Cold War Flashcards

flashcards giving brief details about important events 1945-1991


Yalta 1945

The “Big Three” met to sort out what would happen to Europe after the end of the War. Problems arose immediately about the control of Eastern Europe. Stalin did eventually agree to the principle of “free elections” in Eastern Europe. Agreements were also made that divided Germany and Berlin into four sectors own jointly by the major powers, Britain, France, the USA and the USSR.

1 of 55

Race for Berlin and the End of WW2 1945

Despite the assurances given at the Yalta Conference, all the powers new that the first to get to Berlin would be in a much better bargaining position and would be seen as the country that won WW2. The more land you could grab before the collapse of Germany, the more power you would have after the war.

Germany unconditionally surrendered in May 1945. The war in Europe had been a very costly one- the USSR had lost millions of soldiers and civilians, as well as having thousands of towns and cities destroyed. The USA had suffered many losses in the final year of the war, as well as thousands of losses in the war in the Pacific. The two great powers posed for staged photographs in Berlin showing when the “allies” met. These photos failed to show that the USSR had reached Berlin first!

2 of 55

Potsdam 1945

The “Big Three” had changed – Roosevelt had died and was replaced with Truman, and Churchill lost the election during the conference and was replaced with Atlee. Stalin began to feel that he was not being shown the respect he deserved, especially by Truman, who attempted to intimidate Stalin with the news of the successful Atomic Bomb test in the USA. The conference ended hastily so that Truman could employ his new weapon.

3 of 55

Hiroshima and Nagasaki 1945

“Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 had a capacity of 12,500 Tons of TNT– killed 70,000 people within 2 seconds.

“Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 9th August had a capacity of 25,000 Tons of TNT – killed 50,000 people within 2 seconds. Japan unconditionally surrendered on the 14th August

4 of 55

Division of Germany 1945

Both Germany and Berlin were divided unequally, with the USSR getting a greater share than any of the other powers. However, the Western powers were determined that Berlin would still be divided also. This meant that there was a pocket of Capitalism within the USSR controlled East Germany. Berlin soon became the stage on which the Cold War would be fought.

5 of 55

Gradual Takeover of Eastern Europe 1945

  • Albania (1945) – the Communists took power after the war without opposition
  • Bulgaria (1945) – a left-wing coalition gained power in 1945; the Communists then executed the leaders of all the other parties
  • Poland (1947) – a coalition government took power in 1945, but the Communists forced the non-Communist leaders into exile.
  • Hungary (1947) – Hungary was invaded by the Russians, and in 1945 the allies agreed that Russian troops should stay there. Rakosigot control of the police, and started to arrest his opponents. He set up a sinister and brutal secret police unit, the AVH. Soon Rakosi had complete control over Hungary
  • Romania (1945–1947) – a left-wing coalition was elected in 1945; the Communists gradually took over control.
  • Czechoslovakia (1945–48) – a left-wing coalition was elected in 1945.   In 1948, the Communists banned all other parties and killed their leaders.
6 of 55

Iron Curtain Speech 1946

Churchill made a simple yet important observation of the new situation in Europe in Foulton, Missouri:

“An iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe… and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence, but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

 This event is seen by some as the official beginning of the Cold War. Stalin called this speech a “call to arms”

7 of 55

Kennan's Long Telegram 1946

This was an analysis of the foreign policy of the USSR and its possible future actions. It stated that the Soviet leadership were suspicious and aggressive and that there must be no compromises with the USSR. Only a hard-line approach would be effective in containing Communism. The Telegram proved to be the basis for the Truman Doctrine.

8 of 55

Truman Doctrine 1947

Pledged $400 million to help Greece and Turkey due to the fact that Britain was no longer in a position to do so. Attempt to stave off Communism. First example of an active US policy to combat threat of Communism in Europe.

9 of 55

Marshall Plan 1948

Huge pledge of money to help countries that wish to stave off Communism. More than $13 billion was given to a vast number of European countries including Britain, France and West Germany. The USA made sure that all countries who took aid were now also major trading partners of the USA

10 of 55

Cominform 1948

This was the USSR’s reaction to the Truman Doctrine – it was an organisation that was set up to “co-ordinate” Communist groups and parties across Europe.

