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1989 (MCMLXXXIX) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. The world population growth in absolute numbers is believed to have been the highest ever around this time. 
January 16-18 - Race riots in Overtown, Miami
January 7 - Akihito becomes Emperor of Japan following the death of Hirohito. The Heisei period begins
- March 1 - The Berne Convention is ratified and enters into force with regard to the United States
- March 1 - A curfew is imposed in Kosovo where protests continue at the alleged intimidation of the Serb minority
- March 1 - Louis Wade Sullivan starts his term of office as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, serving under President George H. W. Bush
- March 1 - James D. Watkins starts his term of office as U.S. Secretary of Energy, serving under President George H. W. Bush
- March 1 - The Politieke Partij Radicalen, Pacifistisch Socialistische Partij, Communistische Partij Nederland and the Evangelische Volks Partij amalgamate to form Netherlands political party the GroenLinks (GL, GreenLeft)
- March 2 - 12 European Community nations agree to ban the production of all chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the end century
- March 4 - Time, Inc. and Warner Communications announce plans for a merger, forming Time Warner
- March 4 - The Purley rail crash - 5 dead, 94 injured
- March 4 - First ACT (Australian Capital Territory) elections held
- March 7 - Iran breaks off diplomatic relations with United Kingdom over Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses"
- March 9 - A strike forces financially-troubled Eastern Airlines into bankruptcy
- March 12 - Musician Billy was born
- March 14 - Gun control: President George H. W. Bush bans the importation of assault rifles into the United States
- March 14 - Christian General Michel Aoun declares a 'War of Liberation' to rid Lebanon of Syrian forces and their allies.
- March 15 - Surgeon Bimal Ghosh removes a huge gallbladder weighing 10.4 kg (23 lbs) at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, USA
- March 18 - In Egypt, a 4,400-year-old mummy is found in the Great Pyramid of Giza
- March 20 - Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke weeps on national television as he admits marital infidelity.
- March 23 - Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announce cold fusion at the University of Utah
- March 23 - A 300m (1,000 ft) diameter Near-Earth asteroid misses the Earth by 500,000 km (400,000 miles)
- March 24 - Exxon Valdez oil spill: In Alaska's Prince William Sound the Exxon Valdez spills 240,000 barrels (11 million gallons) of oil after running aground
- March 27 - The first free elections for the Soviet parliament go against the Communist Party.
- April 4 - Richard M. Daley elected mayor of Chicago, Illinois
- April 6 - National Safety Council of Australia chief executive John Friedrich is arrested after defrauding investors to the tune of $235 million
- April 7 - Soviet submarine Komsomolets sinks in the Barents Sea - 41 dead
- April 9 - Massacre of Georgian demonstrators by Red Army soldiers in Tbilisi's central square during a peaceful rally; 20 citizens are killed (most of them young women), many injured. The use of toxic gas by the Soviets was alleged. 
- April 15 - Hillsborough disaster, one of the biggest tragedies in European football, takes place
- April 19 - Gun turret explodes on the US battleship Iowa - 47 dead
- April 20 - NATO debates modernising short range missiles; although the US and UK are in favour, West German chancellor Helmut Kohl obtains a concession defering a decision.
- April 21 - Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: Students in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Nanjing started to strike.
- April 25 - End of term for Baginda Almutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail as the 8th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia
- April 26 - Sultan Azlan Muhibbudin Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Yusuff Izzudin Shah Ghafarullahu-lahu, Sultan of Perak, becomes the 9th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia
- May 2 - Hungary dismantles 150 miles of barbed wire fencing, opening its border to Western Europe.
- May 9 - Andrew Peacock deposes John Howard as Federal Opposition Leader
- May 11 - ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Legislative Assembly meets for 1st time
- May 12 - a Southern Pacific Railroad freight train crashes on Duffy Street in San Bernadino, California
- May 14 - Mikhail Gorbachev visited China, he was the first Soviet leader to visit China since the 1960s.
