History A1 The cold war


Yalta conference

Yalta - February 1945: Germany was not yet defeated, so, although there were tensions about Poland, the big three - Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill - managed to agree to split Germany into four zones of occupation, and to allow free elections in Eastern European countries. Russia was invited to join the United Nations, and Russia promised to join the war against Japan when Germany was defeated.

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Potsdam conference

Potsdam - July 1945: Germany had been defeated, Roosevelt had died and Churchill had lost the 1945 election - so there were open disagreements. Truman came away angry about the size of reparations and the fact that a communist government was being set up in Poland. Truman did not tell Stalin that he had the atomic bomb.

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Differences between Yalta and Potsdam

Differences between Yalta and Potsdam

It will help if you are able to describe the huge differences between Yalta and Potsdam - the issues were the same, but the goodwill to overcome them was gone, because the countries no longer needed to stick together. Note how not all the broken promises were by Stalin:

Comparison of Yalta and Potsdam


Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin

Attlee, Truman and Stalin

Germany to be split into four zones. Arguments about the details of the boundaries between the zones. Germany will pay reparations. Disagreements about the amount of reparations Russia wanted to take. It was agreed that Russia could take whatever it wanted from the Soviet zone, and 10 per cent of the industrial equipment of the western zones, but Britain and the US thought this was too much. A government of 'national unity' to be set up in Poland, comprising both communists and non-communists. Truman was angry because Stalin had arrested the non-communist leaders of Poland. Free elections in the countries of eastern Europe. This part of the agreement was called the Declaration of Liberated Europe. America and Britain were alarmed because communists were coming to power in the countries of Eastern Europe. Russia would help against Japan when Germany was defeated. Truman dropped the atomic bomb so that Japan would surrender before Russian troops could go into Japan. America had the bomb in July 1945, but Truman did not tell Stalin about it. When he saw how he had been tricked, Stalin was furious.

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Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe

Twenty million Russians died during the Second World War, so Stalin said he wanted a buffer zone of friendly states around Russia to make sure that Russia could never be invaded again.

Stalin was planning the takeover of Eastern Europe. During the war, Communists from the occupied countries of Eastern Europe escaped to Moscow and set up Communist governments in exile there. As the Red Army drove the Nazis back, it occupied large areas of Eastern Europe and Churchill in the so-called percentages agreement - agreed that Eastern Europe could be a Soviet "sphere of influence".

In the countries that the Red Army "liberated", communist-dominated governments took power. The Communists made sure that they controlled the army, set up a secret police force, and began to arrest their opponents. Non-Communists were gradually beaten, murdered, executed and terrified out of power. By 1949, all the governments of Eastern Europe, except Yugoslavia, were hard line Stalinist regimes.

In 1946, in a speech at Fulton in the USA, Churchill declared that an Iron Curtain had come down across Europe, and that Soviet power was growing and had to be stopped. Stalin called Churchill's speech a "declaration of war". In 1947, Stalin set up Comintern - an alliance of Communist countries designed to make sure they obeyed Soviet rule.

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Soviet take over power

CountryDateMethod Albania 1945 The Communists immediately took power. Bulgaria 1945 In the 1945 elections, a Communist-led coalition was elected, but the Communists executed the non-Communists. East Germany 1945 East Germany was the Soviet zone of Germany. In 1949, they set up a Communist-controlled state called the German Democratic Republic. Romania 1947 In the 1945 elections, a Communist-led coalition was elected to power. The Communists gradually took over and in 1947 they abolished the monarchy. Poland 1947 Stalin had promised to set up a joint Communist/non-Communist government at Yalta, but then he invited 16 non-Communist leaders to Moscow and arrested them. Thousands of non-Communists were arrested, and the Communists won the 1947 election. Hungary 1947 The non-communists won the 1945 elections with Zoltan Tildy as president. However, the Communists' leader, Rakosi, took control of the secret police (the AVO), and executed and arrested his opponents. Tildy was forced to resign and Cardinal Mindzenty, head of the Catholic Church, was imprisoned. By 1948, Rakosi had complete control of Hungary. Czechoslovakia 1948 A coalition government was set up and led by the non-Communist Benes. However, the Communists' leader Gottwald made sure they controlled the radio, the army and the police. Gottwald became prime minister and set up a secret police force. Non-Communists were arrested. In 1948, Communist workers went on strike, the non-Communist minister Masaryk committed suicide and Gottwald took over the government.

