1981 (MCMLXXXI) was a common year beginning on Thursday in the Gregorian calendar. Declared "International Year of People with Disabilities" by the United Nations  In the Chinese horoscope it corresponds to the Year of the Rooster.
Production begins on the DMC DeLorean, the only model produced by the DeLorean Motor Company.
January 1: Greece enters the European Union.
January 1: Palau becomes independent from the United States.
January 3: the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters is created in Paris, among whose founding members are the Spanish Pedro Laín Entralgo, Federico Sopeña and Federico Mayor Zaragoza.
4 January: British police arrest a certain Peter Sutcliffe on suspicion of being the "Yorkshire Ripper".
January 7: Libya and Chad form a joint people's republic.
January 8: The World Champions Gold Cup, better known as Mundialito, ends in Montevideo (Uruguay).
January 10: the civil war begins in El Salvador with the offensive launched by the FMLN guerrilla (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional). In the northern mountains of the department of Morazán, near the town of Perquín, the clandestine radio Venceremos begins its broadcasts.
January 11: in New York, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar is elected UN Secretary General.
January 20: the actor and Republican Ronald Reagan takes office as President of the United States.
January 20: Iran frees the 52 US diplomats kidnapped since the previous year in Tehran.
January 29: in Spain, Adolfo Suárez resigns as President of the Government of Spain. In February, the Expo Agro de Almería begins, an agri-food fair on intensive crops under plastic in the province of Almería, Spain.
February 1: France supplies Iraq with 60 Mirage aircraft.
February 2: Peru and Ecuador sign a ceasefire.
9 of February: in Poland, the general Wojciech Jaruzelski is named prime minister in replacement of Jozef Pinkowski. He will take over the next day.
February 10: in Luxembourg, the President of Egypt, Anuar Sadat, delivers a speech to the Parliament of the European Economic Community (now the European Union)
February 10: in Spain, King Juan Carlos I entrusts Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo with the formation of a new cabinet.
February 11: In Paraguay, the television broadcasts of Canal Trece begin, the first channel to start broadcasting in color. February 15 (approx.): The government of Costa Rica - pressured by President Ronald Reagan and the Nicaraguan "contra" - The project of the Argentine guerrilla group Montoneros Radio Noticias del Continente, which had been broadcasting since 1979 and supported the Sandinista government, closed down.
February 17: in Hamburg, the Spanish philologist Antonio Tovar is awarded the Goethe Prize.
February 17: Pope John Paul II arrives in Manila (Philippines).
February 17: the organization Amnesty International affirms that the government of Guatemala is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths in the last 10 months.
February 18: Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo proposes the integration of Spain into NATO.
February 19: in Bilbao, ETA kidnaps the honorary consuls of Austria and El Salvador. In Barcelona he kidnaps the one from Uruguay.
February 20: the EEC - despite pressure from the Reagan government to the contrary - decides to continue helping the democratic government of El Salvador.
February 23: there is a coup in Spain; Members of the Civil Guard, led by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina, burst into the Congress of Deputies during the full inauguration of Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, firing shots inside the hemicycle without causing victims or injuries. The attempted coup was unevenly followed by the captaincies general of the Spanish army,