GCSE History - Origins of the Cold War (1941-58)

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  • Created on: 21-03-19 17:26

Tehran Conference - Nov 1943

Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt - Mainly a success for Stalin


  • Britain and USA open a second front by invading France in May '44 to split German defences and relieve pressure from USSR 

  • USSR declare war on Japan once Germany were defeated                                                          
  • United Nations to be set up
  • Area of eastern Poland was added to the Soviet Union
  • Germany would be kept weak after WW2


  • Stalin thought Britain wanted USSR to suffer fatal losses to Germany   
  • Churchill thought USSR wanted to spread its influences west and wanted to stop it
  • Churchill wanted to open second front in Balkans not west - USSR and USA both disagreed and the front was opened in west 
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Yalta Conference - Feb 1945

Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt - last meeting of big 3 


  • Germany be demilitarised and forced to pay reparations - Stalin wanted Germany to be very harshly punished - CH and R didn't agree 
  • Germany to be divided into 4 zones - Berlin too 
  • Nazi Party banned
  • UN established (replace league of nations)
  • Poland which was already communist, to become part of Soviet ‘sphere of influence’ but be more democratic


  • The USA doesn’t want Poland to be a communist country - Stalin wanted a 'friendly government' (US and GB scared it would lead to a Soviet-controlled government)

  • Managed to persuade Stalin to give free elections in Poland
  • Couldn't agree on how much G should pay in reparations - decision delayed until next conference 
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Potsdam Conference - July 1945

Churchill, Stalin and Truman (Truman took over when R died - doesn't trust Stalin) 


  • Nazi leaders (war criminals) prosecuted at Nuremberg
  • Reduce Germany in size and demilitarised 
  • Democracy would be re-established in G 
  • Divide Germany and Berlin into four zones.
  • Reparations to be taken from the zones. USSR be given some from the others as it had suffered most  (1/4)


  • USA doesn’t want Germany to be punished too harshly (USSR does)
  • Truman wanted free elections in USSR occupied zones - S refused
  • USA developed a nuclear bomb that was successfully tested before the conference and didn't tell Stalin until this meeting – Truman believes he should be in charge 
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1946 Events

  • Iron curtain speech 1946 - Europe was divided between capitalists (west) and communists (east). Stalin responds by comparing Churchill to Hitler
  • Long Telegram 1946 - Truman receives word that USSR is building up its military power. Stalin was calling for destruction of capitalism. No peace with USSR - greatly influenced Truman's policies (policy of containment) 
  • Novikov Telegram 1946 - Response to long telegram - hardened Stalin's attitude to USA and worsened the relations 
  • Soviet Expansion - Red Army occupied many Eastern states - became satellite states - coalition governments with communists, backed by Stalin, communists took over many aspects of gov, fixed elections took place to keep Soviets in power 
    • Salami Tactics - USSR gradually took over more and more land/ countries in Eastern Europe 
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Truman Doctrine - 1947

  • Truman begins a US policy of containment - using US influence and military resources to prevent the expansion of communism into non-communist countries 
  • Introduced because:
    • Truman believed that SU was trying to spread communism 
    • USA had A-bomb and superior economic strength to put pressure on SU
    • Events in Greece - USA gave financial aid due to fear that it would become communist under Soviet influence 
  • Consequences:
    • Greece was able to defeat communists
    • USA and USSR rivalry increased - Truman had publicly voiced his negative attitude towards communism (and basically Stalin)
    • USA became committed to the policy of containment and got involved in European affairs
    • USA provided economic aid to Europe (Marshall Plan&Aid) as US wanted to create new markets of goods and trading
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Marshall Plan&Aid - 1947

  • Financial package that supported the Truman Doctrine - introduced as communism generally won support in poorer countries that were damaged after WW2
  • $17bn of US money to help re-build Europe after WW2 - also gave equipment, goods, machinery, food and technology 
  • Designed to weaken the appeal of communism and increase capitalism 
  • Countries taking the trade would agree to trade freely with USA – boost US economy
  •  In total 16 countries accepted Marshall Aid - Stalin accused USA of using plan for its own interests and to boost their economy
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Soviet reaction to Marshall Aid

