The Cold War: Tension, Superpowers, and Proxy Wars

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The Cold War was a long period of tension between the democracies of the Western World and the communist countries of Eastern Europe. The West was led by the United States and Eastern Europe was led by the Soviet Union. These two countries became known as superpowers. Although the two superpowers never officially declared war on each other, they fought indirectly in proxy wars, the arms race, and the space race.

The Iron Curtain and Germany

It was to divide Germany. The Western zone was controlled by the USA, Britain, and France, and the Eastern zone by the USSR. Stalin blocked the Allied zone, and the Americans sent resources by air.

Space Race Milestones

  • Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon on July 20, 1969
  • Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space in April 1961
  • John Glenn was the first American in orbit in February 1962
  • Laika was a Soviet space dog who became the first living terrestrial being to orbit the Earth. She did it aboard the Soviet Sputnik 2 spacecraft on November 3, 1957, a month after the Sputnik 1 satellite. She was also the first animal to die in orbit

Block Politics in Eastern Europe

  • Parts of Eastern Europe were annexed to the USSR, adopting the politics of the Russian Bear: leadership of one party, Communist, and a nationalized economy without private property. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and part of Poland and Romania.
  • Western Europe maintained a system of parliamentary liberal democracy, with political parties and a capitalist economy.

The Red Telephone System and the Korean War

  • The Red Telephone system was created in 1963. It allowed communication between the Kremlin and the White House
  • Korea was divided in the Potsdam agreements: the South was capitalist, and the North communist. In 1950, the North attacked the South and the USA intervened (Korean War)

The Arms Race and Cuban Revolution

  • In 1949, the United States decided to strengthen its military position by creating a mutual defense alliance: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In 1955, the Soviet bloc created an opposing alliance through the Warsaw Pact, which was signed by the USSR and all the communist countries in Europe except Yugoslavia.
  • The discovery of nuclear fission and its military use in the form of the atomic bomb played a key role. This instability became known as the balance of terror because both parties knew that the nuclear war could happen at any time. This phrase refers to the arms race.
  • Fidel Castro established a communist regime after the Cuban revolution.

The Vietnam War and the United Nations

  • Vietnam was divided into two parts: North Vietnam (communist) with the capital in Hanoi, and South Vietnam (capitalist) with the capital in Saigon. The USA intervened in the conflict between the two because of the Truman Doctrine.

The Failure of the League of Nations and the Birth of the United Nations

After World War I, the nations of the world formed the League of Nations. This organization was a place where nations could talk through their differences calmly. However, some countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan ignored the League and tried to solve their problems through war. Members of the League of Nations did not want to go to war to protect other members, and the League failed. A Second World War soon followed.

The Allies of World War II often called themselves 'the United Nations' (united against the Axis Powers). After the War, the winners formed a new organization for world peace. On 25th April 1945 in San Francisco, they decided on the name 'United Nations'. In June, they signed the United Nations Charter, stating how the organization would work. The UN was created on 24 October 1945, and its first meeting was held in January 1946. Since 1947, the 24th of October has been called 'United Nations Day'.

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