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Events 1947

By 1947, Greece was one of the few countries in Eastern Europe that hadn't turned communist. The Communist rebels in Greece were prevented from taking over by the British Army.

America was becoming increasingly alarmed by the growth of Soviet power. So, when the British told Truman they could no longer afford to keep their soldiers in Greece, Truman stepped in to take over. In March 1947, he told the American Congress it was America's job to stop communism growing any stronger. This was called the Truman Doctrine. It is often said that Truman advocated containment (stopping the Soviet getting any more powerful), but Truman did not use this word and many Americans spoke of "rolling back" communism.

In June 1947, General George Marshall made a visit to Europe to see what was needed. He came away thinking Europe was so poor that the whole of Europe was about to turn Communist. Marshall and Truman asked Congress for $17 billion to fund the European Recovery Programme nicknamed the Marshall Plan - to get the economy of Europe going again. Congress at first hesitated, but agreed in March 1948 when Czechoslovakia turned Communist. The aid was given in the form of food, grants to buy equipment, improvements to transport systems, and everything "from medicine to mules". Most (70 per cent) of the money was used to buy commodities from US suppliers: $3.5 billion was spent on raw materials; $3.2 billion on food, feed and fertiliser; $1.9 billion on machinery and vehicles; and $1.6 billion on fuel.

Stalin forbade the Cominform countries to apply for Marshall Aid.

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Who was to blame?

Soviet historians

  • They blamed the United States.

The Traditionalists

  • All western writers before the 1970s, and many since, blamed the Cold War on the Soviet Union and its "attempt to impose its ideology on the rest of the world".

The Revisionists

  • In 1959 the historian William Appleman Williams was the first to suggest that America was to blame.
  • The Revisionists said America was engaged in a war to keep countries open to capitalism and American trade.
  • Revisionists said that Truman's use of the atomic bomb without telling Stalin was the start of the Cold War.

The Post-Revisionists

  • John Lewis Gaddis first published this idea in 1972.
  • The post-revisionists argued that neither Russia or America was to blame, but that the Cold War was the result of misunderstandings on both sides, and the failure to appreciate each other's fears.

After the collapse of Communism

  • Russian historians such as Zubok and Pleshakov have been able to study the Soviet Union's secret files for the first time.
  • These files show that Soviet leaders during the Cold War were genuinely trying to avoid conflict with the USA. This puts more of the blame back on America.
  • Modern historians stress the Cold War as a clash between capitalism and communism.
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Berlin blockade and Berlin Airlift 1

In 1945, the Allies decided to split Germany into four zones of occupation. The capital, Berlin, was also split into four zones. The USSR took huge reparations from its zone in eastern Germany, but Britain, France and America tried to improve conditions in their zones.

In June 1948, Britain, France and America united their zones into a new country, West Germany. On 23 June 1948, they introduced a new currency, which they said would help trade.

The next day, Stalin cut off all rail and road links to west Berlin - the Berlin Blockade. The west saw this as an attempt to starve Berlin into surrender, so they decided to supply west Berlin by air.

The Berlin Blockade lasted 318 days. During this time, 275,000 planes transported 1.5 million tons of supplies and a plane landed every three minutes at Berlin's Templehof airport.

On 12 May 1949, Stalin abandoned the blockade.

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Berlin blockade and Berlin Airlift 2

Important dates and events

DateEvent January 1947 Britain and the USA join their two zones together into Bi-zonia (two zones). December 1947 London Conference: America, Britain and France meet to discuss Germany's future. Russia is not present. January 1948 Russia starts to stop western literature being sold in the Soviet zone. March 1948 The USA offers Marshall Aid. Stalin forbids Cominform countries to take part. April 1948 Russia imposes a partial blockade of west Berlin - Allied transport into the city has to apply for a permit and is inspected. 1 June 1948 America, Britain and France announce they wanted to create a new country of West Germany. 23 June 1948 America, Britain and France introduce a new currency - this causes economic chaos in the Russian zone as everyone tries to get rid of their old money and change to the new currency.

