(1945-1991) by Lance Wilson, Austen Tyryfter, and Cole Bachmeier

"Actions are the seed of fate deeds grow into destiny."- Harry S. Truman

After World War II, the differences between the previously allied nations of the United States and the Soviet Union became clear. The leader of the Soviets, Joseph Stalin, feared that his regime would fall and his country would return to capitalism. The western nations feared that communism would spread and take over their own countries. This, combined with several other actions that created tension, would lead to the beginning of the Cold War. The first of these actions was in the dispute over what would become of eastern Europe. Late in the second World War, the Allied Powers agreed that eastern European nations would decide their governments through a free vote. However, after the surrender of Germany, the Soviets did not withdraw their troops from eastern Europe. They feared that the eastern European nations would elect anti-Soviet governments, and this would threaten the Soviet regime. Eastern Europe was soon composed of satellite states of the Soviet Union. As a response to this, President Truman of the United States created the Truman Doctrine, which promised money and support to countries threatened by the spread of communism, in early 1947. Later in the year the Marshall Plan was created. The creator of this plan, General George Marshall, believed that communist takeovers only occured in nations with economic problems. He proposed that the United States supply these countries with money so that they could rebuild their economies. The Soviet Union responded with COMECON, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. This was created with the intent to protect communist nations. COMECON was a failure, however, because the Soviet Union did not have the money to provide funds to these nations. The United States soon began a policy of containment, in which communism was to be prevented from spreading and to prevent Soviet aggression. An iron curtain had been laid across the European continent.

The taking down of the Berlin Wall

Plans were made during this time to unify German, which had been divided into four sectors to be rebuilt by the Allies, one each for the United States, France,Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. However, they were unable to agree on a solution for a unified Germany. France, Great Britain, and the United States made plans to unite their sectors into a western German state. The Soviets opposed this, as it would leave a capitalist West Berlin in the middle of the Soviet zone. The Soviets instituted the Berlin Blockade, hoping to starve the people inside until the western powers gave it to the Soviets. Nothing could get in or out by ground transportation. The problem was solved with the Berlin Air Lift, which involved flying planes filled with supplies into the city. As the only way to stop air transportation was with anti-aircraft fire, an act of war, the West Berliners were fed, and the blockade was lifted after a year. However, West Berlin, which was much better off economically than East Berlin and eastern Germany, served as an escape point for refugees. This resulted in it being contained by the Berlin Wall in 1961. In September 1949, West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) was created as a nation. East Germany (German Democratic Republic) was created a month later. 1949 as a whole, however, was frightful for capitalist nations. China became a communist nation, and the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb, which led to an arms race between the US and the USSR. With the hope that it would provide mutual security for the capitalist nations, much of the western world joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A few years later, the Soviet Union and its satellite states formed an alliance called the Warsaw Pact. The US also tried to stop the spread of communism in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia by creating the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). However, communism did manage to spread to a few more nations, such as Cuba and Vietnam. Cuba was overthrown by Fidel Castro, and a Soviet-supported regime was created. President John F. Kennedy secretly approved of a Cuban exile led invasion of Cuba through the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was a disastor, and resulted in Societ military advisors being sent to Cuba. Nuclear missiles were also stationed in Cuba. Though this caused fear in the United States, it was a logical response to the placement of nuclear missiles in Turkey by the US. President Kennedy blockaded Cuba when he learned that Soviet ships containing nuclear weapons were travelling towards Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis, as it is known, would end when the Soviets agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Cuba if the US did not invade.

