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Cold War revision notes

COLD WAR 1945-1955
The USA was a capitalist society.
It centred on two key ideas, DEMOCRACY and CAPITALISM
Democracy meant that the US president and congress were elected in free public
elections and could be voted out by the public as well.
Capitalism meant that Businesses and Properties were owned by private individuals
and companies.
Although the USA was the world’s richest nation, there were extremes of wealth
and poverty.
For Americans, the rights and freedom of individual Americans were more
important than everyone being equal.
Most Americans believed strongly in these American principles, and regarded
COMMUNISM as a threat to their way of life.
The Soviet Union was a COMMUNIST society.
In stark contrast to American society, Soviet society was based on communist
ideas and was a one-party state, meaning that although there were elections,
people could only vote communists.
Industry was organised and run by the state. Unemployment and extreme poverty
were rare, but the standard of living for most Soviet citizens was lower than the
average American.
Communists believed the rights of an individual were far less important than that
of the good of society as a whole, so there were many restrictions on an individual’s
freedom. The state kept tight control over the press, media, film and art, and was
also hostile towards organised religion.
Soviet leaders (for example Joseph Stalin) believed other countries should also be
run in a communist way. Many communists bitterly opposed capitalism.
Important differences between the two nations between the 1930’s and 1940’s
included that after WW2, the two countries were now the ruling elite of the world,
richer and more powerful than any other country, and so emerged as SUPERPOWERS,
and each one was determined not to be bullied by the other. This was to become very
clear over the next few decades.
In 1945, the allied leaders known as the “Big 3” met in YALTA, UKRAINE, to discuss
what would happen to Europe after WW2. The conference was attended by Winston
Churchill representing Britain, Joseph Stalin representing the Soviet Union, and Franklin
Roosevelt representing the USA.
Despite their obvious differences, the leaders did manage to agree on some important
- Stalin entered the war against Japan once Germany had been defeated.
- Germany was to be split into 4 zones between France, Britain, The USA
and the USSR. Since the capital city Berlin ended up in the Soviet zone, it
was also divided into 4 zones between the 4 powers.
- Countries liberated from previous Nazi control were to be allowed to hold
free elections and elect their own government.
- All 3 joined the modern successor to the League of Nations, the United
Nations, with the aim of promoting and establishing world peace after the
- Soviet Casualties were immense after the War had ended, around 20
million, and thus Stalin was concerned about the future safety of the
Soviet Union. So, it was agreed that Eastern Europe would become a
Soviet ‘sphere of influence’, to act as a buffer zone from any potential
future German attack.
- The only real dis-agreement was on Poland.
- Stalin wanted to move the Soviet Union’s border west into Poland to
expand, and argued that in turn Poland could move its border west into
- At first neither Churchill or Roosevelt agreed to the proposal, but
Churchill persuaded Roosevelt to agree, as long as Stalin didn’t interfere
with British interests and operations in Greece, where they were
attempting to stem the flow of communism.
In May of 1945, around 3 months after the conference at Yalta, Germany
surrendered and the war in Europe was won by the Allies. A second conference was
arranged in July in the Belgian suburb of POTSDAM. However, in the five months
since Yalta, a number of significant events had taken places which would greatly
effect relations between the Big 3.
Soviet troops took back countries from the Nazi, but left their armies there as
well. By July, Stalin basically controlled the Baltic states, Finland, Poland, Hungary,
Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, with many people already fearing a
communist takeover.
Stalin established a Communist government in Poland, to the resentment of the
Polish people, as well as Britain and the USA, and claimed that it was to act as a
buffer zone to possible future attacks.
On April 12th 1945, President Roosevelt died and through US custom was replaced
by vice-president Harry Truman, who did not have the same foreign policy intellect
and understanding that Roosevelt had once possessed.
He deeply resisted communism and was much more Anti-Communist than Roosevelt
ever was, and was heavily suspicious of Stalin. He saw Soviet actions in the East as
a preparation for the takeover of the rest of Europe.