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Results of the berlin crisis of 1948

Results of the Berlin Crisis of 1948

  1. Germany was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany) until 1990.
  2. The Iron Curtain became permanent.
  3. The Cold War broke out into open confrontation, and the two superpowers began an Arms Race.
  4. In 1949, the Allies set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as a military alliance to resist Soviet Russia.
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The korean war

The problem in Korea

In 1945, Korea was split along the 38th parallel between a communist north led by Kim IL Sung, and a non-communist south led by Syngman Rhee.

But communism was growing in the Far East. In 1949, the Communists had taken power in China. The US developed the 'domino theory' - the idea that, if one country fell to communism, others would follow like a row of dominoes. Then, in 1950, a report by the American National Security Council ('NSC68') recommended that the US stop containment and start to roll back communism.

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The korean war

The war

  • In 1950, after getting the support of Russia and China, Kim IL Sung invaded South Korea.
  • The North Korean People's Army (NKPA) easily defeated the Republic of Korea's army (the ROKs).
  • By September, the NKPA had conquered almost the whole of South Korea.
  • The USA went to the United Nations and got them to send troops to defend South Korea.
  • The Russians couldn't veto the idea because they were boycotting the UN at the time.
  • In September, UN troops, led by the US General MacArthur, landed in Korea and drove the NKPA back.
  • By October, the UN forces had almost conquered all of North Korea.
  • In November 1950, Chinese People's Volunteers attacked and drove the Americans back.
  • They recaptured North Korea, and advanced into South Korea.
  • The Americans landed more troops and drove the Chinese back to the 38th parallel, where Truman ordered General MacArthur to stop and sacked him when he disagreed.
  • The war went on as border clashes until 1953 when America's new president, Eisenhower, offered peace, but threatened to use the atomic bomb if China did not accept the offer.

Recently, historians have shown that the Korean crisis almost led to a third world war - many US advisers wanted to use the atomic bomb.

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International tension

When Stalin died, it looked like a new era was beginning between East and West. The new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev advocated a peaceful co-existence - so did relations improve between East and West?

1953-1960 - changes

In 1953, Stalin died and Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet leader. He was a jolly man, who said to prevent the most destructive war in history, there needed to be "peaceful co-existence" between the superpowers. He said Stalin was a terrible tyrant and he wanted to "de-Stalinise" Eastern Europe.

Everyone hoped that it would improve East-West relations.

It did not. In fact, the period 1953-1960 was the time of greatest danger in the Cold War. America and Russia competed with each other in the arms race, in sport, and in the space race.

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International tension

Why did 'peaceful co-existence' make the Cold War more dangerous?

  1. Khrushchev's statement that he wanted to "de-Stalinise" Eastern Europe led to anti-Soviet rebellions in 1956 in Poland and Hungary, and Khrushchev sent in Russian troops to re-establish Soviet control.
  2. Russia and America waged an arms race, developing H-bombs and ICBMs.
  3. Khrushchev set up the Warsaw Pact in 1955 - a military alliance of communist countries - to rival NATO. America responded by increasing the number of NATO troops in Germany.
  4. Russia and America competed in every way possible - eg in sport, and in the space race. Russia launched the first satellite - Sputnik - in 1957, and sent the first man into orbit - Yuri Gagarin - in 1961. Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space in 1961, and President Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon by 1969. This was not just a propaganda war, it was a clash of ideologies as both sides tried to prove that their way was best.
  5. America responded aggressively. Senator McCarthy led a series of public trials of suspected Communists - the so-called witch-hunts.
  6. Both sides spied on each other. The Americans also used U2 spy planes to spy on Russia.
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The hungarian revolution

Hungarian revolution

  • 1. The death of Stalin led many Hungarians to hope that Hungary also would be 'de-Stalinised'. In July 1956, the 'Stalinist' Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, Rakosi, fell from power.

    2. During October 1956, students, workers and soldiers in Hungary attacked the AVH (the secret police) and Russian soldiers, and smashed a statue of Stalin.

