Cold War

The Cold War is the term used to define the period between the end of World War II in 1945 and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in 1991.The protatgonists in the Cold War were the West, led by the United States, and the eastern bloc, led by the Soviet Union. The name refers to the fact that the two sides did not fight each other directly because of their fear of the consequences of an escalation to nuclear war. However, they spent nearly 50 years in opposition, often represented by these Super Powers' sponsorship of other conflicts around the world, and their exchange of threats and constant hostility towards each other.

According to some, the beginning of the Cold War was between 1945 and 1948, while the end was in 1989, with the dispute being over the way Europe was divided. Others historians trace the start of the Cold War to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 and its end in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of a conflict between democracy and communism.

Bernard Baruch, senior advisor of U.S. President Harry Truman, was the first to use the term "Cold War," in 1947, referring to the frequent and deepening crises between the United States and the Soviet Union, in spite of their alliance against Germany in World War II. The term was popularized by the 1947 book of the same title by American columnist Walter Lippmann. However, the term is believed to have been used before that.

This passive-aggressive conflict between the sides is said by some historians to have developed after the revolutionary Bolshevik regime emerged in Russia with the aim to spread communism throughout the industrialized world. The United States fought together with Great Britain against the Bolsheviks between 1918 and 1920, unsuccessfully. In the following 20 years the diplomatic relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States was distrustful and unstable. Following the attack by Hitler's Germany on the Russian front in June 1941, the Americans, who were yet to enter World War II, and the Soviets played down their differences and allied against the Nazis.

This uneasy alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States was fragile even before the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, and set the stage for the struggle between the two sides as they fought for global influence and supremacy.

During the Cold War, the world was separated into three groups. The West was led by the United States and included countries with democratic political systems. The Soviet Union led the eastern bloc, which included countries under Soviet occupation at the end of World War II, where communist political systems were imposed. Non-aligned countries were those not wanting to be tied to either the East or the West.

By 1960, the two sides had invested heavily in nuclear weapons, as a theory of "mutually assured destruction," took shape. Both sides wanted to maintain parity with the other's nuclear stockpile, the prospect of what the use of those weapons might cause providing what was seen as the ultimate deterrent of their use. Both sides looked to position nuclear weapons closer to each other's borders as they became more prolific. In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the result of such a move by the Soviet Union, as they sought to install nuclear weapons on a client state in the Caribbean. This was the closest the sides came to a large-scale nuclear exchange.

The decades-long conflict also marked a phase in social history. The development of mass media, television and film in particular, and their use by the governments in the Soviet Union and the United States to shape public attitudes, was what made the Cold War possible. The growth of an educated middle class in the Soviet bloc was also an important aspect of this phase in history.

The beginning of the end of the Cold War is said to be in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, or in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, with many American conservatives claiming this marked a victory for the West and the United States in particular.

Cold War: Selected full-text books and articles

The Cold War: A Post-Cold War History By Ralph B. Levering Harlan Davidson, 2005
Hollywood's Cold War By Tony Shaw Edinburgh University Press, 2007
A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev By Vladislav M. Zubok University of North Carolina Press, 2007
Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989 By Svetlana Savranskaya; Thomas Blanton; Vladislav Zubok; Anna Melyakova Central European University Press, 2010
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Why the Cold War Ended: A Range of Interpretations By Ralph Summy; Michael E. Salla Greenwood Press, 1995
We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History By John Lewis Gaddis Oxford University Press, 1998
The Cold War, 1945-1991 By John W. Mason Routledge, 1996
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