The Origins of the Cold War 1945-1955

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The Yalta Conference

February 1945 - Allied leaders meet at Yalta in Ukraine.  The Big three- Churchill (Britain), Roosevelt (USA) and Stalin (USSR)

Yalta decided:

Stalin would enter the war against Japan after Germany surrendered.      
Germany into four zones- American, British, French and Soviet.  Berlin (deep in the Soviet zone) was also divided the same.       
To hunt down and punish war criminals.
Germany would hold free elections.
Big Three to join the united nations.                                                                                                                    Eastern Europe should be seen as a 'Soviet sphere of influence' as around 20 million Soviets died during the war.

Yalta Disagreements:
Poland.  Stalin wanted the border of the USSR to move westwards into Poland.  Stalin argued that poland could also move its border westwards. Churchill didnt agree but knew Stalin's Red army had control of Poland and East Germany and persuaded Roosevelt to accept it.

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The Potsdam Conference

July-August 1945-Many changes since the last conference.  Roosevelt died and was replaced by his Vice President Truman.  America had developed the Atomic Bomb.  Stalin's armies were controlling most of Eastern Europe as a 'defence measure'.

Potsdam Decided:

To demilatarise Germany.
Ban the Nazi Party:
Reperations would be paid.

Potsdam Disagreements:

Germany's future.  Stalin wanted to cripple Germany.  Truman didnt want a repeat the mistakes made in the Treaty of Versailles
Reperations.  Stalin wanted 10 billion dollars as compensation but Truman resisted this demand:
The Soviet Policy.  Truman saw Stalin setting up Pro Soviet governments and saw this as Stalin wanting to build uo an Empire.



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The Atomic Bomb

First succesful test took place on 16th July 1945.

The bomb was developed in secrecy but once Truman knew the weapon worked he began telling other leaders includong Stalin.  Stalin however had spies informing him of the bombs progress since 1942.

6th August 1945- America drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

9th August 1945- A second attack by the USA.  America drops a second Atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

The bomb was used because:

Truman wanted to warn Stalin that the Americans were powerful and shouldnt be messed with.  

America had spent 2 million dollars developin the bomb so it had to be used.

It was a fast way to end the War.

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The Iron Curtain and The Sphere of Influence

Named the Iron Curtain by Churchill-The Iron curtain stood for the border between the East and West, set up by Stalin.  It soon also became the division between comunism and capitalism.  It soon became a 1000 mile metal fence making a clear division.

What Happened to cause the Iron Curtain:

Conflicting ideologies

Stalin began spreading communsim through propaganda such as using the radio (Czechoslavakia), coalition governments (Romania, Italy) or used force if necessary (Hungary).

Cominform: Set up in 1947 as an organisation to co-ordinate all of the various governments in Eastern Europe.  It rean meetings that sent out instructions to communist governments on what the Soviet Union wanted them to do.

Comecon: Set up in 1949 to co-ordinate industries and trade of Eastern European countries.  It favoured the USSR and guarenteed i cheap suplly of raw m,aterials and forced other members to selll cheaply to the Russains.

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Greece and Turkey Conflicts

Greece: Nazis were driven out in 1944 leaving two groups.  The communists and the monarchists.  Churchill sent troops to greece in 1945 to help the Monarchists and restore order.  The king returned to power but a Civil War broke out.  Britain didnt have enough resources to help and pulled out in February 1947.  Truman faced the chance of anothe country falling to communism.

Turkey: Stalin wanted to gain Influence in Turkey.  he wanted access to the Mediterranean for Soviet Ships.  Truman was concerned that if turkey became an ally then Stalin might start spreading his influence into the Middle Eas.

The reaction from the West:

Western powers were alarmed by Stalin's sudden takeover.  Chruchill and Rooservelt thought that Russia needed communist, friendly governments but Truman only saw this as a spread of Communism.

The truman doctrine was set up after the Greece and Turkey conflicts.

The Marshall Plan was also set up to further deter communism amd offer help and assistance.