  • 3. On 24 October 1956 Imre Nagy - a moderate and a westerniser - took over as prime minister.

    4. Nagy asked Khrushchev to move the Russian troops out. Khrushchev agreed and on 28 October 1956, the Russian army pulled out of Budapest.

  • 5. For five days, there was freedom in Hungary. The new Hungarian government introduced democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Cardinal Mindszenty, the leader of the Catholic Church, was freed from prison.

    6. Then, on 3 November 1956, Nagy announced that Hungary was going to leave the Warsaw Pact. However, Khrushchev was not going to allow this. He claimed he had received a letter from Hungarian Communist leaders asking for his help.

  • 7. At dawn on 4 November 1956, 1,000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest. They destroyed the Hungarian army and captured Hungarian Radio the last words broadcast were "Help! Help! Help!".

    8. Hungarian people - even children - fought the Russian troops with machine guns. Some 4,000 Hungarians were killed.

    9. Khrushchev put in Russian supporter, Janos Kadar, as prime minister.

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Causes and effects of the hungarian revolution

Causes of the Hungarian Revolution

  1. Khrushchev's policy of 'de-Stalinisation' caused problems in many Eastern European Communist countries, where people hated the hard-line Stalinist regimes that Russia had put in place. There was also trouble in Poland in 1956, and Khrushchev had to send in Russian troops.
  2. The Hungarians were patriotic, and they hated Russian control, especially:
    • The secret police called the AVH in Hungary.
    • Russian control of the economy, which had made Hungary poor.
    • Russian control of what the schools taught.
    • Censorship and lack of freedom.
  3. The Hungarians were religious, but the Communist Party had banned religion, and imprisoned Cardinal Mindszenty.
  4. Hungarians thought that the United Nations or the new US president, Eisenhower, would help them.

Effects of the Hungarian Revolution

  1. Repression in Hungary - thousands of Hungarians were arrested and imprisoned. Some were executed and 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled to Austria.
  2. Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain - no other country tried to get rid of Russia troops until Czechoslovakia in 1968.
  3. Polarisation of the Cold War - people in the West were horrified - many Communists left the Communist Party - and Western leaders became more determined to contain communism.
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The U2 incident

By the late 1950s tension had increased between the two superpowers, the USSR and USA. A summit was arranged in Paris to try to sort things out, but shortly before it was due to take place an American U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia and the summit collapsed.

The U2 incident and the Paris summit of 1960

By the end of the 1950s, there was massive tension in the Cold War:

  • The arms race - both sides accepted the need for some kind of Nuclear Test Ban treaty.
  • Berlin - the Russians were furious that many East Germans were fleeing to the west through West Berlin.
  • Cuba - the Americans were worried because Fidel Castro, a Communist, had seized power there in 1959.
  • A summit meeting was arranged for Paris to try to sort things out.

On 1st May 1960 - thirteen days before the summit - an American U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia and the pilot, Gary Powers, was captured. At first, the Americans tried to say that it was a weather plane, but they were forced to admit that it was a spy plane when the Russians revealed that much of his plane had survived, and that they had captured Gary Powers alive.

When the summit met on 14 May, the first thing Khrushchev did was to demand that the US president, Eisenhower, apologise. When Eisenhower refused, Khrushchev went home.

The Cold War had just become substantially more dangerous.

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Effects of the U2 incident

Effects of the U2 incident

  1. The Paris meeting collapsed and there was no Test Ban Treaty.
  2. There was no discussion about the problem of Berlin - which, ultimately, led to the Berlin Wall.
  3. The incident was seen as a defeat for the US - so they elected John F Kennedy as president because he promised to get tougher with the Russians.
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The berlin wall

By the 1960s Berlin was still divided - the USSR controlled the East and the USA guaranteed freedom in the West. Thousands of refugees escaped to West Berlin each day - much to the embarrassment of the USSR - so in 1961 Khrushchev closed the border and ordered the construction of a wall to stop people leaving.