- May 15 Australia's 1st Private tertiary institution Bond University Opens On the Gold Coast
- May 15 - Jackie Mann, a 74-year-old former Battle of Britain pilot, is abducted in Beirut
- May 19 - Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: Zhao Ziyang met the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
- May 20 - Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: The Chinese government declared martial law in Beijing.
- May 30 - Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: The 10 m (33 ft) high "Goddess of Democracy" statue is unveiled in Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators
- May 30 Ananda Marga Member Tim Anderson is arrested on charges related to the 1978 Hilton Bombing
- August 6 - The comic strip Bloom County ends.
- August 7 - US Congressman Mickey Leland (D-TX), and 15 others die in a plane crash in Ethiopia.
- August 8 - STS-28: The Space Shuttle Columbia takes off on a secret five-day military mission.
- August 9 The asteroid 4769 Castalia is the first asteroid directly imaged, by radar from Arecibo.
- August 13 - 13 people die in hot air balloon accident near Alice Springs NT.
- August 18 - Leading presidential hopeful Luis Carlos Galán is assassinated near Bogotá in Colombia.
- August 19 - Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski nominates Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to be Prime Minister, thus becoming the first non-communist in power in 42 years.
- August 20 - In Beverly Hills, California, Lyle and Erik Menendez shoot their wealthy parents to death in their family's den.
- August 20 - 51 people die when the Marchioness pleasure boat collides with a barge on the River Thames adjacent to Southwark Bridge.
- August 23 - Baltic Way, uninterrupted 600 kilometre human chain, in which two million indigenous people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, then still occupied by the Soviet Union, joined hands to demand freedom and independence.
- August 23 - Hungary removes border restrictions with Austria.
- August 23 - All of Australia's 1,645 domestic airline pilots resign over an airline's move to sack and sue them over a dispute.
- August 24 - Indonesia's first privately-owned television station, Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia, (RCTI) begins broadcasting.
- August 25 - Voyager II passes the planet Neptune and its moon Triton.
- August 29 - Yusef Hawkins shot in Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York, sparking racial tensions between African Americans and Italian Americans.
- November 4 - Typhoon Gay devastates the Thai province of Chumphon.
- November 7 - Douglas Wilder wins the governor's seat in Virginia and becomes the first elected African American governor in the United States.
- November 7 - Cold War: The Communist government of East Germany resigns, although SED leader Egon Krenz remains head of state.
- November 7 - David Dinkins becomes the first African American mayor of New York City.
- November 7 - In California, convicted murderer Richard Ramirez (the "Night Stalker") is sentenced to death.
- November 9 - Cold War: East Germany opens checkpoints in the Berlin Wall, allowing its citizens to freely travel to West Germany for the first time in decades (the next day celebrating Germans began to tear the wall down).
- November 10 - After 45 years of Communist rule in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Communist Party leader Todor Zhivkov is replaced by Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov, who changes the party's name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
- November 10 - Gaby Kennard becomes the first Australian woman to fly non-stop around the world.
- November 12 - Brazil holds its first free presidential election since 1960
- November 16 - Six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter are shot in San Salvador, El Salvador
- November 16 - South African President FW de Klerk announces scrapping of Separate Amenities Act
- November 17 - Cold War: Velvet Revolution begins - In Czechoslovakia a peaceful student demonstration in Prague is severely beaten back by riot police. This sparks a revolution aimed at overthrowing the Communist government (it succeeded on December 29)
- November 20 - Cold War: Velvet Revolution - The number of peaceful protesters assembled in Prague, Czechoslovakia swells from 200,000 the day before to an estimated half-million.
- Tuesday, November 21, 1989 - North Carolina celebrates its bicentennial statehood.
- November 22 - In west Beirut, a bomb explodes near the motorcade of Lebanese President Rene Moawad and kills him.
