§1 What was the Cold War?
The Cold War was a conflict between the USSR and the USA and its allies. The two superpowers never declared war on each other, although there were indirect conflicts where they supported rival sides. The superpowers engaged in every means of rivalry and competition short of violence. There were several key elements to the Cold War:
• Ideological conflict; rivalry between authoritarian and democratic systems
• Economic rivalry; between capitalist and socialist systems
• Arms race; competition to build the most powerful military especially over nuclear weapons
• A war of espionage and propaganda
§2 What was the USSR?
The USSR was one of the results of the Russian revolution in 1917. The Russian tsar at the time Nicholas the second was overthrown and this lay an end to the rule of the Romanovs and tsars in Russia. This was done in two movements.
Firstly, the tsar was overthrown, after this a head of state (Alexander Kerensky) was appointed, shortly before being overthrown by the Bolsheviks.
The people had stood up against the power because they believed that at the time, only the rich could use the benefits of the country. A primary example of the benefits is education. That is how the idea of Carl Marx, of power shared between the population spread around firstly, throughout the country, and afterwards influencing other countries as well. The USSR’s power kept on spreading through the invasion of their near states, until its influence had reached Western Germany.
You can find more information about the USSR, its formation and communism following this link:
§3 Life in the USSR
There were a lot of achievements that the country had been very proud of, such as: the first country that had been in space. The people got on very well with each other, living very friendly and social lives. They had believed that the medicine and education were at very high levels. There was a strong temptation of hearing about the life on the other side as the population of the USSR was isolated from the rest of the world. This was confirmed as massive queues were formed when something from the rest of the world had been brought to the USSR. This could have been achieved by listening to the “Voice of America”, although this was very difficult. It was the duty of every person to work, and those who were caught not working, were ashamed and were forced into working. The majority of the country had been happy with their lives and country.
§4 When and why did the Cold War start?
After World War II, USSR and USA were the two superpowers of the world. Countries such as Britain, France, etc. that could have contested for that role were heavily damaged in the second world war. Both countries wanted the world to be influenced by them, their beliefs, ideas, and their politics. In the 1930s, America had followed a policy of isolation, meaning that they didn’t get involved in anything that Europe was doing and although they didn’t like communism, they never got involved, but by the 1940s, president Roosevelt had decided that every Communist move would meet an American reaction and it was their duty to prevent communism from spreading.
§5 Early developments in the Cold War, 1945–49
Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe
The Yalta Conference.
In 1945 when it was clear that Germany was losing the war, the allied leaders (Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill) had met. They had agreed on most things such as: holding governmental elections, USSR would enter the Japan war, Germany and Berlin would be divided into four parts (USA, USSR, UK, France), etc. But they mainly disagreed only on one topic; that was Poland, Stalin wanted to expand his border into Eastern Europe and arguing that Poland instead could expand their border into Eastern Germany. Both Roosevelt and Churchill couldn’t do much about this and they had accepted this while Stalin had agreed not to intervene with Britain trying to fight Communism in Greece.
§6 Post Yalta Conference
After this conference Stalin had taken over most of Eastern Europe. He insisted that this was only done for safety purposes, as he was scared for history to repeat, where the USSR's enemies entered through those countries. By 1946, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania all had communist governments. This was clearly angering the other two allies and building up tension between the countries, as they believed the true reason behind this take over was to spread their influence over the world.
§7 The 'Iron Curtain'
The iron curtain was a name for the border between the USSR and Europe. This meant, that not a lot of people could cross the border to Europe, everything that was produced, was produced in the USSR, as there was no trade between countries. The iron curtain completely shut out the USSR from Western Europe, this was another pressure point in the relation of the countries.
§8 The Truman Doctrine
The Truman Doctrine was a plan against communism. When a country was in threat of being invaded by the communists, America was ready to send advice, money, equipment and any help the country needed. This plan was made to make sure that communism did not spread after it had taken over Eastern Europe.
§9 The Marshall Plan and Aid
Truman (the new American president) believed that communism succeeded when people faced poverty and suffering. He sent General Marshall to investigate the economic state of Europe, and what he found out was shocking. The economy was in ruins. Europe needed 17 billion dollars to rebuild their countries, get their economies restarted, and to achieve peace and they already owed 11.5 billion to USA.
USA had agreed to help which was thought very generous of them, but it was also profitable for them, because they wanted to develop an American market in Europe, and this only helped them. Stalin was suspicious about this plan and didn’t allow any of the Eastern Europe to apply for Marshall aid.
USA had given out over 12 billion $ which is equivalent to 100 billion $ in the current world. The aim of the US was to rebuild areas that had been damaged by the war, and improve them in any way possible, so that they could stand up against Communist invasions and were able to show that their system of ruling was better than their enemy’s.
§10 Cominform and Comecon.
The Cominform was not a party or a physical sort of power, it was a newspaper that aimed to help coordinate and advise communist states in actions, by the Soviets. It had spread propaganda to the Soviet population about the good deed of communism, and the wrongdoing of its enemies.
The Comecon was an economical organization, that helped communist countries develop their economies. It was a response to the Marshall plan. The comecon had been started in 1949. USSR would advise countries in the organization about their economical state and what they could do to improve it.
§11 The Berlin Blockade
This was a very significant attribute to the start of the Cold War.
After World War 2, both Germany and Berlin were divided into four sectors (USSR, USA, France and UK). The geographic problem that had occurred was the whole of Berlin being located deeply in the Soviet zone.
The Western Germany had been developing rapidly and there wasn’t really anything that the Soviets could come up with to prevent this from happening. Stalin wanted to use the geographical advantage he had, and had come up with a cunning plan.
He had decided to block all the possible routes of transport from Western Germany to Berlin, therefore, preventing Berlin from receiving any type of aid from the Western side. The outcome that this plan wanted to achieve was the Western powers abandoning Berlin. But if they had decided to fight back, by freeing the blocked routes with force, it would be seen as an act of war.
USA did not want to give up, nor did they want to start another war, after having just fought WW2. They wanted Berlin and Germany to be direct contrasts between democracy and communism.
So, they had come up with the Berlin Airlift. This meant that all of the supplies that were needed (starting from building materials and ending up with food) for the Western side of Berlin, were carried over by planes. It was expected that the USSR would start shooting down these planes, but they had opted not to. After 10 months all the routes were opened up again.
This act had made
• The setting up of NATO and the creation of two Germanys: The Federal Republic (FRG) and the Democratic Republic (GDR).
In April 1949 while the German blockade was happening, the Western powers met and had agreed to form NATO (North Atlantic treaty organisation), meaning that they would work together. They would protect together any country that would be invaded. This was a defensive pact. Even though the USSR were not terribly happy about this pact, they had not answered back. In 1955 when West Germany had joined Nato, USSR decided to take action. To contradict this USSR formed the Warsaw Pact, between the USSR, Poland, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, Ugoslavia agreeing that they would also help each other but they would not get involved in each other’s politics.
written by Rafael Karapetyan.