The problems in West Berlin

West Berlin was a worry and an embarrassment for the Soviet Union in 1961:

  • Nearly 2,000 refugees a day were fleeing to the West through west Berlin - hardly proof of the Soviet claim that the Communist way of life was better than capitalism!
  • Many of those leaving were skilled and qualified workers.
  • The Soviets believed (rightly) that West Berlin was a centre for US espionage.

At the Vienna Summit of June 1961, therefore, Khrushchev demanded that the US leave West Berlin within six months. Kennedy refused and instead guaranteed West Berlin's freedom.

On 13 August, Khrushchev closed the border between East and West Berlin and started building the Berlin Wall. At first, the Russians regarded it as a propaganda success, but as time went on, it became a propaganda disaster - a symbol of all that was bad about Soviet rule.

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Causes of the cuban missile

Causes summary

In 1962, the Cold War was at its coldest. The Russians had built the Berlin Wall the previous year. Kennedy who had been elected because he promised to get tough with the Communists felt that Khrushchev had got one over on him at the Vienna Summit in 1961. In April 1962, the Americans put nuclear missiles in Turkey.

Also, in 1959, a rebel named Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, an island just 90 miles away from Florida. Before Castro took over, the government - led by Colonel Batista - had been a corrupt and right-wing military dictatorship, but the Americans had many business interests in Cuba.

When Castro came to power, however, he nationalised American companies in Cuba. In retaliation, the Americans stopped all aid to Cuba, and all imports of Cuban sugar. This was a blow to Castro as sugar was the mainstay of the Cuban economy. Castro was forced to look to the USSR for help, and, in 1960, the USSR signed an agreement to buy 1 million tonnes of Cuban sugar every year. Castro, who had not been a Communist when he took power, became a Communist.

America was alarmed. In April 1961, with Kennedy's knowledge, the CIA funded, trained, armed and transported 1,300 Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. They landed at the Bay of Pigs and made an attempt to overthrow Castro. The invasion was a disaster, and President Kennedy was humiliated.

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Cuban missile crisis

Crisis summary

President Kennedy did not dare to invade Cuba, because that action could have started a world war - yet he could not let the missile sites be completed. With his advisers, he decided on a naval blockade to prevent Russian ships delivering the missiles for the Cuban sites.

Khrushchev warned that Russia would see the blockade as an act of war. Russian forces were put on alert; US bombers were put in the air carrying nuclear bombs; preparations were made to invade Cuba. There was massive tension in both Washington and Moscow. Everybody thought the world was going to come to an end. Secretly, the Americans suggested a trade-off of missile bases - US bases in Turkey for Russian bases in Cuba.

The Russians made the first public move. The ships heading for Cuba turned back, and Khrushchev sent a telegram offering to dismantle the Cuban bases if Kennedy lifted the blockade and promised not to invade Cuba. Then, as though having second thoughts, he sent a second letter demanding the dismantling of the Turkish bases. At the vital moment, a US U2 spy plane was shot down.

However, Kennedy ignored the U2 attack and agreed publicly to the first letter, and secretly to the second. The crisis was over.

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Cuban missile crisis 2

One week in October 1962

DayEvents Monday 22 October Kennedy announces a naval blockade of Cuba. B52 nuclear bombers are deployed, so that one-eighth of them are airborne all the time. Kennedy warns of a full retaliatory response, if any missile is launched from Cuba. Tuesday 23 October Khrushchev explains that the missile sites are "solely to defend Cuba against the attack of an aggressor". Wednesday 24 October Twenty Russian ships head for Cuba. Khrushchev tells the captains to ignore the blockade. Khrushchev warns that Russia will have "a fitting reply to the aggressor". Thursday 25 October The first Russian ship reaches the naval blockade. It is an oil ship and is allowed through. The other Russian ships turn back. Secretly, the US government floats the idea of removing the missiles in Turkey in exchange for those in Cuba. Friday 26 October Russia is still building the missile bases. In the morning, Kennedy considers an invasion of Cuba. It seems that war is about to break out. But at 6pm, Kennedy gets a telegram from Khrushchev offering to dismantle the sites if Kennedy lifts the blockade and promises not to invade Cuba. Saturday 27 October However, at 11am Khrushchev sends a second letter, demanding that Kennedy also dismantles American missile bases in Turkey. At noon on the same day, a U2 plane is shot down over Cuba. It looks as if a war is about to start after all. At 8.05pm, Kennedy sends a letter to Khrushchev, offering that if Khrushchev dismantles the missile bases in Cuba, America will lift the blockade and promise not to invade Cuba - and also dismantle the Turkish missile bases (as long as this is kept a secret). Sunday 28 October Khrushchev agrees to Kennedy's proposals. The crisis is over. Tuesday 20 November Russian bombers leave Cuba, and Kennedy lifts the naval blockade.