- November 26-27 night - Group of Bob Denard's mercenaries ousts Ahmed Abdullah Abderemane in the Comoros. Said Mohammed Djohor becomes interim president
- November 28 - Cold War: Velvet Revolution - With other Communist regimes falling all around it and with growing street protests, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announces they will give up their monopoly on political power (elections held in December brought the first non-communist government to Czechoslovakia in more than 40 years)
- November 30 - Deutsche Bank board member Alfred Herrhausen is killed by a terrorist's bomb (the Red Army Faction claimed responsibility of the murder)
- November 30 - A storeowner in Palm Harbor, Florida named Richard Mallory takes a ride with Aileen Wuornos and is seen for the last time. Mallory became the first of seven people killed by the female serial killer over the next year.
- December 1 - Cold War: East Germany's parliament abolishes the constitutional provision granting the Communist-dominated SED its monopoly on power. Egon Krenz, the Politburo and the Central Committee resign two days later.
- December 3 - Cold War: In a meeting off the coast of Malta, US President George Herbert Walker Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev release statements indicating that the Cold War between their nations may be coming to an end.
- December 6 - The École Polytechnique Massacre (or Montreal Massacre): Marc Lépine, an anti-feminist gunman, murders fourteen young women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.
- December 14 - Chile holds its first free election in 16 years.
- December 15 - Drug baron Jose Gonzalo Rodriquez Gacha is killed by Colombian police
- December 17 - Romania - Timişoara: The start of the uprising that toppled the communist regime in Romania.
- December 17 - Brazil holds its first free election in 29 years. Fernando Collor de Mello wins the election.
- December 20 - United States invades Panama (Operation Just Cause) to overthrow Manuel Noriega - he takes refuge in the Vatican mission until January 3 1990.
- December 22 - After a week of bloody demonstrations, Ion Iliescu takes over as president of Romania, ending Nicolae Ceauşescu's communist dictatorship.
- December 22 - Two tourist coaches collide on the Pacific highway north of Kempsey, Australia, 35 killed and 39 injured.
- December 25 - Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena are executed.
- December 25 - Bank of Japan governors announce a major interest rate hike, eventually leading to the peak and fall of the "bubble economy".
- December 28 - A magnitude 5.6 earthquake hits Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, killing 13 people.
- December 29 - Václav Havel elected the president of Czechoslovakia - a big victory of the Velvet Revolution.
- December 29 - Riots break-out after Hong Kong decides to forcibly repatriate Vietnamese refugees.
- Alan Bond's Bond Corporation goes into receivership with the largest debt in Australian history
- Homosexual Acts between consenting adults decriminalized in Western Australia
- Rice University celebrates the demisesquicentennial anniversary of its founding
- Kamchatka opened to Russian civilian visitors
- Retirement of the Alize propeller-driven anti-submarine planes from carrier service in the French Navy
- The first national park, in Schiermonnikoog, is established in The Netherlands
- Soviet submarine K-173, Chelyabinsk, commissioned
- The wreck of the Lady Elgin discovered off Highland Park, Illinois by Harry Zych
- Margaret Rey establishes the Curious George Foundation to help creative children and prevent cruelty to animals
- Veikko "Jammu" Siltavuori abducts and murders two 8 year old girls in Myllypuro suburb in Helsinki, Finland
- Richard C. Duncan introduces the Olduvai theory, about the collapse of the Industrial Civilization
- The Museum of Jurassic Technology, is founded in Culver City, California by David and Diana Wilson
