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The Cold War: Student Handout
What was the cold war?
The Cold War is the term used to describe the relations between the USSR and
the USA after the Second World War ended.
-During WW2, The Soviet Union and The United States fought on the same side
due to the fact that they were both enemies of Germany.
They were thought to have a stable relationship during the war and knew that
they needed each other to defeat Germany and fascism.
It is referred to as the Cold War because there wasn’t any actual fighting but
tension that developed because of the nations different political ideologies
(communism and capitalism.)
During the cold war, (which began in 1945 and ended in 1990) the two nations
were engaged in an arms race where each country was trying to outdo each other
in nuclear weapons.
The threats they opposed on each other went to such extremes that both nations
feared of losing control over their own government. For example: The Soviet
Union kept it’s people under complete control because they were afraid of their
people escaping communism, whereas the Americans were scared of Communists
taking over America.
Until 1990 when the cold war finally ended, relations between the East and West
dominated international affairs.
Other things that influenced the Cold War were economic and military related
The USSR & Communism
- The Soviet Union was made up of many eastern European countries such as
Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine and
- These countries were all had communist governments. Communism is a
political ideology that which means that nothing is privately owned giving the
government control over all property and possessions.
- The USSR was known for having one of the most powerful armies in history,
(Which the Americans saw as a threat.)
The Soviet Army was made up of ground forces, air forces, air defense forces and
strategic rocket forces and its equipment and men were both known for their
The Communist government provided for it’s people and in return the people had
to contribute what they could.
NATO & Capitalism
- USA consisted of a capitalist government, meaning that the people’s
possessions were privately owned. People have more liberty in a capitalist
NATO is the military alliance between North America and democratic
countries in Europe created in 1949.
Although the USSR was just at war with United States, countries in Europe
who felt threatened by communism allied with the USA.
This was beneficial for the US because they had land they could use in Europe for
the occupation of nuclear weapons close to Russia in the case of war.
The United States had a very powerful army during the cold war and advanced
technology that the Russians didn’t.
The Americans used nuclear weapons for the first time when they launched the
Atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of WW2. This caused the Soviet Union to
feel threatened but also gave them the want to be able to produce better nuclear
Technological Competition
- The USSR and the USA
Major Personalities
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the USA, serving from 1961 to 1963.
He was what was known as a "Cold Warrior", with his political campaigns largely
revolving around the anti-Cold War platform. In 1962, the middle of his
presidency, he heard that the Soviet Union was creating offensive missiles in
Cuba. Frightened for his country and it's alliances, he took immediate action and
ordered the quarantine of Cuba and moved troops in to eliminate the threat it
posed. When Soviet premier Khrushchev saw this persistence, he ordered the
removal of the missiles, which ended the Cuban Missile Crisis. On November 22,
1963, during a car procession in Dallas, Kennedy was shot by assassin Lee Harvey
Oswald from the upper story of a building above and was killed.
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev was the President of the Soviet Union and the last USSR
leader. He served from 1985 to 1991 as the second-last General Secretary of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev didn't want the war to
continue, he wanted peace. Attempting to achieve this, he cut his Soviet armed
forces by 10 percent and withdrew 50 000 troops from Eastern Europe to show
the USA that the Soviet Union didn't want a full blown war. He then went on to
have four different summits with the then current president of the United States,
Ronald Reagan, all with the same goal of ending the war. Gorbachev's efforts
ultimately led to the end of the war. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
1990 for his astounding contributions.
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was a President of the United States beginning in April 1945,
during WWII and into the Cold War. Also known as "Give 'Em Hell Harry", it was
his orders to drop the bomb on Hiroshima that effectively ended World War II.
Alarmed with the growing communist forces, he helped Greece and Germany
resist the impending communism, and when he saw North Korea going after
South Korea with its communist views, he sent troops in to defend them, which
was controversial and upset many of his people. His general of the troops at the
time, General Douglas MacArthur created him an invasion plan, which proved to
successfully push North Korea back into its boundaries. However, North Korea
had said that they wouldn't really retaliate unless the troops pushed past the 38th
parallel, or into their borders - and Truman let MacArthur push too far. Their
forces were overwhelmed by the North Korean forces, and a frantic MacArthur
requested for the use of nuclear weapons to win the war. Truman's quickly
decreasing popularity was a direct influence of his equally quick decision to
decline the request, and fire General MacArthur. He left office in January of 1953.
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin, whose name meant "Man of Steel" and was chosen specifically to
intimidate the masses, was a strong-willed communist dictator. Stalin became the
leader of the Soviet Union after World War II, and determinedly fought with the
USA over control of almost everything. His mission included having everybody
thinking and acting along the same lines as him, and he acted out that mission
sadistically. He killed tens of millions of people, for no good reason other than
suspicions of not being loyal - from doctors to civilians to military officials,
nobody was safe and everybody was scared and on edge. Stalin's main goal at first
was to get into the secretive Allied meetings, also called "The Big Three", and was
finally called in with Churchill and Roosevelt. When he convinced a sick and warweary Roosevelt to side with him against the knowledgeable Churchill, the power
it gave him started the Cold War.
Causes of the Cold War
The Soviet Union wanted to spread its beliefs of communism worldwide,
which worried the Americans who follow democracy.
The United States wanted to encourage free trade throughout the world.
The Soviet Union wanted to shield off her own sphere from international
commerce. Russia feared that trade with the West would involve the risk
of Russia being opened to western influences which would have eroded the
strength of the Soviet Union
The possession of atomic weapons by the Americans caused fear in the
Both countries feared an attack from each other.
The Soviet Union’s action of taking over Eastern Europe was a major
factor for Americans suspicions.
The US President had a personal hate for the Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
The Soviets feared that America would use Western Europe as a base to
attack them
Effects of the Cold War
Both United States of America and the Soviet Union built huge stores of
atomic weapons and ballistic missiles.
Both military blocs NATO and The Warsaw Pact were then formed
The cold war led to conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the Korean
Due to economic weaknesses the Soviet Union collapsed.
The Berlin Wall was knocked down and the two German nations were
The Warsaw Pact fell apart.
The Baltic States and other former Soviet republics accomplished
The United States of America became the sole superpower of the world.
Communism distorted all around the world.
Cold War -Canada
September 1945, a young Russian called Igor Gouzenko walked into the
newsroom of the Ottawa Citizen and announced that he had proof of a
widespread Soviet spy ring operating in Canada. Due to Igor's allegations, that
was a wake-up call for Canada and the rest of the world. Canada didn’t have the
chance to choose sides in the Cold war. The country was immediately seated next
to the United States. However, during World War II, Canada had already traded
some of its sovereignty in a chain of political and military pacts with the United
During the post-war period, Canada had moved closer to the American sphere of
influence as international tensions rose. In 1949, the Soviet Union tested its first
atomic bomb and in reply, Canada's military expenses soared. In the year of 1950,
North Korea, which was communist, invaded the United States of America,
backed South Korea and added more pressure and stress on Canada to build up
its weapons.
 Igor Gouzenko