  •  Many countries were keen to accept the offer of financial assistance. However, Stalin saw it as the beginning of an anti-Soviet alliance and banned any country under the Soviet ‘Sphere of Influence’ from accepting Marshall Aid.
  • Tension continued to grow as both wanted to be perceived as the most powerful - neither could go into an actual war so it became the 'Cold War' (no direct battles/conflict)
  • 1947 Cominform set up - Enabled Stalin to coordinate communist gov throughout Europe (response to Truman Doctrine) Ensured that the eastern Europe states followed Soviet aims in foreign policy and were following the newly introduced Soviet-style economic policies 
  • 1949 Comecon set up - Way that SU could financially support Eastern European countries (response to Marshall Aid ) Used by SU to control economies of these states, give SU access to their resources and encourage economic specialisation (one country within Soviet bloc focused on producing large amounts of one thing) 
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Berlin Blockade Background 1947-48

  • USSR, USA and GB&France all wanted to treat G differently - USSR and F want to 'cripple' G so they can't attack again - GB and USA want to get G economy back on track 
  • Jan 1947 - USA and GB merge zones to create Bizonia
  • Mar 1948 - F joins to create Trizonia 
  • April 1948 - Soviet troops begin stop and searching road and rail to check that no marshall aid is getting into G
  • June 1948 - Allies create single currency - Deutschmark - SU was furious - feel like they're being ganged up on and retaliate by introducing their own currency - Ostmark - in SU zones and E Berlin
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Berlin Blockade&Airlift 1948-49

  • 23rd June 1948 - Stalin cuts off all rail and road links to Berlin and trapped it inside the Soviet section of Germany in an attempt to force the Allies to pull out of their sectors and abandon development plans for Trizonia 
  •  Wanted capitalist sectors out of Berlin as he knew that the capitalist way of life would be on display to the West Berlin people 
  • Airlift:
    • Truman was determined to stand up to the SU and wanted Berlin to be a symbol of freedom beyond the iron curtain
    • The only way into Berlin was via air - 28th June 1948 Airlift began and flew day and night to supply the people in Berlin with the necessary materials needed to survive (food, clothing, oil, materials for building)
    • By Sept the planes were flying 4600 tonnes of supplies a day - still not enough continued into spring and reached its peak in April 1949 when 1,400 planes supplied 13000 tonnes in 24 hours!  
    • 12th May 1949 - Stalin calls off the blockade which lasted for 11 months
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Berlin Blockade Results&NATO


  • Confirmed divisions of Germany  and Berlin - within days of the airlift stopping, Allies announced the joining and creation of the Federal Republic of Germany and Stalin created the German Democratic Republic
  • Increased East-West rivalry -  Truman saw the Berlin crisis as a great victory as WB had stood up against Stalin and won, a huge defeat and humiliation for the Soviets 
  • Led to creation of NATO - NATO was set up in April 1949 after the Berlin Crisis - Although it was a defensive alliance, its main purpose was to prevent Soviet expansion - Stalin saw NATO as an 'aggressive alliance' and a direct threat to the Soviet bloc countries
  • NATO Consequences:
    • USA was now committed to defending W Europe 
    • Stalin believed that it was aimed against SU - increased tension
    • Intensified arms race 
    • USSR set up Warsaw pact 6 years later (1955)
    • Eventually, USA set up missile bases in  W.E including UK
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Warsaw Pact - 1955

  • 6 years after NATO formed - very similar as it was the Soviets military alliance of 8 nations to defend against NATO (capitalists) 
  • Members:
    • USSR
    • Albania
    • Poland
    • Romania
    • Hungary
    • East Germany
    • CZ
    • Bulgaria
    • Important role in CZ crisis in 1968 
    • Existence of 2 rival alliance systems increased rivalry
    • Intensified arms race
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The Arms Race&A-Bomb