- The unknown Swede Marcus Schenkenberg is discovered by a photographer when rollerskating on Venice Beach, California
- 1,000,000th Ford Taurus sold
- Marina Golbahari, Afghani actress
- January 29 - Charlotte and Margaret Baughman, American twin actresses
- February 2 - Anna Sundstrand, Swedish singer
- February 5 - Jeremy Sumpter, American actor
- March 5 - Jake Lloyd, American actor
- March 25 - Alyson Michalka, American actress, singer, and songwriter
- April 23 - Nicole Vaidisova, Czech tennis player
- May 5 - Chris Brown, American R&B singer
- May 29 - Riley Keough, American model
- June 2 - Freddy Adu, Ghanaian-born footballer
- June 13 - Sayumi Michishige, Japanese singer
- July 5 - Ronald MacDonald, British musician and composer
- July 23 - Daniel Radcliffe, British actor
- August 9 - Stefano Okaka Chuka, Italian football player
- August 15 - Belinda Peregrin, Mexican entertainer
- August 19 - Percy Romeo Miller, American entertainer
- August 21 - Hayden Panettiere, American actress
- October 11 - Michelle Wie, American golf player
- November 11 - Reina Tanaka, Japanese singer
- December 18 - Ashley Benson, American actress
- December 27 - Kateryna Lahno, Ukrainian chess player
- December 30 - Ryan Sheckler, American skateboarder
January to April
- January 3 - Robert Banks, American chemist (b. 1921)
- January 7 - Frank Adams, British mathematician (b. 1930)
- January 7 - Hirohito, Emperor of Japan (b. 1901)
- January 21 - Billy Tipton, American musician (b. 1914)
- January 23 - Salvador Dalí, Spanish artist (b. 1904)
- January 24 - Ted Bundy, American serial killer (executed) (b. 1946)
- February 1 - Elaine de Kooning, American artist (b. 1919)
- February 3 - John Cassavetes, American actor and author (b. 1929)
- February 6 - Roy Eldridge, American musician (b. 1911)
- February 6 - Barbara W. Tuchman, American historian (b. 1912)
- February 9 - Osamu Tezuka, Japanese artist (b. 1928)
- February 11 - George O'Hanlon, American actor and director (b. 1912)
- February 24 - Sparky Adams, American baseball player (b. 1894)
- February 27 - Paul Oswald Ahnert, German astronomer (b. 1897)
- February 27 - Konrad Lorenz, Austrian zoologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1903)
- March 6 - Harry Andrews, British actor (b. 1911)
- March 8 - Carl Stuart Hamblen, American musician (b. 1908)
- March 9 - Robert Mapplethorpe, American photographer (b. 1946)
- March 14 - Edward Abbey, American author and environmentalist (b. 1927)
- March 14 - Stephen D. Bechtel, Sr., American businessman (b. 1900)
- March 19 - Alan Civil, English French horn player (b. 1929)
- March 27 - Malcolm Cowley, American author (b. 1898)
- March 27 - Jack Starrett, American actor and director (b. 1936)
- April 1 - Ace Bailey, Canadian hockey player (b. 1903)
- April 12 - Gerald Flood, British actor (b. 1927)
- April 15 - Hu Yaobang, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (b. 1915)
- April 16 - Jocko Conlan, baseball player and umpire (b. 1899)
- April 21 - Princess Dukhye of Korea (b. 1912)
- April 22 - Emilio G. Segrè, Italian physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1905)
- April 26 - Lucille Ball, American entertainer (b. 1911)
- April 30 - Sergio Leone, Italian film director (b. 1929)
- April 30 - Yi, Bang-ja, Crown Princess of Korea (b. 1901)
May to August
- May 9 - Keith Whitley, American singer (b. 1955)
- May 14 - E.P. Taylor, Canadian business tycoon (b. 1901)
- May 19 - C.L.R. James, English writer and journalist (b. 1901)
- May 20 - John Hicks, English economist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1904)
- May 20 - Gilda Radner, American comedian and actress (b. 1946)
- May 29 - John Cipollina, American musician (Quicksilver Messenger Service) (b. 1943)
- June 3 - Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iranian political figure (b. 1900)
- June 4 - Dik Browne, American cartoonist (b. 1917)
- June 7 - Don the Beachcomber, American restaurateur (b. 1907)
