory trends. The most significant event was the rise of grunge fashion in 1992. In the late 1990s there was a move away from grunge. Retro clothing inspired by the 1960s and 1970s was popular for much of the 1990s.
Politically, the 1990s was an era of spreading democracy. The former countries of the Warsaw Pact
moved from totalitarian regimes to democratically-elected governments. The same happened in other non-communist countries, such as Taiwan
, South Africa
, and Indonesia
. Capitalism made great changes to the economies of communist countries like China
, and even Cuba
The improvement in relations between the countries of NATO and the former members of the Warsaw Pact ended the Cold War both in Europe and other parts of the world. Yugoslavia violently broke up along republic and ethnic lines during the 1990s. In 1993, the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shook hands in agreement for peace, at the conclusion of peace talks sponsored by US president Bill Clinton. The outcome of these talks, known as the Oslo Accords, was an agreement by Israel to allow Palestinian self-government.
Conflicts like the Balkan Wars, the Rwandan genocide, the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia and the first Gulf War, as well as the continuation of terrorism, led some to hypothesize a Clash of Civilizations, but the decade was also a time of peace in terror-ridden Northern Ireland when the IRA agreed to a truce in 1994. This marked the beginning of the end of 25 years of violence between the two sectarian groups, Protestant and Catholic, and the start of political negotiations.
- Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in Burma wins a majority of seats in the first free elections in 30 years in 1990, however the Burmese military junta refuses to relinquish power, beginning an ongoing peaceful struggle throughout the 1990s to present by Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters to demand the end of military rule in Burma.
- Persian Gulf War (resulting from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait) and United Nations embargo on Iraq in 1991.
- North Yemen and South Yemen merge to form Yemen (1991).
- Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin and Palestinian Prime Minister Yasser Arafat agree to the Peace Process at the culmination of the Oslo Accords, negotiated by the United States President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1993.
- In Japan, after three decades of economic growth put them in second place in the world's economies, the situation worsened after 1993. The recession went on into the early 2000s, bringing an end to the seemingly unlimited prosperity that the country had hitherto enjoyed. However, the rise of free market economics in China under more socialist regulation had not slowed that country's economic prosperity in the 1990s, and its economic growth continues.
- Less affluent nations such as India, Malaysia and Vietnam also saw tremendous improvements in economic prosperity and quality of life during the 1990s. Optimism and hopes were high following the collapse of Communism, and restructuring following the end of the Cold War was beginning. However, there was also the continuation of terrorism in Third World regions that were once the "frontlines" for American and Soviet foreign politics, particularly in Asia.
- The Palestinian National Authority is created in 1994 in accordance with the Oslo Accords, giving Palestinian Arab people official autonomy over the Gaza Strip and West Bank, though not official independence from Israel.
- In 1994, a peace treaty is signed between Israel and Jordan.
- Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin is assassinated in 1995 by a radical Jewish militant who opposed the Oslo accords.
- The Taliban seize control of Afghanistan in 1996.
- South-East Asia economic crisis starting from 1997.
- The Spratly islands issue became one of the most controversial in Southeast Asia.
- The Tibetan Freedom Concert brings 120,000 people together in the interest of increased human rights and autonomy for Tibet from China.
- Great Britain hands sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on July 1, 1997.
- The government of the People's Republic of China led by Jiang Zemin announces major privatization of state-owned industries in September 1997.
- Both India and Pakistan both reveal their acquiring of nuclear weapons in two separate missile tests in both countries in 1998.
- After the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al Qaeda militants, U.S. naval military forces launch cruise missile attacks against Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in 1998.
- In May 1999, Pakistan sends troops covertly to occupy strategic peaks in Kashmir. A month later the Kargil War with India results in a political fiasco for Nawaz Sharif, followed by a military withdrawal to the Line of Control. The incident leads to a military coup in October in which the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is ousted by Army Chief Pervez Musharraf.
