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Sunspot Cycles and Political Turmoil

Posted By: Dexter
Date: Monday, 4-Dec-2000 03:57:42

(A few weeks ago I came across a news item that mentioned we are near the peak of the 11 year sunspot cycle. That reminded me of a book I read some years ago that that offered suggestive evidence linking solar activity to mass human behavior. A brief search turned up the article below--Dex)

By Carol Moore


November, 2000

In the mid-1980s, writing in two small radical publications, I predicted the dissolution of the Soviet Union and freedom for eastern Europe for the exact month that it did in fact happen. I did not predict it specifically for November of 1989. I predicted it for the height of the next sunspot cycle. The height occurred in November of 1989. And, as this article argues, this was no coincidence.

Considering that we are now are in the height of another sunspot cycle, a time of maximum human excitability, of mass demonstrations, riots, revolutions and wars, it is wise to look at the evidence that these cycles have influenced all of human history -- and to learn the implications of these cycles for activist organizing. Of course, it also has relevance for governments, which tend to deal with temporary disruptions either through revving up their repressive police mechanisms -- or through starting foreign wars to unite the fractious population and give them an excuse to arrest "treasonous" dissidents. Below is my analysis, with references.

* * *
(note: graphs omitted--to view, click on link at very bottom of post)
Left: The Last Twenty Years -- Right: Predictions for This Cycle

To see the last few weeks of sunspot activity, check out: Solar Terrestrial Activity Report
To review 2000 Sunspot Cycle Riots, Revolutions and Rebellions, click here.

In an October 11, 1989 Washington Post editorial, “The Wave of Protests”, the author wrote wonderingly: “Yugoslavia, Algeria, Latvia and Armenia, Chile, Poland, Burma, South Korea: at an astounding number and range of places on either side of the weakened Iron Curtain, a stunning global pattern is taking shape. Great numbers of citizens previously atomized, intimidated or apathetic are coming into the streets to assert a collective consciousness and, mostly peacefully, to press their grievances and demand redress.” On January 1, 1990, in “The Year of Revolution” a Post editorial writer again wondered: “Why did it happen so fast? The great event of 1989 has been the revolution in Eastern Europe.” The dissolution of the Soviet Union itself would follow soon after.

And in a December 16, 1989 letter to the Washington Post retired professor of history Elizabeth L. Eisenstein noted the “disturbing parallels” between the European revolutions of 1848 and the 1989 Eastern European revolutions. “It is about all the sense of collective euphoria that the Western world is experiencing right now. Euphoria has almost always marked the early stages of modern revolutions.” At least one journalist had a half-witty intuition of what might be happening. In 1991 columnist Gwynne Dyer commented on some recent wacky political news by saying, "Either the sunspots are getting bad or they are putting something in the water."

As the year 2000 develops, we are seeing wars, demonstrations, riots and rebellions escalating in a seemingly irrational fashion. It begins to remind one of 1989.

Students of history and long-time political activists can remember such heady periods like 1989–particularly 1979 and 1968. During those times the least indignity might lead to riots, rebellions, revolutions, civil wars. And they can remember other periods of years when lethargic peoples seem willing to endure repression.

Activists have seen movements rapidly rise to prominence, press for demands, win or lose their fights, and then a few years later quickly diminish in support and influence. They have seen leaders forgotten or even jailed as followers stayed out of the streets. And, they have seen the same or similar movements revived again to press for the old demands or to make new ones. Sometimes the reasons seem clear, other times arbitrary or even nonsensical.

M.K. Gandhi saw triumphs in India in the late teens, late twenties and late thirties–with years of prison time in between. Lech Walesca formed Poland’s Solidarity union in the late 1970s, spent some of the 1980s in prison, but led a successful democratic revolution in Poland at the end of the decade. In the United States peace and anti-nuclear, civil rights and liberties, anti-tax/pro-freedom, drug legalization, and other movements have had their ups and downs in the last thirty years.

One explanation--and I believe the most credible--for these increase and decreases in human activism is the 11 year sunspot cycle. Periods of high sunspot activity seem to be correlated with greater mass human activity and excitability, including protests, riots, revolutions and wars; periods of low sunspot cycle with relative quiescence. Is there a link between sunspot activity and human tendencies to mass action and social and political change? And if there is, how can activists use this knowledge to more effectively organize change?