11 of 55

Berlin Blockade 1948

In June 1948, Stalin severed all road, rail and canal links with West Berlin in an attempt to stop the increasing revival of Germany under the leadership of the USA in particular. The USA saw this as the first stage of an attack on West Germany. The Allies responded with constant airlifts of supplies into West Berlin for over 11 months. Despite constant shortages, the city was able to survive due to the 2 million tons of supplies dropped (at great cost to the USA). By May 1949 Stalin was forced to concede defeat and he lifted the blockade. The West had clearly shown that they will not be intimidated by Stalin and that they were prepared to keep West Berlin at all costs.

12 of 55

Comecon 1949

This was the USSR’s reaction to the Marshall Plan – it provided economic assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe.

13 of 55

East and West Germany 1949

Germany is split up. In May 1949, America, Britain and France united their zones into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany or FDR). In October 1949, Stalin set up the German Democratic Republic (East Germany or GDR).

14 of 55

NATO 1949

The Berlin crisis had illustrated the fact that the West needed a more centrally co-ordinated approach to the threat of Communist expansion. This established military cooperation in the event of war, and included countries such as Britain, France, Canada and Belgium as well as many smaller Western European nations.

15 of 55

USSR get the A-bomb 1949

The USSRsecretly tested their first A-Bomb a full six years earlier than the USA had expected them to. The radiation was detected, and thus the power balance of the Cold War had now dramatically been shifted.

16 of 55

McCarthyism 1950

A hunt for the “Reds under the Beds” took off in the USA. Joseph McCarthy single-handedly sought to oust all Communist sympathisers in the USA. The most famous case was that of the Rosenbergs, whom he had executed despite little real evidence being produced in court. The hysteria led to the fall of many from positions of power or influence. Many actors, scientists and trade-unionists were “blacklisted” and never worked again.

17 of 55

USA detonatte H-bomb 1952

The Arms Race was taken to a new level with the development of the H-Bomb. It was in excess of 450 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The “Operation Ivy” bomb yielded 10.4 Megatons.

18 of 55

Death of Stalin 1953

The death of Stalin threw the whole of Russia into mourning. Despite his violent and oppressive characteristics, he was genuinely very popular and was often regarded as being the reason why Russia had become arguably the greatest power in the world and had been able to win WW2. Across the world, his death signalled a new optimism for the Cold War, and coupled with the appointment of Eisenhower as the new US President, many believed that the tensions of the Cold War could now begin to lessen and that negotiations, such as those over Korea, could now replace the threats and suspicions.

The death of Stalin did however cause a further rift between the USSR and China. Chairman Mao now assumed he should be the natural leader of the Communist World. The Russians did not agree.

19 of 55

USSR detonate H-bomb 1953

The USSR’s first H-Bomb (Joe-4) was not really a huge event, as it was nowhere near the size of the USA’s H-Bomb in terms of yield. However, again the political implications were far-reaching. The USA had believed that the USSR were at least 5 years behind technologically, but they had managed to catch up within just nine months. The nuclear superiority that the USA had just established was once again nullified.

20 of 55

Warsaw Pact 1955

This was essentially the USSR’s response to NATO, although this was more of a forced agreement that coordinated the defences of the soviet bloc under the control of the Soviet Union. NATO agreed to a West German Army of ½ million men. The Warsaw Pact was a reaction to this. The Pact made its members even more reliant upon the USSR for military aid in the event of an attack from outside or within.

21 of 55

Geneva 1955

Both Eisenhower and Khrushchev personally attended the conference but achieved very little. They disagreed over the future of Germany and its neutrality, whether NATO and the Warsaw Pact could be dismantled and about whether both sides could have an “open-skies” agreement whereby spy planes would be allowed to fly over each other’s territory in order to verify arms agreements. Although the summit had essentially failed, it still established hopes for future agreement

22 of 55

Khrushchev's Secret Speech 1956

In 1956, Khrushchev made a “secret” speech denouncing Stalinism and the cult of the individual. It pointed out in clear terms how dictatorial the regime of Stalin was, and exactly how he purged the Communist Party of any possible threats using illegal methods, including torture in the late 1930s. The speech seemed to herald a new era in the Communist Party. People began to believe that the Soviet Union would no longer be as oppressive. This led to the Polish Uprising.