- Portugal hands sovereignty of Macau to the People's Republic of China on December 20, 1999.
- East Timor breaks away from Indonesian control in 1999, merely a year after the fall of Soeharto from power, ending a twenty-four year guerrilla war with more than 200,000 casualties. The UN deploys a peace keeping force, spearheaded by the Australian and New Zealand armed forces. The United States deploys police officers to serve with the International Police element, to help train and equip an East Timorese police force.
- Germany reunified on 3 October 1990 and, after integrating the economic structure and provincial governments, focused on modernization of the former communist East. People who were brought up in a communist culture became integrated with those living in democratic western Germany.
- The collapse of Yugoslavia begins in 1991 with the secession of the republics of Croatia, Slovenia, and the Republic of Macedonia from the federation. The Yugoslav Wars begin with the short Ten-day war in Slovenia and the longer and more brutal Croatian War between Croat and Serb military and paramilitary forces.
- Break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. On December 8, 1991, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords which declared the Soviet Union dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in its place. On December 25, 1991 the Soviet Union is officially dissolved, effectively ending the Cold War. United States becomes sole world superpower.
- The republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina secedes from Yugoslavia in 1992. The Bosnian war immediately erupts amongst the Bosniak, Croat, and Serb ethnic factions. The war would become known for numerous war crimes and human rights violations such as ethnic cleansing and genocide.
- The European Community becomes the European Union on January 1, 1993.
- Severe political deadlock between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Duma (Russia's parliament) result in Yeltsin ordering the controversial shelling of the Russian parliament building by tanks in 1993.
- Dissolution of Czechoslovakia into Czech Republic and Slovakia (1993).
- The birth of the "Second Republic" in Italy, with the Mani Pulite investigations of 1994.
- Russian financial crisis in the 1990s results in mass hyperinflation and prompts economic intervention from the International Monetary Fund and western countries to help Russia's economy recover.
- The First Chechen War war 1994 – 1996;
- The final fighting in Croatian and Bosnian wars ends in 1995 with the success of Croatian military offensives against Serb forces and the mass exodus of Serbs from Croatia in 1995; Serb losses to Croat and Bosniak forces; and finally the signing of the Dayton agreement which internally partitioned Bosnia and Herzegovina into a Serb republic and a Bosniak-Croat federation.
- Kosovo War between ethnic-Albanian separatists and Yugoslav military and Serb paramilitary forces in Kosovo begin in 1996 and escalates in 1998 with increasing reports of atrocities taking place. In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led by the United States launches air attacks against Yugoslavia. The war ends when the Yugoslav government submits to allow NATO and later UN peacekeeping forces to take control of Kosovo.
- Second Chechen War starts in 1999, and is ongoing.
- A magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the Philippines on July 16, 1990 and killed around 1000 people in Baguio City.
- In 1990 the process of dismantlement of apartheid political system in South Africa begins with the release of bans on political parties supported by black South Africans as well as the release of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela from jail.
- The Internet becomes available for public use in 1991.
- The European Union forms in 1992 under the Maastricht Treaty.
- The Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killed 168. Bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh claimed he bombed the building in retaliation for the 1993 Waco massacre.
- In France, Princess Diana dies in a car accident in 1997. Debates of accident vs. assassination rage well into the 2000s.
- Nelson Mandela is elected President of South Africa in 1994, becoming the first black-President in South African history ending a long-legacy of apartheid white-rule in the country.
- The 1992 Los Angeles riots occurred, with 53 deaths and 5,500 property fires in a 100-square mile riot zone. The riots were a result of the state court acquittal of three White and one Hispanic L.A. police officers by an all-white jury in a police brutality case involving motorist Rodney King, but in 1993, all four officers were convicted in a federal civil rights case.
- The Siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 in the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina marks the most violent urban warefare in Europe since World War II at that time as Serb forces bombard and attack Bosniak controlled and populated areas of the city. War crimes occur including ethnic cleansing and destruction of civilian property.