The Americans had developed and successfully tested a weapon with horrific
potential and tremendous power. Claiming it would help speed up the end of the
war, on August the 6th 1945, The Americans dropped the first ever atomic bomb on
the Japanese city of Hiroshima, destroying most of the city killing between
70,000-146,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians, and then dropped another bomb on
Nagasaki just 3 days later on August the 9th 1945, killing 39,000-80,000 people
and decimating the city.
This event would largely effect future negotiations between the Two Super
The agreements of Yalta seemed to have dissolved into the disagreements of
At Potsdam,
Germany was to be split into four zones, but there were arguments about the
details of the boundaries between the zones. Stalin wanted to cripple Germany
completely, but Truman opposed this as he did not want to repeat the mistakes
made at Versailles.
It was agreed that Germany would pay reparations, but there were also
disagreements about this. 20 million Russians died in the war, and Stalin wanted a
huge $10 billion in compensation, but again, Truman, with Versailles in mind again,
disagreed with Stalin’s demands.
A government of 'national unity' was set up in Poland, comprising both communists
and non-communists. But Truman became angry when Stalin had arrested the noncommunist leaders of Poland.
Free elections were to be held in the countries of eastern Europe. This part of the
agreement was called the Declaration of Liberated Europe. America and Britain
were alarmed because communists were coming to power in the countries of
Eastern Europe, much more strongly than previously expected.
Churchill was defeated in the British elections halfway through the elections by a
man named Clement Attlee. In the absence of Churchill there was an atmosphere
of distrust between Stalin and Truman.
They also disagreed over Soviet Policy in Eastern Europe. Stalin saw Eastern
Europe as a buffer zone and a security measure for the Soviet Union, as protection
against future attacks. Truman perceived it as evidence that Stalin wanted to build
a Communist empire in Europe.
Also, Truman dropped the atomic bomb so that Japan would surrender before
Russian troops could go into Japan. America had the bomb in July 1945, but Truman
did not tell Stalin about it. When he saw how he had been tricked, Stalin was
At 8:15 am on August the 6th 1945, the American B29 bomber nicknamed Enola Gay,
piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets dropped the world’s first ever atomic bomb on the
Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing a colossal total of 78,000 people.
After Japan still refused to surrender, the Americans dropped the second atomic
bomb on the Japanese coastal city of Nagasaki, killing a further 74,000 people in
the blink of an eye. In the space of just 3 days, the Japanese had lost 152,000
lives. Japan surrendered, and it seemed the second World War was over.
The dropping of the bomb increased tensions between the Soviet Union and the
USA because Stalin was furious that Truman had not informed him at Potsdam
that the USA possessed a fully functional atomic bomb, as the two nations were
allies at the time. For the Soviets, the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only
marked a betrayal of trust, but also a huge swing in favour of the USA in the
balance of global power.
The catastrophic destructiveness and horrifying potential of the atomic bomb and
other nuclear weapons being developed horrified many people in the West, and
there was a growth in what was at first called ‘nuclear pacifism’, but later became
known as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
However, by 1949 the USSR had also successfully created its own nuclear bomb,
ending the USA’s monopoly over the weapon. A nuclear war between the two
superpowers was unthinkable, and was labelled ‘MAD’ {mutually assured
However, instead of engaging in a full nuclear and a ‘hot war’, the USA and USSR
had a series of tense confrontations and proxy wars, which became known as the
The atomic bomb helped to prevent all out conflict between the two sides however,
by being used as a deterrent. But it did contribute to almost half a century of
constant and hostile tensions between East and West.
- After leaving its red army in most of Eastern Europe, The Soviets
replaced Nazi occupation in East Europe with Soviet occupation.
- Communist governments loyal to and protected by Stalin took power in
Albania, Bulgaria and Poland in 1945, and Hungary and Romania in 1947.
- ‘Stalinist’ politicians began to take over control of the Media, Police and
Military of these nations.
- They then proceeded to arrest or assassinate any remaining opponents,
before holding and winning rigged elections. These communist
governments often rose to power with the support of the Soviet military.
- To the US and the West these actions seemed to prove Stalin wanted
complete and communist control over all of Europe.
