KQ4: The Start of the Cold War (How far did communism spread in the years…
KQ4: The Start of the Cold War
What was agreed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945?
The USSR would enter the war against Japan.
• Germany would be divided into American, British, French and Soviet occupation zones
• Nazi war criminals responsible for genocide would be hunted down and punished.
• Liberated countries should be allowed to hold free elections.
• The USA, USSR and Britain would join the new UN and work through it to keep peace
• Eastern Europe would be considered a Soviet sphere of influence.
In return for fixing the Soviet border with Poland further westwards than
Churchill or Roosevelt wanted, the Soviets would not interfere in Greece,
What important events occurred in between Yalta (February) and Potsdam
Soviet troops moved in to occupy most of eastern Europe – Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania
Roosevelt died in April 1945, to be replaced by Truman, who was more anticommunist
and more suspicious of Soviet intentions in eastern Europe.
The USA successfully tested its first atomic bomb – a potential threat to the
Half way through the Potsdam Conference Churchill was defeated in the British
General Election and replaced by Clement Attlee
What were the main disagreements at the Potsdam Conference, July 1945?
The whole conference was dominated by rivalry and suspicion between the
conflicting personalities of Truman and Stalin.
Stalin wanted Germany crippled to protect the USSR,
thought this would be repeating a mistake made at Versailles
Stalin wanted massive compensation for the devastation caused to
the USSR and the loss of 20 million Russian lives.
Truman resisted this.
Although Roosevelt had agreed that eastern Europe would
become a Soviet sphere of influence, Truman became unhappy about this and worried about Russian intentions towards the occupied countries.
How far did communism spread in the years after 1945?
communists join a coalition government in 1945, then become ruling
party in 1947, forcing Poland’s non-communist leader into exile
– communists become largest party in 1947 elections, then proceed to
imprison opposition politicians.
1945 a communist Prime Minister at the head of a left-wing coalition.
elections won by left-wing coalition in 1945; communists then execute
leaders of other parties.
run by the USSR under the Red Army until the creation of the
communist German Democratic Republic in 1949.
elections won by a left-wing coalition in 1945; communists
become largest party in 1946; one-party state established in 1948.
communists gain power after the war, with little opposition.
• Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – absorbed into the USSR
wartime resistance leader and communist Marshal Tito elected
president in 1945, though he is determined to rule independently of the USSR and is expelled from Cominform in 1948.
France and Italy
both had strong communist parties, belonging to Cominform
How did Stalin tighten his grip on the Iron Curtain countries?
used to imprison opponents of communist rule and critics of the
Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) set up to co-ordinate the work of
communist parties throughout Europe
Communist party leaders summoned to Moscow to be briefed by Stalin.
Independent-minded leaders replaced by men completely loyal to Stalin.
Tito in Yugoslavia was the only one who escaped close Soviet control.
Why did the wartime friendship between the USA and USSR break down?
They had only been friends because of the necessity of winning the war; in fact
they were natural enemies, who had distrusted each other before the war.
Many Soviets remembered that US troops had been sent to fight the communists
in the Russian Civil War 1918-1921.
Americans had been appalled when Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Hitler
The two countries had very little in common – USA was a capitalist democracy;
USSR was a communist dictatorship.
Stalin believed his policy in eastern Europe was to make the USSR secure; but
Truman believed Stalin wanted to expand the Soviet Empire.
What were the main differences between the USA and USSR?
Economically, USA was capitalist; USSR was communist.
Politically, USA was a democracy; USSR was a one-party state
Most Americans thought freedom from government control was more important
than equality; communists believed it was OK to control the lives of citizens if it was good for society as a whole.
Americans believed other countries should be capitalist democracies; Soviet
leaders believed other countries should be communist.
What happened to Greece after the war?
Communists wanted a Soviet republic; monarchists wanted a return of the king.
Churchill sent British troops in 1945, supposedly to restore order and supervise
In fact Britain supported the monarchists, and the king of Greece returned.
In 1946 a civil war developed when communists tried to take control of Greece.
Britain couldn’t afford this war, and withdrew troops in 1947.
The USA paid for some British troops to remain in Greece to prop up the royalist
As a result, the royalists controlled Greece in 1950, but they were a weak
What was the Truman Doctrine?
A new determination by Truman to resist any further spread of communism, i.e.
US intervention in Greece marked the start of this new policy
The USA sent money, equipment and advice to any country which was threatened
by a communist takeover.
What was Marshall Aid?
A way of taking economic steps to put the Truman Doctrine into practice.
The Marshall Plan was to provide economic assistance to countries that were
vulnerable to communist takeover
the idea was that communism thrived in countries where people faced poverty and hardship.
Masterminded by General George Marshall.
The plan was rejected by the US Congress at first, but then approved after the
purge of anti-Soviet leaders in Czechoslovakia in March 1948.
$17 billion dollars were paid out to western European countries over a four year
The plan was also good for US business – creating new markets for US goods and
helping to prevent another worldwide economic slump.
Eastern European countries were offered Marshall Aid, but Stalin did not permit
this, because he feared
it would weaken his hold on eastern Europe
would make eastern European states dependent on the US dollar.
Why and how did the USSR blockade Berlin in 1948?
Britain, France and the USA combined their occupation zones in 1946 to form one
zone, which became known as the German Federal Republic, or West Germany.
In 1948 a new currency was introduced into West Germany.
Stalin saw this as a threat, and felt the need to re-assert Soviet control of Berlin by
trying to gain control of West Berlin.
What was the Soviet plan in the Berlin Blockade and how well did it work?
In June 1948 the USSR blocked all the supply lines into West Berlin (roads,
railways, canals), thus cutting off 2 million west Berliners from western help.
The hope was that the Americans would abandon West Berlin because they would
not dare to use tanks to ram the road-blocks or railway-blocks, for fear of provoking war
The plan did not work, because the USA was not prepared to abandon West Berlin
– Truman wanted to prove to Stalin that the USA was serious about containment.
Berlin was supplied by air for 10 months, and in May 1949 Stalin gave up and reopened
significance of the Berlin Blockade
It could easily have resulted in war between the USA and USSR – if the USA had
used tanks to break through, or the USSR had shot down American planes.
It demonstrated to the USSR that the west was not willing to abandon West Berlin
and that it would continue with its policy of containment.
Berlin became a symbol of freedom behind the Iron Curtain.