- The Omagh bombing in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland which kills 29 civilians and injures hundreds more.
- The signing of the Oslo Accords by Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Oslo, Norway on August 20, 1993. By signing the accord, Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization recognizes Israel's right to statehood, while Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin allowed for the creation of an autonomous Palestinian National Authority consisting of the Gaza Strip and West Bank which was implemented in 1994. Israeli military forces withdraw from the Palestinian territories in compliance with the accord, which marked the end of the First Intifada (a period of violence between Palestinian Arab militants and Israeli armed forces from 1987 to 1993).
- The Channel Tunnel across the English Channel opens in 1994, connecting France and England. As of 2007 it is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world, but with the undersea section of 37.9 km (23.55 miles) being the longest undersea tunnel in the world.
- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin is assassinated by a radical Zionist who opposed the Oslo Accords.
- O.J. Simpson's trial, described in the U.S. media as the "trial of the century" and enormous U.S. media attention is focused on the trial. On October 3, 1995, Simpson was found "not guilty" of double-murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
- The 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty is held in the predominantly francophone province of Quebec in Canada, a majority anglophone country. If accepted Quebec would become an independent country with an economic association with Canada. The proposal is narrowly rejected by Quebec's voters by 50.4% no, and 49.6% yes.
- In the United Kingdom, the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep was confirmed by the Roslin Institute, and was reported by global media on February 26, 1997. Dolly would trigger a raging controversy on cloning and bioethical concerns regarding possible human cloning continue to this day.
- US president Bill Clinton was caught in a media-frenzied sex scandal over his intern Monica Lewinsky, first announced on January 21, 1998. After the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Clinton on December 19, 1998 for perjury under oath, following an investigation by federal prosecutor Kenneth Starr, the Senate acquitted Clinton of the charges on February 12, 1999 and he finished his second term.
- The Columbine school shooting occurred on April 20, 1999, at Littleton, Colorado when two student gunmen took the Columbine high school hostage and killed 12 students, a teacher and the two committed suicide, making it the deadliest high school shooting in United States history.
- The Euro is adopted by the European Union on January 1, 1999, which begins a process of phasing out national currencies of EU countries.
- In 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched air raids against Yugoslavia (then composed of only Serbia and Montenegro) to pressure the Yugoslav government to end its military operations against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo due to accusations of war crimes being committed by Yugoslav military forces working alongside nationalist Serb paramilitary groups. After weeks of bombing Yugoslavia submits to NATO's demands and NATO forces occupy Kosovo and form a UN administration over the territory. The NATO action is seen as highly controversial at the time due to repeated reports of NATO attacks on non-military facilities, including destruction of civilian property and civilian deaths. NATO is criticized for working alongside the Kosovo Liberation Army which was accused of committing atrocities against Serbs.
- Y2K spread fear throughout the United States and eventually the world in the last half of the decade particularly 1999. Many feared that it would cause a massive computer crash on January 1, 2000. It became huge in popular culture and many people stocked up on supplies for fear of a disaster. One year later, January 1, 2001 was the beginning of the 3rd millennium, as well the 21st century and the official end of the 20th century.
Other significant events
- Gun politics in the US over the 1993 Brady Bill had banned or regulated most kinds of automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons. The law called for a 5-day waiting period for potential gun-owners to be checked for past crimes before they can purchase a firearm.
- You go, girl! becomes a popular phrase in the media as feminism is more widely accepted and publicized with The Spice Girls, the WNBA, women's boxing, girl power, Sex and the City and others showcasing modern femininity and challenged the problem of sexism.
- With help from clinical fertility drugs, an Iowa mother, Bobbie McCaughey, gave birth to the first surviving septuplets in 1997. There followed a media frenzy and widespread support for the family.
- In August 1995, NASA scientists announced, then debunked a big "discovery" of "martian" microscopic life on an asteroid originated from Mars, found in Antarctica and examined to only find mineral formation, not alien bacteria.