On March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin, the oppresive leader of the Soviet Union, died. Power passed to the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev began a policy of de-Stalinization, in which Stalin's more harsh policies were repealed. However, his poor handling of Soviet economic policy led to a slow down of the Soviet economy, and his decision to place missiles in Cuba resulted him being forced out of office in 1964. During his reign, many of the Soviet Union's satellite states attempted to break free. Poland attempted to follow its own socialist path, but it was fearful of the Soviet military, and compromised by agreeing to remain true to the Warsaw Pact. Hungary declared itself a free nation on November 1, 1956, but three days later the Soviet military attacked Budapest and reestablished control. In 1968, Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek produced many reforms that included the relaxation of censorship and gradual democratization. However, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia and crushed this reform movement as well, and Dubcek was replaced as Czechoslovakian leader by Gustav Husak. After being removed from power, Khrushchev was replaced by Leonid Brehznev. Brehznev did not want to see reforms in the Soviet regime and planned on defending communist nations if they were threatened in a policy called the Brehznev Doctrine. Though Brehznev did not want to reform the Soviet Union, he still felt secure due to the detente, a period of relaxed political tensions, and relaxed the authoritarian rule. The Soviet citizens were allowed access to western culture. However, during his reign the Communist leaders became complacent and corrupt. The Soviet Union suffered severe economic problems. As a result, Mikhail Gorbachev, a reform-minded Communist, took power of the Soviet Union in 1985. Gorbachev instituted a policy of perestroika, or restructuring, or the Soviet economic policy. This began providing some private property in the nation. Gorbachev also realized that he would have to reform the government, and created an elected parliament and the position of president, which became the new leader of the Soviet Union. In 1989, the Soviet Union released its control on its satellite states, and a peaceful revolution spread across eastern Europe. In 1990, Germany was reunified. In December 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Gorbachev resigned. The new nation, Russia, was now led by President Boris Yeltsin. The Cold War was over.

Key Dates

1948: The Soviets, who are opposed to a divided Germany, begin the Berlin Blockade
1949: The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, is formed, creating a military alliance between the western, capitalist nations.
March 5, 1953: Joseph Stalin dies, ending the most oppresive period during the Soviet Union's history.
1955: The Warsaw Pact is created, forming a military alliance between the Communist nations of eastern Europe
1955: Nikita Khrushchev takes power, and beginnings de-Stalinizing the Soviet Union.
1959: The Cuban government is overthrown by Fidel Castro, and becomes a Soviet supported communist nation.
1964: Nikita Khrushchev is replaced as leader of the Soviet Union by Leonid Brehznev.
March 1985: Mikhail Gorbachev is chosen to be the new leader of the Soviet Union.
October 3, 1990: Germany is reunited and the Berlin Wall falls.
December 1991: The Soviet Union dissolves, ending the Cold War.

View Cold War and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.


  1. Mikhail Gorbachev: President of the Soviet Union. He created the Glasnost or openness. This was freedom of expression for Soviet citizens. It eased the harsh treatment of opponents of the Soviet system. He also created the Perestroika or restructuring. This was a gradual changing of the Soviet Union’s economy. It allowed private enterprise and the dismantling of national bureaucracy.
  2. George Kennan: He was known as the “Father of Containment”. He created the policy of containment, this was a U.S. policy that tried keeping communism within its existing boundaries to prevent further soviet aggression.
  3. Yuri Gagarin: April 12, 1961, he was a Russian cosmonaut and was the 1st man to travel in space. He was on the Vostok 1 spaceship. He orbited the earth for around 1hr. and 48min.
  4. Nikita Khrushchev: 1953-1964, he was the soviet leader after Stalin’s death march of 1953. He created peaceful-coexistence. He also created DE-Stalinization or the removal of harsh policies of Stalin’s government.
  5. President Richard Nixon: He created or developed vietanmization in 1973. This was an agreement with N. Vietnam that the U.S.A. would withdraw forces from S. Vietnam if N. Vietnam would not invade S. Vietnam this was called “Peace with Loner”.
  6. Ho Chi Minh: The nationalist communist leader of the Vietnam Minh movement, which sought to liberate Vietnam from French colonial rule. He received aid form the USSR and won a major victory over France. This defeat split Vietnam into Communist Dominated North and Capitalist South.
  7. President John F. Kennedy: The thirty five U.S. president who set out to expand social welfare. He was elected in 1960. He developed flexible response to contain communism. He sent military advisers to support the South Vietnam. He also backed the Bay of Pigs invasion which led to the Cuban missile crisis. In 1963 after around 1000 days in office he was assassinated.
  8. Douglas MacArthur: A five star American General. He commanded the 38Th parallel in Korea. He presented Harry S Truman with a solution to the war, it was to nuke them. This later caused worry for a military leader to want such violence so he was removed from command.
  9. Gamal Abdel Nasser: The nationalist, Communist-leaning president of Egypt who seized the British-controlled Suez Canal in 1956. He was backed by Eisenhower when he cut off all oil exports to Great Britain and France.
  10. Joseph McCarthy: Republican senator from Wisconsin who capitalized on Cold War fears of Communism in the early 1950’s. He did this by accusing hundreds of employees of being communists, and soviet spies. He was later humiliated in the Army-McCarthy hearings.


