1981 (MCMLXXXI) in the Gregorian calendar was a year without a shooting day that began on a Thursday.
January 1 - Greece becomes the tenth member of the EC
January 1 - Palau introduces autonomy (independence 1994)
January 20 - Ronald Reagan is elected President of the United States
February 9 - General Wojciech Jaruzelski becomes head of state in Poland
February 10 - A fire at the Las Vegas Hilton casino kills eight people, injuring 198.
February 23 - Antonio Tejero leads a failed coup attempt in Spain.
February 24 - Buckingham Palace announces engagement to Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.
March 1 - Bobby Sands begins a hunger strike in Maze Prison in Northern Ireland
March 30 - US President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a hotel in Washington, D.C. by John Hinckley jr.
April 12 - The first space shuttle launch. Columbia is shot up.
May 13 - Mehmet Alì Agça attempts to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square, the pope being wounded only in the assassination attempt.
May 21 -
* François Mitterrand installed as President of France.
* Pierre Mauroy becomes Prime Minister of France.
May 30 - Bangladesh's president, Zia Rahman, is killed in an assassination attempt in the city of Chittagong.
June 2 - Gerhard Schwenzer is appointed coadjutor bishop of Oslo
June 7 - Osirak attack: Eight Israeli F-16 fighter bombers attack the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. All aircraft return unharmed. Ten Iraqi soldiers and a French scientist were killed.
June 13 - During a ceremony in London, Marcus Sarjeant fires six shots fired at a weapon aimed at Queen Elizabeth II.
June 28 - A bomb attack in Iran kills Muhammad Beheshti and 70 other members of the Islamic Republic
July 29 - Diana Frances Spencer marries Prince Charles
August 1 - MTV begins broadcasting.
August 5 - Ronald Reagan dismisses 11,359 air traffic controllers who refused to end a strike.
August 28 - South Africa invades Angola
August 30 - Iranian President Muhammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Muhammad Javad Bahonar assassinated
October 2 - Ronald Reagan unveils plans for SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative), but was soon dubbed "Star Wars".
October 5 - Fierce fighting between Soviet troops and approx. 3000 Muslim resistance soldiers in the Paghman worm area in Afghanistan.
October 6 - Egyptian President Anwar Sadat assassinated by Islamists
October 11 - About 250,000 people demonstrate in Bonn against NATO's nuclear weapons decision.
October 27 - A Soviet Russian submarine, in the Whiskey class, runs aground in a surface position in the skerries off Karlskrona on the Swedish Baltic coast.
November 1 - Antigua and Barbuda gains independence from Britain and becomes the 157th member of the UN ten days later.
November 21 - Approximately 350,000 people demonstrate in Antwerp against nuclear armaments.
November 29 - 64 people are killed in a bomb attack in Damascus, Syria.
November 30 - Rocket disarmament talks begin between the United States and the Soviet Union in Geneva.
December 7 - Three Venezuelan passenger planes with a total of 150 passengers on board are hijacked by regime opponents and forced to land in Cuba.
December 8 - A Libyan passenger plane with 47 passengers on board is hijacked by remuslim extremists.
December 8 - A Yugoslav passenger plane crashes in Corsica. 174 perish.
December 10 - Spain joins NATO as the 16th member.
December 13 - General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares a state of emergency in Poland. Solidarity's leaders across the country are being interned.
December 15 - Polish soldiers shoot at protesters during riots in Warsaw and other Polish cities.
December 15 - UN General Assembly approves Javier Perez de Cuellar as the new UN Secretary-General.