- Kenny Everett dies shortly after confirming that he has AIDS.
- Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur, and Notorious B.I.G. are the most publicized music-related deaths of the decade, in 1991, 1994, 1996, and 1997 respectively.
- Divorce and scandal rocked the British Royal House of Windsor.
- The murder of Selena Quintanilla, Tejano superstar from Texas.
- Sex and violence in the media increase, especially in the late part of the decade. Profanity in music reaches peak in the late1990s.
- Models Pamela Anderson, Sylvia Saint and Anna Nicole Smith become major sex symbols during the 1990s.
- Cindy Crawford becomes the most successful supermodel of the decade.
- The movie Titanic becomes a cultural phenomenon throughout the world and eventually becomes the biggest grossing movie of all time making almost 2 billion dollars world wide in a span of little over a year.
- Major League baseball players went on strike in August 12, 1994, thus ended the season, canceled the World Series the first time in 90 years, and went on until March 29, 1995 when players and team owners in agreement.
- The Vieques controversy.
- Crime levels in the U.S. peak in 1991, begin to fall afterwards, reaching the lowest levels since the late 1960s by end of decade.
- In the U.S. drug use reaches an all-time low in 1992 before increasing, reaching its peak in 1997 before declining again.
- Examples of the decade's worst natural disasters: Hurricane Andrew strikes South Florida in August 1992, the crippling Superstorm of March 1993 along the Eastern Seaboard, the devastating 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles, the Great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, Japan in January 1995, the Blizzard of 1996 in the eastern U.S., the deadly Hurricane Mitch which struck Central America in October 1998, and the destructive F-5 Oklahoma City tornado in May 1999, the August 1999 İzmit earthquake in Turkey, and the September 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake in Taiwan.
- People are evacuated from the volcanic Caribbean island of Montserrat, a British overseas territory. The Soufirre Hills erupt in 1995 and continued on until 2002.
- Mount Pinatubo, a dormant volcano in the island of Luzon in the Philippines erupted in 1991 to decimate nearby towns and an American air force base permanently abandoned by hot ash fall and under mudslides.
- Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who won the Nobel Peace Prize, dies at age 87.
- 21-year-old Golfer Tiger Woods wins the Masters Tournament by a record 12 strokes; becoming both the youngest and the first American of multiracial descent to win the Masters.
- The Olympic Park Bombing on July 27, 1996 at that year's Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia which kills 1 (who later dies from a heartattack) and injures 111.
- School violence in the US is brought into the national spotlight with numerous incidents, such as the Columbine High School massacre.
- John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette are killed when Kennedy's private plane crashes off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.
- American cyclist Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France in 1999, less than two years after battling testicular cancer.
- Debate on assisted suicide highly publicized by Michigan doctor Jack Kevorkian, charged with multiple counts of homicide of his terminally ill patients through the decade.
- Seinfeld becomes highly popular.
- Beer keg registration becomes popular public policy in U.S.
- California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, to legalize cannabis only for medical purposes, the debate over legalization of marijuana in the U.S. goes on today.
- The Rachel, Jennifer Aniston's hairstyle on the hit show Friends, becomes a cultural phenomenon with millions of women copying it worldwide.
- Controversy surrounded The Prodigy with the release of the track 'Smack My Bitch Up'. The National organization for Women(NOW) claimed that the track was "advocating violence against women" due to the lyrics of that song. The music video (directed by Jonas Åkerlund) featured a first-person POV of someone going clubbing, indulging in large amounts of drugs and alcohol, getting into fist fights with men, abusing women and picking up a prostitute. At the end of the video the camera pans over to a mirror, revealing the subject to be a woman.
- The model 1300 Wonderbra style has a resurgence of popularity in Europe in 1992 which kicks off a multinational media sensation, the 1994 re-introduction of "The Wonderbra" brand, and a spike in push-up, plunge bras around the world.