- The USSR’s actions in Eastern Europe alarmed the West, and in March
1946 Churchill gave a speech to an American audience in Fulton, Missouri.
- During the speech, Churchill described the division between the East and
West as an IRON CURTAIN.
- The Iron curtain was not actually a physical division, but a political and
economic division between the two sides.
- On one side of the curtain were the one-party communist states of the
East, and on the other were the capitalist democracies of the West.
- Churchill, who was speaking at Truman’s invitation, wanted to convince
Americans that they had to maintain a strong military presence in Europe,
to help stem the feared flow of communism.
- Stalin claimed Churchill’s speech was a declaration of war.
- Having established Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe
Stalin now wanted to tighten his control on each country. He did this by
forming Cominform.
- Ranged from 1947-53 and was created by Stalin.
European, French and Italian communist parties joined and belonged to
He used the organisation to indoctrinate other nations and leaders with
his version of communism and his own policies.
It upset the western powers because it showed Stalin had extended his
control over Eastern Europe, and now had direct influence over Communist
parties in Western Europe, which the USA saw as their sphere of
- This was set up to counteract the effects of WW2 on communist
economies who had been damaged during the war, also preventing Eastern
Europe from seeking MARSHALL AID. Other communist countries also
joined at times, for example Vietnam.
- It set up trading networks to supply raw materials and manufactured
goods and involved supplying aid to other communist countries.
It worsened the Cold War because it confirmed the loss of Communist
economies for trade with the West and reinforced Stalin’s influence in
Eastern Europe (economic imperialism) and made it difficult for the USA
to tempt them away with Marshall Aid.
Stalin viewed British and US attitudes towards Germany with deep suspicion. For
the Soviets, the most important objective was to prevent a repeat of the
attempted Nazi invasion in 1941. So, Stalin stripped the Soviet zone of Germany of
all its useful equipment and machinery, weakening the region.
The West, however, acted in contrast and strengthened their zones through
industrialisation and re-unification.
By 1948 the western zones of Germany began to recover as a result of the
Marshall plan. The West no longer demanded reparations, and in 1947 Britain and
the USA merged their zones to form ‘Bizonia’. A few months later, the French
joined to form ‘Trizonia’.
Stalin considered these as acts of betrayal. At both Yalta and Potsdam the Allies
had agreed to make decisions together. Yet Stalin was neither consulted or even
informed of the matter and the plans to form a united West Germany. He became
even more suspicious of Western motives.
On the 23rd of June, Britain and the USA introduced a new currency, the
Deutschmark into Bizonia, designed to strengthen West Germany’s economy.
However it caused an economic crisis in the East zone, where people began to
convert their old marks in vast amounts (1000’s) into the new currency. Stalin’s
response on the 24th of June was to close all roads, canals and railways from West
Germany into West Berlin.
After Stalin launched the blockade, the Allies claimed he was attempting to starve
the city’s’ 2 million inhabitants. The people in Berlin only had enough food and fuel
to last around 6 more weeks. Truman seemed to have 2 options,
1. Surrender West Berlin to the Soviets and give into Stalin’s demands.
2. Declare war on the Soviet Union and try to force their way into Berlin.
Surrender would mean accepting Stalin’s wishes, but an armed invasion on the other hand
may have had severe and terrible consequences. So, they came up with a less aggressive
way and instead flew in supplies to keep the Germans from starving. In 1945 the USSR
had granted the Allies 3 airways from West Germany into West Berlin, which could now
be made full use of.
The first flight took off on June 26th.
At first, the operation was slow. Only around 600 tonnes of fuel and food was
flown in.
If Wes Berlin was to survive, they would need around 4000 tonnes a day.
By September the same year, aircraft were regularly landing in West Berlin every
3 minutes, day and night.
By spring 1949, 8000 tonnes were being transported and flown in from the allies.
In response, the Soviets put more pressure on West Berliners to try and force
them to the East. They cut off all electricity supplies to West Berlin, even
offering more rations if they switched sides.
Only 2% switched to the East. They were clearly prepared to endure the hardships
imposed by the USSR if it meant staying with the West.