General Effects of Sunspots

Sunspots are solar explosions, as big as 50,000 miles across, which appear as dark blotches on the surface of the sun. During these solar eruptions ultra-violet radiation, electro-magnetic waves, and electrically charged particles are spewed out into the solar system, reaching the earth within a day. This bombardment of the earth causes magnetic storms, aura borealis, fluctuations in atmospheric pressure and electricity and in positive and negative ionization. During the peaks solar ultraviolet radiation produces the highest ionization densities. It also increases the number of thunderstorms, cyclones and earthquakes and may be related to global warming and cooling. Solar flares have knocked out satellites, telephone and power systems.

There has been little scientific study of human sensitivity to the effects of solar eruptions. A few studies link ultra-violet radiation and changes in magnetic fields to increased metabolism levels or erratic behavior. And it is well known that an increase in negative ions makes us more energetic. Increases in admissions to mental hospitals and in traffic and industrial accidents have been linked to the occurrence of solar flares. Considering that during a period of maximum sunspot activity there may be as many as 200 solar flares in one year, as compared with as few as five during a year of minimum activity, it is not surprising that all these atmospheric disruptions might similarly disrupt human sensibilities. Serious scientific studies should be undertaken. (As an activist in the movement to de-alert nuclear weapons, one of my great fears is that sunspot-related solar flares will affect U.S. or Russian satellite or radar early warning systems, falsely indicating a nuclear attack, and sunspot flare-excited military and political leaders will jump to the wrong conclusion and launch World War III!)

Below is a graph of sunspot cycles over the last 250 years. As you can see, some heights were relatively long lasting, some shorter. The time between peaks varied from 7 or 8 years to 16 or 17 years, averaging 11 years.

A. L. Tchijevsky’s Theory of Sunspot Activity and Human Activity

That sunspot cycle activity increased and decreased in a cycle of approximately 11 years was established in the 1750s. During World War I, A. L. Tchijevsky, a Russian professor of Astronomy and Biological Physics who continued his studies at the war front, noticed that particularly severe battles regularly followed each solar flare during the sunspot peak period of 1916-17.

To test his hypothesis that sunspot cycle influenced human activity, Tchijevsky constructed an Index of Mass Human Excitability covering each year form 500 BC to 1922 AD. He then investigated the histories of 72 countries during that period, noting signs of human unrest such as wars, revolutions, riots, expeditions and migrations, plus the numbers of humans involved. Tchijevsky found that fully 80% of the most significant events occurred during the 5 years of maximum sunspot activity. (Tchijevsky's merely noting that the 1917 Russian Revolution occurred during the height of the sunspot cycle earned him almost 30 years in Soviet prisons because his theory challenged Marxist dialectics.)

Tchijevsky divided the eleven year sunspot cycle into four social periods:

Period 1: (approximately 3 years, minimum sunspot activity). Peace, lack of unity among the masses, election of conservatives, autocratic, minority rule.

Period 2: (approx. 2 years, increasing sunspot activity). Increasing mass excitability, new leaders rise, new ideas and challenges to the elite.

Period 3: (Approximately 3 years, maximum sunspot activity). Maximum excitability, election of liberals or radicals, mass demonstrations, riots, revolutions, wars and resolution of most pressing demands.

Period 4: (Approximately 3 years, decreasing sunspot activity). Decrease in excitability, masses become apathetic, seek peace.

Tchijevsky did not believe solar disturbances caused discontent as much as they acted as detonators that set off the smoldering discontent of the masses--discontent often channeled into war by their rulers. Nor did he deny that even during minimum solar activity some people would rebel against intolerable conditions or that nations would seek advantage through war and conquest.

Even my informal review below of the last 200 years tends to confirm Tchijevsky's hypothesis. (Because wars have been so continuous through human history, I have only mentioned the largest ones.)

You can do your own review by looking at links to sunspot information at the end of the article.

More detailed version of this chart is at end of article.