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The Truman Doctrine

March 1947-  Truman tells congress that it is America's job to stop the threat of communism.  He believed in Containment.  Truman uses this Doctrine to send a package of 400 million dollars in aid to freece and Turkey.  However, to earn support from congress he made each conflict sound like a greater threat than it actually was.  Congess agreed in 1947.

The Aims and Powers:

The aim was to stop the threat and spreading of communism.  this aim later became known as containment.

The USA was prepared to send money, materials and eqipment to any country that faced a threat from Communism.  They did this because they believed that poor conditions and unhappy citizens led to a breeding ground for Communism.

Thoughts on Containment:

Some people thought containment meant providing supplies to countries to help against a communist threat and stop communsim spreading.

Others thought Containment should have been much firmer and used military action to show that if the Soviets expanded further than their limit there would be reistance and military force stopping them.

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The Marshall Plan/ Marshall Aid

The Marshall Plan was financial aid from America to countries in Europe. 

In 1947 General George Marshall is sent to assess the economic state in Europe.  He found the economy ruined.  Shortages of raw material, food and countries in debt and full with poverty.  In other words, a breeding ground for Communism.

What Happened Next:

Marshall and Truman asked Congress for 17 billion dollars to help rebuild the economy in Europe.  Congress hesitated but when another country (czechoslavakia) turned communist in March 1948 they agreed.

Aid was given in many forms such as food, improving transportation or raw materials. 

Stalin forbade any countries in Cominform from recieving Marshall aid.  If these countries had recieved aid then it oculdve given Stalin leess control.  MArshall aid further divided West and East Europe as the living conditions in the West improved the East conditions worsened in comparison.

More tension grew between the East and the West.

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Conflicting Ideologies

The main reason for The Cold War was the conflicting ideologies of the East and the West.  The East was Communism or under the Russians communist 'sphere of influence'.  The West was Capitilist.

Communism- is having all of then money you work for going to the government and being evenly distributed.  This gives people less insentive to work however, fosters more af a 'community spirit'.  Communism had strict censorship, a one party state and all parties in elections were communist.  Land and industry id owned by the state, meaning there is no competion and less quality goods.

Capitilism- is being able to make as much money asyou want with an uneven distribution of wealth and income amongst its people. Caopitilism had more political freesom and land and industry owned by private businesses to make profit meaning some people are very rich and others very poor.

Problems Created from Conflicting Ideologies

Tensions grew more and more between the East and the West due to each others actions.  As Communism grew Capitalist countries began trying to contain the situation and prevent a further spread of communism.

This resulted in a Cold War.  Although no direct fighting occured between the thwo countries it was very tense and on several occasions close to becoming a full scale war.

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The Berlin Blockade

Why did Stalin Blockade Berlin?

1st June 1948- Britain and America merge their Berlin zones into one.  Creating Bizonia.  Soon France also merge creating a West germany. 

18th June 1948- New currency is introduced 'deutschmark'and is more valuable than the currency in East Berlin.  Tension had been building between the East and the West for a while.

Main Events of the Blockade

24th June 1948- Stalin blocks all road and railway trafficin into the western zones.  People of West Berlin now face Starvation and the Allies have to either surrender or try to deliver supplies another way.

Suring the airlift 275,000 flights have carried 1 1/2 million tons of supplies including raw materials such as coal and other resources like clothes.  On average a plane full of supplies landed every 3 minutes.  The USA stationed B-29 bombers in case of attack.  Conditions could be rough and there was only 4 hours of electricity a day.  Civillians were living on dried potatoes.

11th May 1949- The soviets lift the blockade at midnight.  Western allies continue to fly in supplies untill September in case the Russians block Berlin again.

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Formation of NATO

April 1949- After the Berlin Blockade a War between the USA and the USSR seemed likely, so western powers met up in Washington and signed an agreement (NATO) to work together.

NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Aims of NATO

The main aims of the treaty was for protection and collective security.  An attack against one member was seen as an attack against all of them.  The main reason Truman wanted an alliance with capitalist European countries was they could provide US forces secure bases in Europe.  If America had bases in Europe they could quickly counter any attack from the Soviets.