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Cuban missile crisis 3

Repercussions of the crisis

Speaking many years later, Khrushchev claimed that he had won the Cuban missile crisis. He had achieved both his aims - America never bothered Cuba again (which is still a Communist country) and the US missile sites in Turkey were dismantled in November 1962.

The world did not see it that way at the time, because the Turkey deal was kept secret, the West saw Kennedy as the hero who had faced down Communism.

Meanwhile, Khrushchev lost prestige. China broke off relations with Russia and, in 1964, he was forced to resign as Soviet leader.

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Cuban missile crisis 4

On 29 October 1962, this cartoon was published in the 'Daily Mail'. The caption read: 'OK Mr President, let's talk'.

The message of the cartoon was clear - the world had avoided a nuclear war, but it was time for reason. In fact, both leaders had frightened themselves. Soon afterwards:

  • In 1963, a telephone hotline was set up to give instant contact between the two leaders if there was a crisis.
  • In 1963, a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed.
  • In 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed - the superpowers promised not to supply nuclear technology to other countries.
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The prague Spring

For four months in 1968 Czechoslovakia broke free from Soviet rule, allowing freedom of speech and removing some state controls. This period is now referred to as the Prague Spring but why did it only last four months?

Events in Czechoslovakia 1968

  • 1. There were no riots or demonstrations but, during 1967, students and writers were complaining about the lack of freedom, and the poor performance of the Czechoslovak economy.

    2. But when Antonin Novotny, the Czechoslovak president, asked Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader, for help, Brezhnev did not support him.

    3. Novotny fell from power and on 5 January 1968, Alexandr Dubcek - a reformer - took over as leader of the Communist Party (KSC).

    4. In April 1968, Dubcek's government announced an Action Plan for what it called a new model of socialism - it removed state controls over industry and allowed freedom of speech.

  • 5. For four months (the Prague Spring), there was freedom in Czechoslovakia. But then the revolution began to run out of control. Dubcek announced that he was still committed to democratic communism, but other political parties were set up.

    6. Also, Dubcek stressed that Czechoslovakia would stay in the Warsaw Pact, but in August, President Tito of Yugoslavia, a country not in the Warsaw Pact, visited Prague.

  • 7. At a meeting in Bratislava on 3 August 1968, Brezhnev read out a letter from some Czechoslovakian Communists asking for help. He announced the Brezhnev Doctrine - the USSR would not allow any Eastern European country to reject Communism.

    8. On 20 August 1968, 500,000 Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. Dubcek and three other leaders were arrested and sent to Moscow.

  • 9. The Czechoslovakians did not fight the Russians. Instead, they stood in front of the tanks, and put flowers in the soldiers' hair. Jan Palach burned himself to death in protest.

    10. Brezhnev put in Gustav Husak, a supporter of Russia, as leader of the KSC.

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Causes and events of the prague spring

Causes and effects of the Prague Spring

Causes of the Prague Spring

  1. The policy of détente encouraged the uprising. Romania had also broken free of Russian control, and was improving relations with the West.
  2. The Czechs hated Russian control, especially:
    • Russian control of the economy, which had made Czechoslovakia poor.
    • The censorship and lack of freedom.
  3. Some Czechs thought the USA would help them.

Effects of the invasion of Czechoslovakia

  1. Czechoslovakia returned to communist control and Russian troops were stationed there. Half the leadership of the KSC, along with the directors of many firms (especially publishing companies) were sacked and 47 anti-communists were arrested.
  2. Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain. The Brezhnev Doctrine stated that Iron Curtain countries would not be allowed to abandon communism, "even if it meant a third world war".
  3. Increase of the Cold War. People in the West were horrified and so were many communist countries, especially Romania and Yugoslavia.
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The policy of détente refers to the time in the 1960s-1970s when the two superpowers eased tension and tried to cooperate to avoid conflict in the Cold War. A number of events happened during this time period that illustrate this new policy.