23 of 55

Polish Uprising 1956

In Poland, a number of political prisoners were set free.   At the same time, a bad harvest led to unrest. Railway workers led a protest of people calling for ‘Cheap Bread’ and ‘Higher Wages’. When the police shot some of the marchers, there was a riot. Government officials were killed. Mr Gomulka, (who had been in prison) took power. Khrushchev sent Russian troops into Poland to put down the rebels, but he left Gomulka in power – Gomulka continued the process of De-Stalinisation, but he kept Poland loyal to Russia and the Warsaw Pact.

24 of 55

Hungarian Uprising 1956

A spontaneous uprising by students in Budapest began after witnessing the success that fellow students in Poland had earlier that year. The crowds were protesting the harsh Communist dictatorship under the presumed leadership of Imre Nagy. However, Nagy misunderstood the mood of the crowd when he referred to them as “Comrades”. Soon the rebellion got out of hand, and the Russian army was sent in to control the situation. At the first attempt, they left it up to Nagy to organise the stabilisation of the country. Nagy then betrayed the USSR, withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact and appealing to the West for recognition and help. At this point, the USSR sent the army back to Hungary to suppress the revolt once and for all. They sent in 200,000 men and 4000 tanks against the Hungarian population who were armed only with basic rifles and Molotov cocktails. 3000 Hungarians were killed, and Nagy was later executed

25 of 55

Suez Crisis 1956

The Suez Crisis was a military attack on Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel, following Egypt's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. This action effectively undermined Hungary’s attempts at independence. The world’s press were distracted from Hungary and the USA decided it could not criticize Hungary's suppression of the revolutionaries and simultaneously avoid opposing its two principal European allies' actions. The USA also feared a wider war after the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on the Egyptian side and make rocket attacks on Britain, France and Israel.

26 of 55

Launch of Sputnik 1957

Though seemingly insignificant by modern standards, Sputnik was a satellite that was only 22 cm in diameter. All it did was send a continuous “beep” back to Earth, and yet it was a major political triumph for the USSR. As the historian Harold Evans has stated “It suggested that Communism had mastered the universe” One month later, the USSR launched Sputnik II which also carried Laika the dog successfully into space. One month after this, the US made their first satellite launch that reached a grand height of 2 metres of the ground

27 of 55

U2 Spy Plane shot down 1960

Though spying was an integral part of the Cold War it was very dangerous. To combat this, the USA had developed a spy plane, the U2, which was able to fly above the reach of Soviet missiles and planes, and thus should have been able to fly and spy safely. Gary Powers was flying a mission across the USSR when his plane was shot down. This was a significant political victory for Khrushchev, who was able to highlight the sneaky and underhand elements of the USA. It was particularly important as it was just before the two powers were due to meet at a peace conference in Paris. Khrushchev was furious at the blatant rudeness and betrayal that the USA had shown, remarking “Why **** where you are about to eat?! Khrushchev stormed out of the conference, and the prospects for the Cold War looked increasingly grim.

28 of 55

Paris 1960

Khrushchev refused to take part in the talks unless the Americans apologise and cancel all future spy-flights.   Eisenhower agreed to cancel the spy-flights, but would not apologise – so Khrushchev went home.

29 of 55

Bay of Pigs Fiasco 1961

In response to the Cuban Revolution, JFK supported an invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro supporters. The invasion was manned by fewer than 1500 Cuban exiles who were supported by the FBI. The government were hopeful that the invasions would lead to a popular uprising against Castro, however they were greatly mistaken. The invasion failed miserably and was a huge political embarrassment for Kennedy and the USA. To add insult to injury, the USA was forced to pay $53 million compensation to Cuba to have the captured invaders returned.

30 of 55

Berlin Wall 1961

West Berlin had constantly been the thorn in the USSR’s side, and by 1961, they had lost millions of workers across the borders. Khrushchev had to stop West Berlin from undermining the control and power of the USSR. To do so, a wall would be built that surrounded the whole of West Berlin. Work began hastily late on a Saturday night in August. People woke up to see a divided Berlin separated by barbed wire and wooden fences that spanned 127.5 miles and were guarded by armed soldiers. The operation was effectively presented as a fait accompli to the USA, as they did not find out until it was too late. Within a short while, the wall was built up to a height of over three metres with intermittently positioned gun towers. Though obviously an embarrassing situation to be in, the wall did stop the flood of refugees escaping to the West, although about 5000 people risked their lives escaping over, through or under the wall. 191 people died in the process.