The Evidence

Sunspot Height Years / Events Just Before or During Height

1776-79 American Revolution
1788-91 French Revolution, US Constitution
1803-06 Napoleon conquers Europe
1815-17 US-British War of 1812; Two wars to defeat Napoleon; German, English and Serbian riots; Brazil, Chile and Argentina declare independence

1828-32 Revolts in Turkey, Mexico, Belgium, Poland, France, Britain; Virginia slave revolt

1837-40 Constitutional revolts in Canada, slavery debate outlawed in US, Texas Independence, Boer separatists occupy African lands, British-Afghan war; Opium War

1848-51 Revolts and revolutions in Poland, Switzerland, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Milan, Venice, Naples, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw; US Mexican War starts; Taiping Rebellion starts

1858-61 American Civil War begins; revolts in India, Italy, China

1869-72 Franco-Prussian War; Paris Revolutionary Commune

1883-86 Big US labor strikes, revolt in Sudan, First Indian Congress meets

1893-95 Zulu revolt, Cuban revolution

1905-08 German miners, Hottentots, Turks, Indians, Honduras, Russians revolt

1916-18 World War I, Irish and Indian revolts, Russian Revolution

1927-31 Mussolini and Hitler build power on economic unrest; revolts in Vienna, China; formation of Red Army; Spanish Republic formed; mass civil disobedience in India

1937-40 US steel strike, Spanish Civil War, Germany and Japan start World War II, mass civil disobedience in India

1947-51 Greek Civil War, First Israeli-Arab War, Indian-Pakistani riots, Red Army conquers China, Vietnam revolts, Korean War

1957-60 Israel invades Sinai, Hungarian uprising, Cuban revolution, civil rights movement in US, French-Algerian war, MauMau revolt, Iraq revolt, numerous African nations gain independence

A more detailed (though hardly exhaustive) listing of the most significant events of the last 30 years, divided into Tchijevsky's four periods, shows similar correlations.

Years/Period -- Events

Peace/Repression Period 1962-64
Cuban Missile Crisis, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, active civil rights period

Increase Period 1965-66
500,000 troops sent to Vietnam, first big anti-war marches, first US inner city riots, China cultural revolution begins

Maximum Period 1967-69
Height of Vietnam War, peace demonstrations, worldwide student uprisings, Chinese cultural revolution continues,Czechoslovakian uprising/USSR invasion, US inner city riots, Israeli Arab war, Woodstock and height of hippy movement

Decrease Period 1970-72
Women's movement takes off as student movement slacks off, India-Pakistan war, Nixon visits China for détente, Vietnam War winds down/Paris Peace talks, Bangladesh independence, Communist Allende elected in Chile

Peace/Repression Period 1973-75
Vietnam War ends, Wounded Knee Occupation, Chilean military overthrows Allende, Yom Kipper War and oil embargo, Nixon resigns, Greek and Ethiopian dictators deposed, Helsinki peace accords, Khmer Rouge begin Cambodian massacres, civil war begins in Lebanon

Increase Period 1976-78
Camp David Egypt-Israeli Peace accords, Pakistan military coup, war in Ethiopia and Zaire, Sandinista rebels fighting in Nicaragua, military coups in Afghanistan, first big anti-nuclear power demonstrations

Maximum Period 1979-82
Polish Solidarity takes off, US anti-tax movement reaches heights and elects Reagan, Shah of Iran overthrown, Iraq-Iran war begins, USSR invades Afghanistan, Falklands War, Sandinistas oust Somas, Zimbabwe gains independence, anti-nuclear and peace demonstrations increase worldwide

Decrease Period 1981-83
US aid to "contras" in Nicaragua, US invades Grenada, Tamils rebel in Sri Lanka, Israel invades Lebanon, Greens elected in Germany

Peace/Repression Period 1984-86
Israel withdraws from Lebanon, South Africa riots put down by government, Philippines ousts Marcos, Sikh rebellions/riots in India, US war on drugs accelerates

Increase Period 1987-88
Palestinian Infitada begins, Eastern European dissidents organize, USSR & US sign missile treaty, USSR begins pullout from Afghanistan

Maximum Period 1989-91
Chinese student uprising crushed, peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe, dissolution of Soviet Union/end of Communist Party domination, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, end of apartheid in South Africa, beginnings of patriot and militia movements in US, Somalia civil war, Yugoslavia begins slaughter in Bosnia, Sandinistas lose Nicaraguan elections

Decrease Period 1992-94
Czechoslovakia divides into Czech and Slovak republics, Afghan rebels capture Kabul, protests over Waco massacre, Republicans take US congress, Mandela becomes President, Arafat returns to Palestine, Rwanda massacres begin, Los Angeles riots.