- June 9 - George Wells Beadle, American geneticist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1903)
- June 15 - Victor French, American actor and director (b. 1934)
- June 20 - Hilmar Baunsgaard, Danish politician (b. 1920)
- June 27 - Alfred Ayer, British philosopher (b. 1910)
- June 28 - Joris Ivens, Dutch filmmaker (b. 1898)
- July 3 - Jim Backus, American actor (b. 1913)
- July 10 - Mel Blanc, American voice actor (b. 1908)
- July 11 - Laurence Olivier, English actor and director (b. 1907)
- July 16 - Herbert von Karajan, Austrian conductor (b. 1908)
- July 18 - Donnie Moore, baseball player (suicide) (b. 1954)
- July 20 - Forrest H. Anderson, American politician (b. 1913)
- July 22 - Martti Talvela, Finnish bass (b. 1935)
- July 23 - Donald Barthelme, American writer (b. 1931)
- July 30 - Lane Frost, American bull rider (b. 1963)
- August 1 - John Ogdon, English pianist (b. 1937)
- August 4 - Maurice Colbourne, British actor (b. 1939)
- August 12 - William Shockley, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1910)
- August 13 - Tim Richmond, American race car driver (b. 1955)
- August 14 - Robert Bernard Anderson, American political figure (b. 1910)
- August 16 - Jean-Hilaire Aubame, French-Gabonese politician (b. 1912)
- August 16 - Amanda Blake, American actress (b. 1929)
- August 20 - George Adamson, Indian-born conservationist (assassinated) (b. 1906)
- August 22 - John Clyne, Canadian jurist (b. 1902)
- August 22 - Diana Vreeland, American fashion editor (b. 1929)
- August 29 - Peter Scott, English naturalist, artist, and explorer (b. 1909)
- August 30 - Joe Collins, baseball player (b. 1922)
September to December
- September 1 - A. Bartlett Giamatti, American President of Yale University and baseball commissioner (b. 1938)
- September 4 - Ronald Syme, New Zealand-born classicist and historian (b. 1903)
- September 14 - Dámaso Pérez Prado, Cuban musician (b. 1916)
- September 17 - Hugh Quincy Alexander, American politician (b. 1911)
- September 22 - Irving Berlin, American composer (b. 1888)
- September 28 - Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines (b. 1917)
- September 30 - Horace Alexander, English writer, pacifist, and ornithologist (b. 1889)
- October 4 - Graham Chapman, English comedian (b. 1941)
- October 4 - Secretariat, American racehorse (b. 1970)
- October 6 - Bette Davis, American actress (b. 1908)
- October 9 - Penny Lernoux, American journalist and author (b. 1940)
- October 11 - M. King Hubbert, American geophysicist (b. 1903)
- October 26 - Charles J. Pedersen, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1904)
- November 1 - Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, American civil rights activist (b. 1898)
- November 3 - Timoci Bavadra, Fiji physician and politician (b. 1934)
- November 5 - Vladimir Horowitz, Russian pianist (b. 1903)
- November 11 - Kenneth MacLean Glazier, Sr., Canadian minister and librarian (b. 1912)
- November 12 - Sourou Migan Apithy, Beninese political figure (b. 1913)
- November 22 - C.C. Beck, American cartoonist (b. 1910)
- November 25 - George Cakobau, Fiji Governor General (b. 1912)
- November 26 - Ahmed Abdallah, Comorian politician (b. 1919)
- November 29 - Gubby Allen, English cricketer (b. 1902)
- November 30 - Ahmadou Ahidjo, Cameroonian politician (b. 1924)
- December 1 - Alvin Ailey, American dancer and choreographer (b. 1931)
- December 5 - John Pritchard, English conductor (b. 1921)
- December 6 - Frances Bavier, American actress (b. 1902)
- December 6 - Marc Lépine, Canadian mass murderer (b. 1964)
- December 14 - Andrei Sakharov, Russian physicist and activist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (declined) (b. 1921)
- December 16 - Silvana Mangano, Italian actress (b. 1930)
- December 20 - Kurt Böhme, German bass (b. 1908)
- December 22 - Samuel Beckett, Irish writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)
- December 25 - Nicolae Ceauşescu, Romanian dictator (executed) (b. 1918)