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Summary of Cold War 1941-91

I've decided to create the simplest summary of Cold War to help those tomorrow in their exams. This is really for people like me who aren't bothered to constantly read upon the details, so I made this from the top of my head - hopefully to make you just read it for 20 minutes, and that's your revision done! :biggrin:

This is a time where three countries called the Grand Alliance supported each other due to marriage of convenience. They were against Germany and Japan.

Once Nazi Germany had fallen, they had to decide what would happen next. Unfortunately, they all had different views and had many disagreements with each other.

USA was capitalist, it had capitalistic ideologies and was not interested in communism. Though the USSR thought differently.

Three conferences were held, and these were called: Yalta, Tehran & Potsdam.

Potsdam held the most tension. Truman tested an atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima to assert his authority onto the USSR. But Stalin was not taking this. He instead expanded communism through 'Soviet Expansion' - in the creation of Satellite States.

The Long & Novikov Telegrams were published. They both argued how one is stronger than the other.

The Iron Curtain Speech was spoken by Churchill. A symbolic division of capitalism & communism.

The Truman Doctrine was made; American and British politicians were concerned about events in Greece & Turkey. The Domino Theory was prevalent here. Though the USA was in the only financial position to stop this. Truman made a speech - developing into the Truman Doctrine.

This said that the USA would provide aid to any country against communism. Now USA was fully committed to a policy of containment.

Against this Truman Doctrine, Cominform was formed. It was used to ensure all Eastern European governments remained loyal to Stalin & his Communist rule.

Then, to back up Truman's policy of containment, he provided economic aid to Europe. This was known as the Marshall plan. Communism generally obtained support in countries where there were economic problems.

Over $12 billion was spent to help Western Europe recover after WW2.

Comecon was formed as a response to the Marshall plan -> Soviet union could financially support countries in Eastern Europe. Though really it was used to control the economies of these states.

The Soviet Union declared Marshall aid to be "dollar imperialism", throwing its economic weight around.

BERLIN CRISIS: access to Berlin for the Allies was by way of road, rail & canal. Basically, Germany had been divided into four zones of occupation, controlled by one of the Allies. Berlin was also divided into four zones. Stalin didn't want the Allies inside Berlin. US + British zones merged into one economic unit known as Bizonia.

Western powers announced plans to create a West German state, introducing a new currency.

Stalin accused West interference in the Soviet Zone (as Berlin lay in the Russian zones). He cut off road, rail and canal traffic in an attempt to starve West Berlin.

Why did Stalin do this? He wanted Germany to be a weak, unthreatening 'buffer zone' between it and the West. Stalin believed that this would force the Allies out of Berlin, making it entirely dependent on the USSR.

Truman though was serious about containment. The Allies decided to airlift supplies from their bases in West Germany. Shooting them would be an act of war. Next 10 months, West Berlin was supplied by airplanes, from food, clothing, oil and building materials. Basically it was clear that the blockade would not make the Western allies give up Berlin. Stalin reopened communications.

The whole of this event increased East-West rivalry and led to the creation of NATO

In response to NATO, the Warsaw Pact was made.

In the existence of two rival alliance systems in the Cold War - this increased rivalry between USA and Soviet Union, also intensifying the arms race.

Arms race: a competition between nations for the superiority in the development & accumulation of weapons.

Sputnik: a satellite which could orbit the earth in 1 and a half hours. The USA saw this launch as a threat. It therefore increased its spending on missiles, and placed missile bases in some European countries.

Sputnik therefore accelerated the arms programme due to US fears that the USSR was overtaking them in arms development.

After this, there was a Hungarian uprising.

In essence, Soviet influence was very unpopular as there was little freedom. Hungary was forced to trade on uneven terms, many people were killed (around 2,000 in Rakosi's leadership) & the secret police.

When the Hungarians began to protest against poor living condiitons, Khrushchev sent Soviet troops to restore order & to replace leader Rakosi with Nagy.

Nagy introduced several reforms. Khrushchev accepted these as long as it calmed unrest. Though he did not accept his announcement that Hungary would be leaving the Warsaw Pact.

This could set a precedent for other countries to do the same. So, Soviet troops invaded Hungary and crushed the uprising, killing around 20,000 Hungarians & placing Kadar into installation. Nagy was shot.

This would serve as a warning to other satellite states that any threat to Soviet security would be dealt w/ brutally.

International reactions only condemned the invasion, no support was given.


The refugee problem was quite significant for the Soviet Union. Around 4 million East Germans had left for West Germany as the standard of living there was much higher. Khrushchev wanted to remove the Allies.

Khrushchev knew he could not force them out as it could lead to war. He just wanted the East Germans to stop leaving.

Berlin Ultimatum: K accused the Allies of breaking the Potsdam Agreement, telling them they should leave Berlin within 6 months. Eisenhower seemed prepared to negotiate.

Summit meetings: Paris 14 May 1960, nine days before the summit conference, the Soviet Union announced that it had shot down an American U-2 spy plane near the city of Sverdlovsk.

K demanded that all such flights stop & that the USA apologise for spying. Eisenhower would not. K stormed out.

At Vienna, K again demanded that Western forces leave West Berlin, new president Kennedy refused.


Families were split & travel restrictions made it v. difficult for relative to see one another.


Fidel Castro led a revolution against the unpopular dictator of Cuba, General Batista (under the influence of the USA). When Castro came to power, he wanted greater independence from the USA.

Sep 1961, Castro asked for weapons to defend Cuba, Russian had publicly promised.

1961 US unsuccessfully tired to overthrow this new communist government. This was known as Bay of Pigs, and it convinced Cuba to seek help from the USSR. Khrushchev secretly deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba.

Oct 22, Kennedy announced that the US navy would intercept all shipments to Cuba. A naval blockade was considered an act of war. The president called it a "quarantine" that did not block basic necessities. K wrote "the violation of freedom to use international waters is an act of aggression".

US demanded the removal of missiles, Cuba and USSR insisted they were only defensive.

US prepared for possible invasion.

CONSEQUENCES: A hotline was formed: communication between Moscow & Washington.

The Limited Test Ban Treaty - prohibited testing of nuclear weapons above ground and underwater.

The Outer Space Treaty - prohibited nuclear weapons in outer space.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - intended to stop spread of nuclear weapons.

Relations improved between the two superpowers, USA selling grain to the Soviet Union.

DETENTE was starting. Both sides realised how close they were to a nuclear war.
(edited 4 years ago)
Reply 1
This is really helpful to me now
Reply 2
Original post by Marxx
This is really helpful to me now

I'm very happy to hear that :h:
That was really helpful, I am struggling at the moment with this topic and this really helped a lot. Thank you.

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