This video discusses the origins of the Cold War following World War II. The one on the right talks about the space race during the Cold War.


These maps show the divisions between capitalism and communism in Europe and in the world in 1959 and 1980.
Cold_War_Map_Europe.jpg Cold_War_Map_1959.pngCold_War_Map_World.png

Cold War Terms:

Truman Doctrine- President Harry S Truman created the Truman Doctrine in 1947. This doctrine stated that the United States would provide funds to countries like Greece that were threatened by the Communist Expansion from the Soviets.
Policy of Containment- The policy of containment was a plan formed on July 1947 by a well-known United States diplomat named George Kennan. This policy planned to keep communism within the existing boundaries as well as to prevent more Soviet aggressive moves.
Warsaw Pact- The Warsaw Pact was a military alliance formed in 1955 with the Soviet Union as the leader. Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East
Germany, Poland, and Romania were members of this military pack. This created many military problems in Europe.
NATO- NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that was formed in April 1949. The United States needed a new military alliance and the US formed NATO with Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal.
Heavy Industry- The manufacture of equipment and machines for factories and mines. These machines and equipment were used to create new power plants, canals, and large factories. Heavy Industry increased for the benefit of the military.
Welfare State- A state in which a government takes the responsibility for assuring the citizens a secure life by providing services and a minimal standard of living. Clement Attlee the newest prime minister set this up for the Labour government.
Bloc- A group of nations that have a common purpose. For example The Benelux countries, France, Italy, and West Germany signed the Rome Treaty which created the European Economic Community, the EEC, for a free-trade bloc.
Détente- A phase that was marked with a relaxation of tensions period and improved relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, or between two superpowers. This phase started during the 1970s and things looked promising.
Brezhnev Doctrine- The doctrine written by Leonid Brezhnev that stated that the Soviet Union had the right to intervene if communism was threatened in another Communist State. He was determined to keep the Eastern European States in Communist Control so he created this doctrine.
INF- The Intermediate-range Nuclear Force Treaty was an agreement between Mikhail Gorbachev, and the United State in 1987. This was a treaty to eliminate the intermediate-range nuclear weapons. This was good for both sides because both needed economic reforms.

Famous Cold War People:

Yuri Gagarin

Joseph Stalin
Harry Truman

George Kennan

Winston Churchill

Cold War Links:

Marshall Plan This link explains that the Marshall Plan was called the European Recovery Program, or the ERP. It also explains that the Marshall Plan was a US economic recovery plan for a war-torn Europe. It was created by George Marshall, the US Sec. of State.
Yuri Gagarin This link explains that Yuri Gagarin was the first man to travel in space on April 12, 1961. He was a Soviet so he was called a Russian Cosmonaut. This explains that he rode the Vostok I, a Russian Spaceship that orbitted for 1 hour and 48 minutes.
NATO This link explains that NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This military alliance has 28 member states all across North America and Europe with membership growing even today. This link tells us that the headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
The United Nations This link explains that the UN, or the United Nations was founded in April 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations. There are 193 member states of the UN and these state's goals is to finally have world peace.
Truman Doctrine This link explains that the Truman Doctrine was a policy created by he United States President, Harry S. Truman, on March 12, 1947. The Truman Doctrine state that the United States would provide aid to countries that were threatened by Communism.
Mikhail Gorbachev This link brings you to a site that explains everything that Mikhail Gorbachev did during his presidency of the Soviet Union. It talks about all of his policies and how he made the Communist Soviet Union a better place to live in during this time.
Nuclear Info This link explains everything that was going on with nukes and other nuclear devices. It explains how people would prepare for being attacked with a nuclear warhead and how the Soviet Union and U.S. were both afraid of using these deadly weapons at the time of the cold war.
Ho Chi Minh This link provides all the information that you didn't get on this wiki about Ho Chi Minh, it talks about how he fights for communism and the removal of the french form Vietnam. It is a great site easy to navigate and obtain information from.
Timeline This links provides a fairly detailed timeline of the cold war events. It is very easy to navigate through and even has links to find out some extra information on some of the key events that happened during the cold war. Overall it is a great site.
Overview This link brings you to a site that has a general overview of everything that happened during the cold war. It explains some important terms and people during this time also. It is a great site to navigate through although it has a lot of information and might be hard to find one specific bit of information.