Origins of the Cold War

Some revision cards on the Cold War.


Cold War Revision Notes


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Communism vs. Capitalism


  • One Party Dictatorship
  • Industry and Land owned by the Government
  • Government controlled all aspects of people's lives
  • Profits went to the workers, instead of private investors
  • Secret Police kept peace and eliminated anti-communists


  • A Democratic Government
  • Wealthy investors employed workforce and kept most of the profits
  • Free of Government control, eg. Freedom of Speech
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Origins of the Cold War

Origins of the Cold War

After Germany had surrendured in World War Two, Stalin (USSR's Leader) sent the Red Army (USSR's Army) to occupy all the countries that Germany had previously occupied - like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany itself. Although this was meant to be temporary, Stalin had no intentions of removing these forces - instead, he wanted to keep contol of these Eastern countries and transform the into a 'Buffer zone' - satellite states that would act as a warning system if the communist USSR ever came under attack from the Capitalist West.

Roosevelt (American President) and Churchill (British Prime Minister) both wanted Stalin to remove his forces so that Democratic elections could take place in these Eastern Europe countries. Also, once Stalin announced his plans, neither leader wanted to have a strong communist opponent in the East.

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Yalta Conference

Yalta Conference


The Big Three - Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill - met in Yalta for a conference to try and settle the disputes over control of Eastern Europe. Stalin wanted to make these into 'satellite states' for the USSR, but the USA and Britain wanted to have democratic elections in these countries. At this time Hitler was still alive and the Germans had not yet surrendured.

By the end of the Conference, they had agreed:

  • Stalin would enter the ongoing war in Japan
  • Germany and Berlin would be divided in to four parts each - one for the French, one for the British, one for the Soviets, and one for the Americans.
  • Nazi War Criminals would be hunted down and punished for their crimes.
  • The Eastern Europe countries occupied by Soviet forces would have democratic elections (which Stalin rigged and prevented from happening)
  • Eastern Europe would also become a Soviet 'sphere of influence'.
  • Poland's borders were extended into Germany, although the USA disagreed.
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Potsdam Conference

Potsdam Conference

JULY 1945

By this time, Hitler had committed suicide and Germany had surrendured. The Red Army had occupied Eastern Europe, Roosevelt had died and the Atomic Bomb had been successfully tested by the USA. This was huge, especially to Stalin. Replacing Roosevelt was Truman, an anti-communist. Also, Chruchill attended the Conference but was replaced by Atlee after he was voted out of power in Britain.

They confirmed that the decisions made at Yalta were still standing, but they disgreed about some decisions:

  • Stalin wanted to cripple Germany but Truman didn't want another Treaty of Versailles where the Germans would want revenge.
  • Reparations - the USSR had lost over 20 million Russians and said they deserved compensation, but again Truman disagreed.
  • The free elections had not taken place and Truman was angry about this.
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Iron Curtain Speech

'Iron Curtain' Speech

MARCH 1946

By 1946 it was clear that the friendship between the Big Three had broken down, after the leaders had walked out on Potsdam on disagreements over Eastern Europe. In March 1946 Churchill, no longer British Prime Minister, voiced his fears of communism spreading in his famous 'Iron Curtain' speech. He said that " Iron Curtain has descended across the continent".

This speech only widened the rift between East and West. Stalin denounced Churchill as an "inflammatory warmonger", although the Americans were becoming increasingly worried about the Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe and felt they needed to respond - and so, Truman released the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

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The Truman Doctrine

The Truman Doctrine

MARCH 1947

A year later, President Truman made a speech that was to determine the American Foreign Policy for the next 25 years. In Greece, the communist revolutionaries had tried to take control, and this created th Greek Civil War. Britain was running out of resources to supply the anit-communist Greek government, so the USA wouldhave to step in if they wanted to sop the communists from taking over. In response to the announcing of the withdrawal of British troops from Greece, Truman told the Congress that:

"It must be the policy of the United States to support the free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities... If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world."

This speech showed the USA to be the 'policeman of the world' and showed Truman's policy of Containment - to stop Communism from spreading, through the Domino Effect.

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The Marshall Plan

The Marshall Plan

MARCH 1948

Marshall Aid was a plan made to stop Communism from spreading, following the US policy of Containment - the Truman Doctrine put into practice. The US Secretary of State, General Marshall, originally came up with the plan to support Europe with money to help their economies recover after World War Two - and at the same time, to unite all European countries against the USSR. He suggested to the American Congress that about $17 billion would be needed to rebuild Europe. It was offered to every country in Europe - even the Communist countries.

The USA hoped this would reduce trade with the USSR and spread American influence, eventually leading to a split among the communist states to bring them under American control, and to stop Communism spreading from the USSR.

When Stalin caught wind of this, he refused Marshall Aid for the USSR and the Satellite States to prove a point - while losing out on billions of dollars - because he saw it as a Capitalist attempt to undermine Communism.

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The Berlin Blockade

The Berlin Blockade

APRIL 1948 - MAY 1949

By 1948, with the help of Marshall Aid, the Western Capitalist zones were recovering economically, and plans had been made for a new currency and constitution for West Germany. Stalin was furious. He did not want any part of Germany rebuilt, especially under US influence. He became increasingly concerned with the development in West Berlin, as it was starting to attract the East Berlin's inhabitants, and he was embarrassed by the poverty of East Berlin compared to the beacon of West Berlin, and even though he could not stop the Capitalists from developing West Berlin, he could stop the Capitalists from taking Berlin - by forcing them out. On the 1st April 1948, the Soviet Military started to blockade Berlin, preventing any US or British supplies from reaching the West Berlin inhabitants.

However, The US knew that Stalin could not risk a war so they started to airlift supplies into Berlin. Stalin could do nothing, so in May 1949, he backed down and supplies came through to West Berlin.

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NATO and the Warsaw Pact

NATO and the Warsaw Pact

1949 and 1955

As a response to Stalin's actions over Berlin, the Western powers met in Washington in 1949, and signed an agreement called the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO. This was a military alliance with 13 members including the USA and Britain that meant if one country was attacked [by communists] then all of the others would immediately protect and support it. It was exclusive to Capitalist Western countries.

In response to the formation of NATO, Stalin formed a military alliance known as the Warsaw Pact in 1955 (six years after NATO was formed). This was exclusive to the communist countries, and was basically the communist version of NATO.

The formation of alliances increased the tension between the two countries, and there was now physical evidence that the 'Iron Curtain' Churchill spoke of is, in fact, a reality.

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