Cold War Origins Revision Notes


The Origins of the Cold War 1945-1949


  • Roosevelt 1945 / Truman 1945-53
  • Stalin
  • Churchill 1945 / Attlee 1945-51
  • 1945 - US drops first Atom bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Does not tell her ally the SU. Stalin assumes it is in part to intimidate the SU but refuses to be intimidated.
  • 1945 - Failure of Baruch Plan to limit nuclear weapons
  • 1949 - SU develops its own atom bomb.
  1. Long Term Causes of Cold War

Russian Revolution 1917

  • Some historians trace the beginning of the Cold War to the Russian Revolution of 1917, led to first socialist state being established. 
  • West viewed this with fear as it seemed to represent a threat to capitalism, liberalism and democracy.

Russian Civil War 1918-21

  • ‘Whites’ wanted to topple newly established socialist state. USA supported the ‘whites’.
  • West also upset by Lenin’s decision to pull Russia out of WWI in 1917.
  • Bolsheviks won the war, tensions remained with the West.

War Debts

  • Soviets refused to pay war debts from WWI, saw the war as imperialist war, imperialism being what they’re ideologically opposed to.

The Comintern 1919

  • Comintern, set up by communist groups to spread communism, goal of Marxism-Leninism.
  • Stalin scrapped this in 1943, in favour of “communism in one country”.
  • USA remained fearful Soviets would try to undermine them and spread revolution still.

The Red Scare 1919

  • No significant left-wing party in US before American Communist Society founded, caused a ‘Red Scare’ across the US.
  • January 1920, 6,000 suspected communists were arrested and imprisoned, many deported.

Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939

  • August 1939, Stalin signed pact with Hitler, guaranteeing that neither would invade each other.
  • Other countries followed appeasement too.
  • USA saw this pact as the work of two similar dictators.


2.The Collapse of the Grand Alliance

The alliance between Britain, the US and the USSR was a ‘marriage of convenience’. 

Tehran Conference - 1943

Roosevelt, Stalin & Churchill


  • Soviets would have influence over Eastern Poland.
  • Poland has part of Germany, makes Germany smaller, doesn't want to lose Polish buffer zone.
  • Poland have no choice, Churchill had positive relation with Stalin.

Problems which contributed to causing CW:

  • Roosevelt neither agreed nor disagreed.
  • Stalin bugged the rooms (later this was found out by Churchill and Roosevelt).
  • No 2nd Front.

Moscow Conference - 1944

Stalin and Churchill


  • The Percentages Agreement
  • Greece = 50% each
  • Yugoslavia = 50% each 
  • Hungary = 50% each
  • Romania = 10% West, 90% USSR.
  • Bulgaria = 25% West, 75% USSR.
  • Stalin was pleased with this deal - kept the buffer zone.

Problems which contributed to causing CW:

  • No US involvement in making the deal.
  • Apparently Roosevelt ‘nodded’ but no verbal agreement  - Roosevelt was ambiguous.
  • Notion of Percentage influence is unclear in actual post-war terms.

Yalta Conference - 1945

Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill


  • Lay foundations of peace.
  • Each part allocated a zone including a section of Berlin.
  • Poland’s Eastern border would run along the Cur-zone line.
  • Re-Organise the provisional government by including democrats from Berlin and the London gov into


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