Reactions to NATO

Allies to the US such as Britain were happy to have US forces in Europe.  It guarenteed them protection from any attack Stalin could make.  however, Stalin didnt see the NATO alliance the smae way.  Soviets saw the alliance as a further technique to seperate the europe into two sides.  They also saw it as the Western side preparing for an invasion or for war.

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The Nuclear Arms Race

This was another area of the superpowers (USA and USSR) rivalry.

When the USA had dropped the atomic bomb Stalin realised that the USSR had to catch up with its rivals.  He made atomic research the top priority.  Millions was poured into research and developing the bomb.  Eventually the Russains hard work payed of and by 1949 they had also successfully created the atomic bomb.  It was the beginning of a deadly race.

Funding for the Nuclear Bombs

The USA spent 40% of its defence spending to the air force particuarly a bombing force.  Money was poured into creating more bombs and out-doing the Russians.  Whenever news of the Russians completing more bombs or further devewlpint them, America was usually worried about the increasing threat.  This earned suport to continue making bombs to create a large gap between the amount of American bombs and the amount of Russian bombs.  It was known as the bomber gap.

The bomber gap never actually existed and the Americans had far more bombs than the Russians but during the Cold War tension was high and both countries were paranoid.

During the Nuclear Arms race it was never clear who would be in the lead and who was behind as each country constantly caught up with the other.

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Korean War

The Korean war lasted from 1950-1953.

Background to the War

China became communist in 1949.  Previously to this America had given them 2 billion dollars worth of aid.  The USA saw communist countries trying to spread the 'disease' to Asia.

North Korea was communist controlled (the leader was trained in the Soviet Union) and the South Koreans were strongly Anti-communist.  In 1950 hostility became full blown war and North Korean troops invaded South Korea.

Russian and American Reactions

President Truman sent troops, advisers, resources and warships to the water around Korea.  They put pressure on the UN to condemn the North Koreans.  The UN decided to use their members forces to drive North Korean troops out of South Korea.  The chinese joined the North koreans and the American General Douglas MacArthur underestimated them.  Their soldiers were taught to hate the capitalist Americans.  However in 1951 MacArthur was removed by Truman as his way of containment was too agressive.  Peace talks began between both sides of Korea.  When Stalin died in 1953 the Chinese and North Koreans lost confidence and Truman was replaced by Eisenhower and armistice was finally signed in July 1953.

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Stalin's Death and Khrushchev

Stalin died in 1953 and many people viewed him as a hero who made the USSR a superpower and defeated Hitler.

The new leader Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev emerged by 1955 and was different to Stalin.  He ended Russias feuds with Chinaand Yugoslavia.  His new approach brought a 'thaw' in the Cold War relations.  He talked about peaceful co-existence with the West.  He relaxed the iron control the Soviets had of Eastern Europe and closed Cominform.


Khrushchevmade an attack on Stalinb in one of his speeches in 1956 labelling him a wicked tyrant.  He called him an enemy of the people and someone who kept power top himself.  Khrushchev began a programme of De-Stalinisation this include:

Releasing political prisoners.

Inviting Marshal Tito to Moscow.

Dismissing Molotov (Foreign Minister during Stalins time as Leader).

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The Warsaw Pact

In 1955 the Soviet Union set up the Warsaw Pact.

The warsaw pact was a military alliance and a response to the West's alliance was set up because of the 'threat' posed by the West.  The Warsaw pact was meant to be a defensive alliance but many saw it as yet another way to control Eastern Europe. 

Signing the Pact

Initially 8 Eastern countries signed.

These countries all were in locations that were easily accessible to the Soviets meaning it was easy to transer forces and weapons to their locations.

Once signed countries had to follow orders from  Moscow who dominated the majority of Eastern Europe.  The countries would defend each other against any attack, much like the alliance NATO created.

Many of the countries that joined had no choice as they were trapped under the sphere of influence or leaders against communism had been replaced by communist leaders trained in Russia.

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