31 of 55

Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 (1/3)

This is often considered to have been the most dangerous and tense moment in the whole of the Cold War. The relationship between the USA and Cuba had deteriorated so much that they had looked to the USSR for help. In return for trade, the USSR was placing nuclear warheads and missiles on Cuba, only 60 miles away from mainland USA, meaning 90% of the USA was within range of the missiles that would take only 5 minutes to reach them. This would then negate the missiles that the USA had secretly placed in Turkey, a country with a land border with the USSR, and even up the nuclear monopoly that the USA had secretly gained. U2 flights over Cuba on 16th October had clearly shown that missiles were being placed on Cuba. The US now had various options, including an invasion of Cuba, a direct air-strike and a blockade. They spent 6 days deliberating over the options, and Kennedy himself is reported to have gone from one option to another. His initial reaction was to order a strategic strike, however by the end of this process he chose a blockade which was announced publicly on 22nd October. If any ships entered the “quarantine zone” around Cuba action would be taken. US forces were placed on high alert to level DEFCON 3. 54 bombers each with four nuclear warheads were on standby, 150 intercontinental missiles aimed at the USSR were armed and nuclear Polaris submarines were put to sea.

32 of 55

Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 (2/3)

On 23rd October Khrushchev ordered his ships bound for Cuba not to stop under any circumstances. On 24th October, US forces were put on DEFCON 2. On 26th October Kennedy received a letter from Khrushchev which was an offer: the USSR will remove the missiles if the USA promised not to invade Cuba.

By the 27th October, tensions were at their peak. Cuban forces shot down a U2 Spy Plane and Khrushchev sent another letter to Kennedy making the same offer as before but now adding the removal of missiles from Turkey as an extra condition. Kennedy accepted this offer, as long as the removal of the US missiles from Turkey remained secret. At 10.25 am the Soviet ships stopped and turned away. As Dean Rusk remarked “We’re eyeball to eyeball and I think the other fellow just blinked!” That night Khrushchev went on television and announced that the USSR would remove its missiles from Cuba to “protect world peace”.

33 of 55

Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 (3/3)

The Cuban Missile Crisis had many significant consequences:

1.         Cuba had now been established as a Communist country that was still a serious threat to Central and Latin America. The USA now had a thorn in their side.

2.         The USA had gained a great political success, and Kennedy was seen as having removed the potential danger of Soviet nuclear warheads from “America’s own backyard”.

3.         Khrushchev had negotiated the removal of US missiles from Turkey as part of the agreement, and Cuba had remained Communist. However, the USSR never forgave Khrushchev for “backing down”, and this was instrumental in his dismissal from the post of Soviet leader in 1964.

Despite the use of brinkmanship both leaders showed restraint during the crisis. Both leaders recognised the need for improved communication between the superpowers. A “hot line” telephone link was established between Moscow and Washington allowing the two leaders to speak directly.

34 of 55

Limited Test Ban Treaty 1963

The United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which bans atmospheric nuclear tests in hopes of slowing the arms race and protecting against nuclear fallout.

35 of 55

Prague Spring 1968

The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia. It began on 5 January, when reformist Slovak Alexander Dubček came to power, and continued until 21 August when the Soviet Union and members of its Warsaw Pact allies invaded the country to halt the reform. 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 2,000 tanks invaded. During the attack, 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed, 266 severely wounded and another 436 were lightly injured. The invasion was followed by a wave of emigration, unseen before, which stopped shortly after. An estimated 70,000 fled immediately, and the total eventually reached 300,000.

36 of 55

US moon landing 1969

USA land on the moon in Apollo 11

37 of 55

Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik 1970-1971

  • August: USSR-FRG (West Germany) Treaty in Moscow: both recognise each others territories and agree to only peaceful methods of border change.

• December: Warsaw Treaty between FRG and Poland: both recognise each others territories, agree to only peaceful Methods of border change and increased trade.

  • Four Power Treaty in 1971 on Berlin between US, UK, France and USSR over access from West Berlin to FRG and relation of West Berlin to FRG.
38 of 55

SALT 1 1972

After two and a half years of negotiation, the first round of SALT was brought to a conclusion on May 26, 1972, when President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev signed the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement on strategic offensive arms.