  • Both USA and USSR had the Atomic bomb 
  • Both started to pour money into projects 
  • Projects included:
    • Bigger bombs
    • Better bomb delivery systems 
  • Each side wanted to prove that they had the better weapons to cause more damage on the 'first strike' which would prevent the other side from firing back


  • USA in 1945, USSR in 1949 
  • Truman orders the new H-Bomb to be built and rapidly increased defence spending
  • 1953 - both have H-Bombs and continued to develop more powerful and damaging nuclear weapons 
  • Each side felt threatened and so increased rivalry (and spending) 
  • Both expected next war to be nuclear 
  • Churchill describes the situation as a 'balance of terror'
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Sputnik - 1957

There was some hope that the arms race would slow down - this didn't happen :(

  • 1957 - A USSR rocket launched Sputnik a satellite that could (supposedly) orbit the earth in one and a half hours
    • USA saw it as a huge military threat


  • Between 1957-59 US increased spendings on missiles by 20% 
  • Eisenhower founded NASA
  • Americans thought that the USSR was taking them over in the arms race 
    • So they expanded its training programme for engineers and scientists 
  • US Air Force increased the number of bomber planes and created submarines with nuclear weapons 
  • USA placed missile bases in European countries especially West Germany 
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Hungarian Uprising Background

DATE                EVENT

1953 - Eisenhower succeeds Truman

March 1953 - Stalin dies, Nagy becomes H's PM

April 1955 - Nagy replaced by Rakosi

May 1955 - Creation of Warsaw Pact

Feb 1956 - Khrushchev's 'secret speech' 

July 1956 - Rakosi removed from power and replaced by Gero

23rd Oct 1956 - Students demonstrate in Budapest demanding free elections, free press and removal of S troops - Statue of Stalin is pulled down and dragged through streets

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Hungarian Uprising Nagy&Reforms

25th Oct 56 - Tanks sent in to restore peace after demonstrations, open fire left 12 dead and 100+ injured, Gero resigns and is succeeded by Nagy 

  • Nagy holds peace talks w SU and agrees for tanks to be withdrawn - US secretary of state says that Nagy could ' count on us ' - took to mean he would have their support against SU if needed
    • Eisenhower was sceptical about committing to potential conflict due to the upcoming presidential election 
    • Free(dom) elections (and an end to the one-party elections), speech, press, worship, trade unions 
    • Trade links between H and West 
    • H to become a neutral state 
    • Withdrawal from WP
  • Nagy also asked the UN to consider H's disputes w SU 
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Hungarian Uprising SU response

Khrushchev was not keen to be seen as weak to the other WP members - Mao Zedong (Chinese leader) was pressuring K to stand strong against any deviation to communism

  • 4th Nov 1956 - K sends 200,000 SU troops and 6,000 tanks 
    • Quickly capture airports, bridges and roads - there was bitter fighting but the rebels were no match for the occupying SU forces 
    • H managed to communicate with the West by radio and broadcasted pleas for help 
    • A ceasefire was organised for 10 Nov but there was sporadic fighting until the middle of 1957
    • Kadar becomes H's new PM - Nagy is sent to Romania and hanged
  • Reasons for Soviet Invasion:
    • K needed to stamp authority on SU and make H an example to rest of WP
    • Pressure from Zedong 
    • Potential damage to WP
    • Fear of loss of control over E Europe
    • US presidential elections - knew USA wouldn't help H fight back
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Hungarian Uprising Results&Reactions

Soviets easily defeated H rebels however, 7,000 Soviet troops were killed although the H rebels lost 20,000 and 200,000 H fled country 

International Reactions:

  • Very little that West could actually do - fear of full war 
  • West condemns actions of SU 
  • West stages demonstrations in support for the refugees 
  • UN requested a special inquiry into events of Oct-Nov 1956 but both H and SU gov refused
    • Resulted in condemnation of Kadar regime 
  • West saw K's messages of peace as a scam 
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