Origins of the Cold War


Ideologies: USA

- Capitalist.

- Democratic government.

- The government was chosen by the people in free elections.

- Industry, property, and business were run and owned by individuals.

- The rights and freedoms of individuals were more important than the good of society.

- Many Americans feared communism and thought it threatened their way of life.

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Ideologies: USSR

- Communist.

- One party state.

- Industry, property, and business were all state-owned and controlled.

- The rights and freedoms of individuals were less important than equality and the good of society.

- There were many restrictions on rights and freedom.

- Many were opposed to capitalism.

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The Yalta Conference

- 4-11 February 1945

- Attended by the 'big three' of the allied forces- Winston Churchill (Britain), Franklin D Roosevelt (USA), and Joseph Stalin (USSR).

Key agreements:

- Germany and Berlin were to be divided into four zones, for each of the allied forces: Britain, France, USA, and USSR.

- The liberated countries of Western and Central Europe would be allowed free elections.

- United Nations would be formed to replace the old League of Nations and ensure future international co-operation.

- The Declaration of Liberated Europe was signed.

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The Potsdam Conference

- 17 July- 2 August 1945.

- Joesph Stalin (USSR), Harry S Truman (USA), and Clement Attlee (Britain).


- Germany and Berlin was to be divided as discussed at Yalta. 

- The Nazi party was to be banned and former party leaders were to be tried as war criminals.

- Germans living in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia would be sent back to Germany.

- Poland was to lose territory to the USSR.

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The Truman Doctrine 1947

What?: America's response to the 'growing communist threat'.

- Part of Truman's policy of containment (stop  the spread of communism in Greece and Turkey)

- $400 million in aid, i.e. money and goods.

- A response to on-going events in Europe.


- Prevent the increase of Soviet influence and the spread of communism.

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The Marshall Plan 1947


1) The Creation of a market for American goods to boost the US economy.

2) To aid the economic recovery of Europe.

3) To promote unity in Europe to stop the spread of communism.


- A plan of financial aid which aimed to provide economic support to post-war Europe to prevent the spread of communism.

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The Marshall Plan 1947


- Offered to the entirety of Europe (including the communist east), it was America's interest for the whole continent to recover economically and there were also political benefits.

How much?

- $17 billion by 1953.

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The Marshall Plan 1947

Unsuccessful aspects?

- United the communist countries of Eastern Europe and took them closer to Moscow, this further divided Europe and established the Iron Curtain.

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Cominform 1947 and Comecon 1949

Cominform: The Communist Information Bureau

- Co-ordinated the countries of Eastern Europe.

- Office moved from Yugoslavia to Romania when Yugoslavia wouldn't obey Stalin.

- Ran meetings to instruct communist government as to what they had to do.

Comecon: Council for Economic Assistance

- Co-ordinated industry and trade from Eastern Europe.

- Trade with each other and not the west.

- Favored soviet produced goods and guaranteed a cheap supply of raw materials for the USSR.

- Set up the bank for Socialist countries.

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The Atom Bomb 1945


  • To bring an end to the Japanese war and save American lives.

- Japan refused to surrender- dishonorable.

-  Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour caused a significant loss of life.

- America hoped it would end the Japanise war by forcing Japan into surrender.

  • Revenge 

- Cruel treatment of American war prisoners in Burma and Thailand.

- Forced labour on the Burma Railway.

- Starved + forced to live in disease-ridden communities.

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The Atom Bomb 1945


  • US power display.

- USA was the first to develop an effective Atom Bomb.

- Demonstrating the power of the bomb would send out a powerful warning to other countries, such as the USSR.

- USA's way of expressing their superiority over their cold war rival

- Prevent the Soviets taking over territory in the Far East as they had in Eastern Europe with the Red Army.

  • Justify expenditure.

- The development of the bomb employed over 130,000 and cost almost $2 billion.

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The Atom Bomb 1945


- First bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945.

- Plane carrying the bomb was called the Anola Gay.

- The plane was piloted by Colonel Tibbets.

- Codenamed the 'Little Boy'.


- Second Bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

- Codenamed the 'Fat Man'.

- Bomb exploded 570 metres off the ground and created a wind speed of 980 mph which ripped through buildings.

- Different from a conventional bomb because the atom bomb gave off radiation and the temperature at explosion was around 300,000*C

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The Atom Bomb 1945


  • Increased tensions between superpowers.

- The atom bomb had been developed in secrecy ( although Stalin's spies had been keeping him informed since 1942).

- Truman hadn't informed Stalin that he was going to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

  • Significant loss of life.

- Hiroshima: 80,000 people were killed and 70,000 suffered effects of radiation for months/years after.

- Nagasaki: 40,000 were killed

- People within half a square mile of the epicenter died within seconds.

- Many people suffered horrific scars from radiation burns. 

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The Atom Bomb 1945


  • Led to the end of ww2

- USA threatened to drop a third bomb.

- Japan surrendered 15th August 1945.

  • Start of the Arms Race + the USA was in the lead.

- USSR was fearful and in a weaker position as they had not yet developed an atom bomb.

- The USSR started atomic research, starting the Arms Race.

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Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe 1945-49

Reasons for Soviet Expansion?

  • Victory for Soviet communism.

