october 1986


Keith Haring painting a mural on The Berlin Wall. October 23, 1986. Photos by Tseng Kwong Chi.

Keith Haring had been invited by the Director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum to paint the mural. He began shortly after 10 A.M., Since the first six feet of land on the Western side belong to the East, he was not just defacing property of the East German Government, he was entering that country without a visa. A West Berlin policeman used a megaphone to warn him of the fact. But Haring continued, sporadically leaping back onto Western soil when East German border guards looked as if they were about to arrest him.

After 90 minutes, he had completed a third of his mural. He painted an interlocking chain of red and black human forms on a bright yellow background. The colors were those of the East and West German flags.

The artist gave interviews to West German television and radio reporters as he worked and signed autographs. “It’s a humanistic gesture, more than anything else,” said Haring, who called his work “a political and subversive act - an attempt to psychologically destroy the wall by painting it.’‘Asked whether the event was merely a publicity stunt to draw attention to himself, he said, ’'The main objective here is that it is not an insignificant act that goes unnoticed. The entire world should know that it happened, reinforcing its political significance.”

Haring completed the mural shortly after 4 P.M., He denied that it was aimed specifically against East Germany. “It’s for people and it doesn’t matter which side of the wall they’re on. It’s about both sides coming together.”

By the next day, however, someone painted large sections of the mural grey and quickly, other artists painted graffiti on the hundred-metre section that Haring had used. Within months there was very little left to see.  



On Friday 3 October 1986, off the coast of Bermuda, the Soviet submarine K-219, a Project 667A Navaga-clas (NATO: Yankee I-class) suffered a catastrophic missile silo explosion after seawater leaked into silo six while underwater, leading to a chemical reaction with the liquid propellant from the SLBM inside of it, producing large quantities of nitrogen dioxide gas that eventually detonated, killing three sailors and mortally wounding the submarine.

Thanks to the efforts of her crew, specially of enlisted seaman Sergei Preminin, who perished in his successful mission to shut down the boat’s nuclear reactor, the submarine managed to surface under battery power, where it was intermediately detected by US aircraft, becoming the most photographed soviet submarine of the Cold War.

A soviet tug managed to reach the stricken vessel, but the damage was so severe, and the silo kept leaking gas into the submarine, that her captain, Igor Britanov, ordered everyone but him to abandon ship and get into the tug, until the ship could no longer remain afloat and sank, the captain managing to abandon her just before she was lost beneath the waves.

The submarine was carrying 34 warheads in 17 missiles (the 18th silo had been welded shut after an earlier, eerily similar accident a few years back), where the explosion completely destroyed the missile inside silo 6, ejecting its warheads into the Atlantic, and the remaining 32 warheads were found missing after a soviet hydrographic research ship found the wreck in 1988, the silos having been found forced open, pointing to a successful recovery effort by the US government.

Mathias Rust, the teenager who flew illegally to Red Square, 1987

t all began in May of 1987. Mathias Rust was fed up with the Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union so he planned to create an “imaginary bridge” to the East. He left Uetersen in his rented Reims Cessna F172P D-ECJB, which was modified by removing some of the seats and replacing them with auxiliary fuel tanks. He spent the next two weeks traveling across Northern Europe, visiting the Faroe islands, spending a week in Iceland, and then visiting Bergen on his way back. He was later quoted as saying that he had the idea of attempting to reach Moscow even before the departure, and he saw the trip to Iceland (where he visited Hofdi House, the site of unsuccessful talks between the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1986) as a way to test his piloting skills.