Peace/Repression Period 1995-97
Peace process begins in Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Croation-Serbian Peace accords, Israeli-Palestinian Peace accords, FBI increases power after Oklahoma City bombing, busts of "right wing" activists, US rate of incarceration becomes highest in world, China and Northern Korea war threats mediated

Increase Period 1998-99
Peace treaty in Northern Ireland, big peace protests versus Iraq war, overthrow of Indonesia’s Suharto, India and Pakistan test nuclear weapons, US and European youth/student riots, Serbian-KLA conflicts increase and US/ NATO decides to "resolve" conflict through massive bombing of the whole nation, Russian repeatedly warns of possibility of Nuclear War over the bombing, India-Pakistan skirmishes over Kashmir increase; militias burn East Timor, drive people into camps in West Timor; big
demonstrations at WTO meeting in Seattle; rising religious strife in India and Indonesia.

Maximum Period 2000-02
Peace treaty disrupted in Nothern Ireland; rioting and guerrilla war in Kosovo; land confiscations in Zimbabwe; Miami protests over Elian Gonzales; Seattle, Washington DC, Prague and other worldwide protests vs. WTO/IMF/World Bank; rallies for and against Confederate flag in US; renewed fighting between Palestinians and Israelis; increasing civil war in Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka; overthrow of Milosevic in Serbia; Republicans and Democrats protest the U.S. Presidential elections.

Implications for Activist Strategy

The old sayings "knowledge is power" and "the truth shall set ye free" certainly would be applicable to the sunspot cycle and activist strategy. Understanding and adjusting to the different periods can't help but increase activist effectiveness.

Peace/Repression Period: Don't despair about apathy or repression because they are temporary; emphasize resisting authoritarian power grabs more than pushing original initiatives; emphasize organizational survival, networking, education.

Increase Period: Notice which issues spontaneously arise and offer solutions that are part of the long term program; stress organization building, coalitions; initiate actions, civil disobedience to focus general public on desired change; resist especially any escalation towards war.

Maximum Period: Mobilize coalitions around structural changes, especially those that will undermine authoritarian power in coming years; plan big mass actions since large numbers are possible; make sure any moves to war will meet mass resistance; be willing to compromise to achieve goals but do not be co-opted by power structure

Decrease Period: Encourage activists to remain active as long as they have the energy; consolidate gains, make sure organizations can survive decreased funding and participation; watch out for attempts to crack down by government once they realize movement is losing support.

In the mid-1980s, using my knowledge of sunspots cycles and human activity, I publicly predicted freedom for Eastern Europe and the possible dissolution of the Soviet Union at the height of the next sunspot cycle. That height was November, 1989, the month that the Berlin wall came tumbling down.

As we can see from your daily newspapers, popular activism and nuclear saber rattling are already rising as we approach the height of the next sunspot cycle in the year 2000. I am making no predictions this time–just holding my breath that it is not during this height of the sunspot cycle that humans finally unleash the horror of nuclear war upon the world.

Information in this article was drawn from the following, as well as some websites below:
* A. L. Tchijevsky’s 1926 article “Physical Factors of the Historical Process”
* R. Edward Dewey's book Cycles: The Mysterious Forces that Trigger Events, 1971, (available at links below) as well as his article "Sunspots and War, 300 B.C. to Date", R. E. Dewey, May, 1960;
* A variety of scientific news articles, including: "Pieces of sun's magnetic field fly through space," Lawrence Spohn, Albuquerque Tribune, 3-22-91; "Great Ball of Fire: An angry sun stages a spectacular show," Time Magazine, July 3, 1989.

For more information on the sunspot and other cycles:

Solar Terrestrial Activity Report includes the last few weeks sunspot history.
HyperHistory on Line--Historical chronologies for your own research:
NASA on Sunspots and the Solar Cycle
Good sunspot page, history of study, lots of photos
Federation of American Scientists: Articles on current sunspot cycle "23"
Ray Tome's Cycles in the Universe page (refers to above as well) lots of good references
Sun Earth Connection Education Forum
Articles on Space Weather:
Britannica on Sunspots and Ionization:,5716,129513+12,00.html
Foundation for the Study of Cycles (seems to be defunct but web page still exists)
Sunspot Cycles /Recessions page at
Ionizer Site Research studies

Copyright 1998 by Carol Moore. Permission to reprint freely granted, provided the article is reprinted in full and that any reprint is accompanied by this copyright statement.

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