- Soviets felt that they had made the most important contribution to the war effort + believed they had 'taken the heart out of the German army'.

- Believed that they had largely won the war (10 million Germans died on the eastern front) and therefore had the right to shape the future of Eastern Europe.

- Thought the victory was proof that communism worked.

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Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe 1945-49

  • Soviet Sacrifice.

- The USSR had suffered a greater loss than the other allies, around 25 million soldiers and civilians died.

- Stalin was determined to prevent this great of a loss again.

  • US imperialism. 

- Soviets believed that the USA was trying to create a new kind of empire by buying companies in other countries and selling American goods .

- Believed that this way Americans wuld be able to conquer new lands without force and agression.

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Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe 1945-49

Western views of Soviet expansion

  • The West was alarmed.

- Britain + France accepted that the USSR would have some influence in Eastern Europe, but they did not expect complete communist domination.

- Truman saw this as communism spreading.

What was the Iron Curtain?

- Iron Curtain was a metaphor used by Winston Churchill in a speech to describe the border between Capitalist and Communist countries. 

- By 1946 Europe was clearly divided.

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Berlin Blockade and Airlift 1948

Germany was a major source of tension; Stalin feared a recovering Germany and wanted to keep Germany crippled. However, Birtain, France, and the USA realised that Germany would not be able to feed it's people if it wasn't able to rebuild it's economy.

Allied action

- In 1948 Britain, France and the USA combined their zones to form Western Germany.

- Reformed the currency - within months there were signs of recovery.

Stalin's response

- Thought the allies were being provocative but he could do nothing about the reformation of the western zones or the new currency but he believed he could command his authority over Berlin since it was a part of his zone.

- June 1948 Stalin blocked all supply lines, cutting off the 2 million strong population of West Berlin.

- He believed that he could force the allies out of Berlin completely by cutting Berlin off.

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Berlin Blockade and Airlift 1948

Airlift motivations

- USA was not willing to give up West Berlin and viewed the Blockade as a test - if they surrendered to Stalin on this issue, the Western zones could've been next.

- Truman wanted to prove that he was serious about his policy of containment.

- He wanted Berlin to be a symbol of freedom behind the Iron Curtain.

- HOWEVER, he couldn't use tanks to knock down the road and rail blocks because it would be an act of war and no country wanted to start another war - the only solution was the air.

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Berlin Blockade and Airlift 1948

The Airlift

- June 23, 1948, the allies decided to airlift supplies into West Berlin.

- There was fear that the Soviets would shoot at the planes but no shots were fired (as it would have been an act of war).

- Planes were bringing in everything from food to materials.

- Britain and the USA were flying in supplies via three air corridors.

- 79 British and American pilots died in accidents.

- Supplies were slow at first but by September a plane was landing every three minutes.

- It was clear that the Allies would not give up Berlin so Stalin re-opened communications.

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Berlin Blockade and Airlift 1948


- Ended all ill relations between the West Berliners and the Americans.

- Ended any hoped for a united Germany, East Germany, and West Germany.

- Set a pattern for future events - threats not war.

- Resulted in the formation of NATO.

- West Berlin became a showcase for capitalism in a Soviet zone.

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The Yalta Conference


- Poland's government: The big three disagreed about who should the power in the country.

- The Soviets were determined to keep their influence in Poland with a communist government. 

- Part of the 'Soviet buffer zone'.

- Americans + Brits wanted the old Polish Government to regain power. 

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The Potsdam Conference


- Stalin wanted to crush Germany, Truman and Attlee didn't want to repeat the mistake of the Treaty of Versailles which caused the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

- Stalin wanted Germany to pay huge reparations to the USSR, Truman and Attlee opposed this.

Eastern Europe: Attlee and Truman wanted the Eastern European countries to be independent and hold free elections. Almost all of Eastern Europe was occupied by the Red Army (with the exception of Greece and Yugoslavia) but with the war in Japan, the Allies couldn't afford to fall out- Truman and Attlee had to accept that communist governments were in control in Eastern European countries.

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The Truman Doctrine 1947


- Civil war between communists and monarchists.

- Britain had been giving the monarchists financial and military aid but withdrew after ww2 financial difficulty.

- USA wanted Greece to remain in the western sphere of influence.


- If Soviet control spread to Turkey, communists would gain access to the Mediterranean sea and the Middle East.

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The Marshall Plan


- Restore the European economies.

- To stop the spread of communism (Truman's policy of containment).

- America could benefit: 

- Create strong trade links with European countries.

- Funding from Marshall aid would be spent on American made goods (requirement, in order to receive aid.

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The Marshall Plan


- Played a vital role in the recovery of Western Europe.

- Allowed countries to recover faster than would have been possible without aid.

- Showed that the USA was willing to commit to involvement in Europe long term.

- Communist party lost support and popularity but remained active.

- Brought unity to Western Europe.

- Benefited the American economy: the USA now had prosperous countries to trade with.

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Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe

  • Soviet strategic thinking.

- Germany attacked the USSR through Poland in 1914 and 1941. 

- To prevent further invasion through Poland, Stalin wanted control over Poland and other Eastern European countries to create a Soviet 'buffer zone' to protect the USSR from further attack. 

- Stalin also believed that if the Eastern European countries were independent that they would be anti-USSR and anti-communist.

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