Stalin soon realised that the allies would not stop the airlift. The only way to prevent it
would be to shoot the planes down, and although the Soviet air force tracked the planes,
they didn’t dare take fire, as that would be considered an act of war, which the Soviets
were not prepared for. The USA had a nuclear bomb, the USSR did not. The blockade
was called off in May 1949.
Although the airlift and blockade were costly in both human and financial terms,
(79 US and British pilots were killed in accidents) the airlift helped remove past ill
feelings between the USA, the West and its former enemy in Germany. The West
had also shown its determination to resist communism.
The Berlin crisis destroyed the already futile hope for a United Germany. In 1949
the British, French and American zones formed to create the Federal Republic of
Germany (West Germany). In retaliation, the USSR turned its zone into the
German democratic republic (East Germany).
The west side had a freely elected government and was pro-democracy.
The east side was run by a communist government.
This in turn led to 2 military alliances being formed in case of future attacks; NATO and
the Warsaw Pact.
Soviet power was on the rise in Eastern Europe. In 1947 communism threatened to take
over Greece and Turkey. This situation became critical when Britain could no longer
supply the Greek government with supplies against Greek communist rebels.
As the USA had no intention of allowing communism spread, in March 1947 Truman
declared in a public speech that the USA would offer aid to any country
threatened by communism. This policy was known as the Truman doctrine.
According to the doctrine, the countries of Eastern Europe had been forced into
communism by the USSR. It was America’s self-proclaimed duty to protect other
countries that were pro-democracy from threat.
The USA would be at the fore-front of trying to contain the communist expansion
into Europe. So, the US congress gave $400 million of aid to Greece and Turkey.
This money helped Greece defeat the communist rebels.
In June 1947, the American General George Marshall visited Europe. He returned to the
USA believing the impoverished nations of Europe, east and west, would turn to
communism, which appealed to the poor.
Marshall devised the ‘MARSHALL PLAN’, which put the Truman doctrine in action,
with the aim to help Europe recover economically as quickly as possible.
The idea was that a strong and economically secure Europe could resist and stand
up to the threat and spread of communism.
The plan would also help to re-establish strong trade between Europe and America,
so appealed to Americans as well.
However, at first when asked to inject around $21 billion dollars into Europe’s
economy, the US congress hesitated.
But then in February 1948, Stalinists in Czechoslovakia organised a strike and
takeover of factories. They then began to seize power and 2 weeks later, the only
remaining non-communist minister, Jan Masaryk, was found dead.
This helped trigger the US alarm bells, and on 31st March 1948, congress approved
- The Marshall plan setup a fund of $15 billion.
- A total of 16 nations requested America’s aid, including war time allies
Britain, and former enemies, like West Germany.
- Marshall Aid often came in the form of goods like machinery and
fertilizers. Between 1948-50, industrial production in West Europe
increased by a significant 25%.
- By 1952, most economies in West Europe were firmly on the way to
- Unrest in France and Italy came to an end, and the original goal of helping
Communism lose influence in Europe was being reached.
- Marshall’s idea was that any European nation could ask for assistance and
rely on Marshall aid. It offered help and resources to wherever needed in
Europe, even in the East to begin with.
- But Stalin realised that the plan would cause European nations to become
more dependent on the USA instead of the Soviet Union.
- Denouncing the plan as ‘DOLLAR IMPERIALISM’, Stalin claimed the USA
was trying to build an empire by controlling industry and trade in Europe.
- His suspicions further intensified Cold War hostility and increased
divisions between the East and West to an even greater extent.
- The Berlin blockade in 1949 deeply unsettled the British foreign minister
Ernest Bevin.
- He found that if a war broke out, Western Europe was badly defended against
the Soviet Union.
- Ten days after the start of the Berlin airlift, Bevin opened talks with the USA
about a supposed ‘trans-Atlantic defence treaty’, which in 1949 led to the
creation of NATO.
- The original members were the USA, Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, Holland,
Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Portugal.
In 1952 Greece and Turkey became members and in 1955 West Germany
All the NATO members agreed to declare war on any nation which attacked
another NATO member.
- After the Korean War broke out in 1950, NATO setup a unified command in
Paris under US control.
- NATO never assembled a large enough a large enough force to stop the Soviet
army in a war.