Key achievements 1960s-1970s

In the late 1960s and 1970s, both superpowers talked a lot about 'détente'. Key achievements included:

Achievements in détente

DateEvent 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: powers with nuclear weapons agreed not to give any other countries nuclear technology. 1971 The US table tennis team played in China. 1971 The US dropped its veto and allowed China to join the United Nations. 1972 The US President Nixon visited China. 1972 Russia and America signed the SALT1 Treaty (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) agreeing to limit their anti-ballistic missiles and bombers. 1975 The Helsinki Agreement recognised Soviet control over Eastern Europe, concluded a trade agreement, and Russia promised to respect human rights. 1975 Russian and American spacecraft docked in space.

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Causes and events of the prague spring 2

Causes and limitations of détente

Causes of détente

  1. America was shocked by the Vietnam War and wanted to stay out of world affairs. There was also a vociferous CND movement in the West.
  2. The arms race was very expensive for both superpowers.
  3. The price of oil rocketed in the 1970s, and both superpowers experienced economic problems.

Limitations of détente

  1. The Non-Proliferation Treaty did not stop other countries developing nuclear weapons (eg China, and perhaps South Africa and Israel).
  2. Neither Russia or America kept to the SALT1 agreement. Neither side reduced their conventional weapons. Further talks were much less successful and a SALT2 Treaty in 1979 added little.
  3. In the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, America supported Israel, and Russia supported Egypt and Syria.
  4. The Helsinki Agreement achieved nothing - it confirmed the Iron Curtain and Russia ignored its promises about human rights.
  5. Table tennis and space meetings were just one-off propaganda stunts.
  6. Brezhnev said that Communists would still try to destroy capitalism. Some historians suggest that Nixon only went to China to drive a wedge between Russia and China
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The collapse of communism

The decline of Communism was not a result of American policies and the Cold War, but more to do with the problems faced by the USSR at home and abroad. This Revision Bite lists events that led to the decline and fall of Communism, and the end of the Cold War.

The end of the Cold War

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to try to prop up the communist government there, which was being attacked by Muslim Mujaheddin fighters. This immediately caused a rift with America, which boycotted the 1980 Olympics.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan became president of the USA. As a strong anti-communist, he called the Soviet Union the "evil empire" and increased spending on arms. The US military developed the neutron bomb, cruise missiles and a Star Wars defence system using space satellites.

By 1985, the Soviet Union was in trouble. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the USSR.

  • He withdrew from Afghanistan.
  • He realised that the USSR could not afford the arms race, and opened the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) with the USA. He signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.
  • He began to reform the Soviet system by allowing perestroika (competition in business) and glasnost (freedom).

As in 1956 and 1968, a relaxation by the Soviet government encouraged revolutions in Eastern Europe only this time, the USSR did not have the means or the will to impose military control.

  • Free elections held in Poland in June 1989 were won by Solidarity, originally a banned trade union, and Lech Walesa became the first non-communist president of Poland.
  • Revolutions in other Eastern European countries quickly followed - notably the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
  • In 1991, Gorbachev fell from power and the Soviet Union was dissolved.
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The collapse of communism 2

Problems facing the USSR in the 1980s

  • Afghanistan had become "Russia's Vietnam".
  • Russia could not afford the arms race.
  • The Soviet economy was backwards - factories and mines were decrepit and out of date.
  • Backward industry was causing increasing environmental problems - eg pollution, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion of 1986, and the Aral Sea dried up.
  • Many people were much poorer than the poorest people in the capitalist West - unrest about shortages was growing.
  • Crime, alcoholism and drugs were out of control in Soviet towns.
  • The Soviet system had become corrupt and out of date - instead of dealing with problems, the government just covered them up (eg Chernobyl, 1986).
  • Many people were dissatisfied with the Soviet police state and censorship.
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