39 of 55

Basic Treaty 1972

West and East Germany sign the Basic Treaty, accepting the existence of each other as separate states. As a result of the treaty, the FRG and the GDR became members of the UN in June 1973.

40 of 55

Helsinki Accords 1975

Signed between US, Canada and 33 European States including Russia: states the ‘inviolability’ of frontiers, gives principles for state peaceful interaction, co-operation in economics and science as well as humanitarian issues – 3 baskets.

41 of 55

Polish Solidarity 1980

Martial law used in Poland to crush Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement.

42 of 55

START 1982

Beginning of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) in Geneva. This treaty would not be ratified until 1991, five months before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

43 of 55

Reagan's Star Wars/ SDI 1983

Announcement of the US ‘Strategic Defence Initiative’ or ‘Star Wars’. This involves a space-based defence system. Reagan’s hard-line Cold War politics continues with Pershing and Cruise missiles being placed in West Europe.

44 of 55

KAL 007 Passenger plane shot down by USSR 1983

A South Korean passenger plane was shot down by the Soviet air force over the Sea of Japan. The aircraft was en route from New York City to Seoul when it strayed into prohibited Soviet airspace because of a navigational error. 269 people were killed including a US Congressman.

45 of 55

Reykjavik 1986

October: USSR-USA summit at Reykjavik. Gorbachev proposed phasing out nuclear weapons in exchange for the withdrawal of America’s SDI programme. Reagan was not prepared to put SDI on the negotiating table. The summit therefore produces no real result, but was still referred to as a success.

46 of 55

Washington 1987

December: USSR-US summit at Washington: US and USSR agree to remove medium range missiles from Europe under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement (INF). It was the first time that the superpowers had agreed to arms reduction rather than arms control.

47 of 55

Moscow 1988

Reagan and Gorbachev signed agreements on the more complex details of the INF treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty)

48 of 55

Communism falls in Poland 1989

August: In Poland, the communists entered into round-table talks with a reinvigorated Solidarity. As a result, Poland held its first competitive elections since before World War II, and in 1989, Solidarity formed the first non-communist government within the Soviet bloc since 1948.

49 of 55

Fall of the Berlin Wall 1989

Inspired by their neighbours' reforms, east Germans took to the streets in the summer and fall of 1989 to call for reforms, including freedom to visit West Berlin and West Germany. Moscow's refusal to use military force to buoy the regime of East German leader Erich Honecker led to his replacement and the initiation of political reforms, leading up to the fateful decision to open the border crossings on the night of November 9, 1989. That night, the Berlin Wall--the most potent symbol of the Cold War division of Europe--came down. Earlier that day, the communist authorities of the German Democratic Republic had announced the removal of travel restrictions to democratic West Berlin. Thousands of East Germans streamed into the West, and in the course of the night, celebrants on both sides of the wall tore it down.

50 of 55

Communism falls in Czechoslovakia 1989

November: In Czechoslovakia, the Velvet Revolution saw a peaceful handover of power that installed dissident Vaclav Havel as the new President.

51 of 55

Malta 1989

Gorbachev and Bush established a good working relationship. No new agreements were made, but both leaders declared that the Cold War was over

52 of 55

German Reunification 1990

March: Free multi-party elections were held in East Germany and people voted to speed up the re-unification process with West Germany. On July 1, 1990, an economic, monetary and social union between East and West Germany was formed, and all restrictions concerning travels were dropped. On October 3, 1990, less than a year after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, reunification of the two Germanys was a fact.

53 of 55

Communism falls in Yugoslavia 1990

Yugoslavia suffered a series of elections that saw the Communists rejected in favour of nationalist parties in each of the federation’s six republics. Four of the republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia) soon declared independence from what was left of the Yugoslav state which by 1991 comprised just Serbia and Montenegro.

54 of 55

Communism falls in the Soviet Union 1991

With the Eastern Bloc free of the Soviet Union, the Soviet empire itself began to crumble. In April, Georgia voted to secede from the USSR while Moscow eventually recognised the independence of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, its Baltic republics. Following the failed coup attempt against leader Mikhail Gorbachev in August, the Soviet Union began to fully disintegrate. Within days of the coup’s demise, Ukraine declared independence followed by the Soviet Union’s Central Asian republics. On 8th December, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

55 of 55


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Cold War resources »