- However, what it did do is maintain a permanent US military presence in Europe.
- The Americans had made a lasting commitment to defend Europe from
communism, by force if deemed necessary.
- NATO members saw America’s military presence in Europe as a deterrent
against any potential Soviet attacks. Stalin saw it as an act of war, and accused
the west of warmongering.
- He sped plans for his own deterrent against the West; a Soviet Nuclear weapon.
In 1951 Stalin was said to have even proposed to his allies in East Europe the
possibility of starting a war in Europe before the Americans became strong
enough to resist the Red Army, but ultimately decided against it.
- The Japanese had occupied Korea from 1910 up until 1945.
- But after its defeat in WW2, it was forced to withdraw from Korea.
- The country was then divided into 2 parts, along the line of latitude known as
the 38th parallel.
- Soviet forces occupied the North, and American forces occupied the South.
This division was supposed to be temporary.
- In the North, a communist state was established under a man named Kim Il
- In the south, elections were held and an anti-communist military government
was formed and led by a man called Syngman Rhee.
- Each side claimed to be the rightful government of Korea, and there were often
skirmishes between the two states in the supposedly demilitarised zone along
the border in 1950.
KOREA BY 1950?
- Before 1950 the USA didn’t consider Kore to be in its ‘sphere of interest’.
- But in 1949 Chin became a communist nation, and in the same year the Soviet
Union created their own atomic bomb.
- US policy makers now felt the need for a much more aggressive approach than
the previous policy of ‘CONTAINMENT’, which was a US policy utilizing
numerous strategies to try and contain the spread of communism overseas.
- In 1950, a new policy with 2 key recommendations was introduced;
- A massive increase in armaments production
- And the objective to try and push back communism by ‘liberating’ communist
held nations.
- This new policy was known as ‘ROLLBACK’.
Just like the USA, before 1950 Korea was of little interest to the Soviet Union.
But in 1949, the USA and Britain formed NATO, and in the same year the
Americans began negotiating military and economic terms with Japan.
Stalin suspected the USA was becoming more hostile and aggressive, so Stalin
jumped at the chance to cause trouble and problems for the Americans.
When Kim Il Sung visited Stalin and asked the Soviet Union for permission to
attack the South, at first Stalin soundly refused.
However, after persistent requests from Kim Il Sung, an agreement that the
Soviet Union would receive natural resources which they lacked in from North
Korea, and after the opportunity to cause trouble for the USA presented itself to
Stalin, he finally gave in.
However, although he gave the North aid and military equipment, he made it
crystal clear to Kim Il Sung that he would not give a single Soviet soldier to the
He never directly involved his own army in the war.
In June 1950, the North invaded the South and the Korean War broke out.
MAY 1945 – Korea divided into 2 separate nations, South controlled by the USA,
the North by the Soviet Union.
JUNE 1945 – North Korea invades South Korea with consent from Stalin. Very
successful at first, capturing Seoul and occupying all of the Korean peninsula, with
only Pusan in the South East holding out.
JUNE 1950 – South Korea asks the UN for help, and the Soviet Union can have no
say in the matter because of their boycott of the UN in protest for not allowing
communist China to become a member.
JUNE 1950 – The USA joins the war, and Truman sends troops to South Korea. A
total of 16 UN member nations led by America head to Kore, hoping to stem the
flow of Communism.
JULY 1950 – The USA are defeated at Osan, expecting an easy victory but are
eventually no match for the disciplined and well organised North Korean army.
SEPTEMBER 1950 – USA victory at Inchon. General Douglas MacArthur leads an
invasion into South Korea at the city of Inchon, and recaptures Seoul from the
North. North Korean resistance collapses in South Korea.
OCTOBER 1950 – USA led coalition forces reach Pyongyang, the capital of North
OCTOBER 1950 – China joins the war to fight on North Korea’s side. China’s army
wins several important victories and pushes the US and southern forces back
across the 38th parallel. China had warned the UN forces not to cross the Yalu
river, but MacArthur paid no heed to these warnings, wanting to invade China after
North Korea had been dealt with.
FEBRUARY 1951 – