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Content Overview

Unit 8: c. 1900-Present

The Cold War

Summary: The Cold War was a political conflict between the US & USSR where the US sought to promote capitalism & the USSR sought to promote communism throughout the world. It is called the "Cold" war since there was no direct fighting between the US & USSR

Start of the Cold War

Initial Developments

Western Bloc

Eastern Bloc

US + all Western European capitalist states

USSR + Central/Eastern European communist states


Warsaw Pact

A military alliance of capialist states (US + Western Europe)

A military alliance of communist states (USSR + Central/Eastern Europe)

Marshall Plan


An economic plan where the US gave $15 billion to help economically recover Western European nations

An economic plan implemented by the USSR meant to economically develop the Eastern Bloc

Divided Germany & Berlin Blockade/Airlift

According to the Yalta Compromise (1945), Germany would be divided among US, Britain, France, and USSR. Berlin (entirely in USSR's zone) was also divided into 4

US, Britain, and France combined their holdings into a unified capitalist West Germany, while USSR's zone became the communist East Germany

West Berlin was owned by West Germany but surrounded entirely by East Germany → USSR blockaded West Berlin from the rest of West Germany (June 1948)

The Western Bloc powers had to airlift food & supplies to the people of West Berlin (until May 1949 when USSR stopped the blockade)

The Middle of the Cold War

Nuclear Arms Race

The US & USSR competed with each other over developing nuclear weapons. The US developed its first nuclear bomb in 1945, and the USSR did so in 1949 through knowledge from American spies. Both sides kept developing nuclear weapons in case the other side started a nuclear war. 

Space Race

US & USSR competed with each other to reach the moon. In 1957, USSR launched the world's first satellite, Sputnik. US soon followed. In 1961, USSR sent the world's first man to orbit the earth, and the US soon followed. However, the US was the 1st to send a man to the moon (Neil Armstrong, 1969), causing US to win the space race. 

Proxy Wars

Korean War

War between Communist North Korea & Democratic South Korea → Ceasefire

Vietnam War

War between Communist North Vietnam & Democratic South Vietnam → North Vietnam reunited Vietnam under communist government

Nicaraguan Contra Conflict

Conflict between Nicaraguan Anti-US Sandinista Front & Pro-US Contras → Contras won in 1990

Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

USSR developed nuclear missile testing sites in Cuba → US got the USSR to stop

The End of the Cold War

Developments Near End of Cold War


Khrushchev took over after Stalin's death (1953) & removed the effects of Stalin's cruel rule → More peaceful society


Cold War & Nuclear Arms Race was straining USSR's economy → Detente was a reduction in Cold War tensions

Prague Spring (1968)

An effort by Czechoslovakia's leaders to give more civil rights to its citizens (after many anti-communist protests)

Brezhnev Doctrine (1968)

Allows USSR's army to intervene in any East Bloc nation where the communist gov is threatened; Made in response to Prague Spring (1968)

End of East Bloc Nations

The Cold War (and the nuclear arms race) was straining USSR's economy. USSR's communist economic structure couldn't manage its Cold War economy (As it had to supply for its citizens and compete with the US for nuclear weapons & other things). It was evident that the East Bloc was collapsing

Sinatra Doctrine (1989)

It was evident that East Bloc was collapsing & Cold War was ending → This doctrine allowed East Bloc nations to choose their own government

Effects of Sinatra Doctrine

All former East Bloc nations replaced their communist government with a democratic government

Fall of Berlin Wall (1989)

Many East Germans went to West Germany through neighboring countries → It was evident that Cold War was ending → Berlin Wall was removed

Reunification of Germany (1990)

After Berlin Wall was taken down, negotiations to reunite Germany under a democratic gov were underway

Fall of USSR

Because of the developments described in the above section & the USSR's declining economy, the USSR enacted many reforms to try to keep itself alive. The following reasons are the 3 main reasons for USSR's fall

USSR's Invasion of Afghanistan (1979-90)

USSR wanted control of Afghanistan → Invaded it in 1979 → Huge failure, causing USSR to lose lots of resources

Perestroika Reform

Introduce capitalist reforms into USSR's communist economy → Failed as people hated sudden transition to capitalism

Glasnost Reform

Promoted more openness (& less censorship) of info in USSR → Allowed many people to openly criticize USSR

Due to the 3 above failures, the USSR fell in Dec 1991. All 7 East Bloc nations had adopted a democratic government. All 14 provinces of the USSR had created their own nations

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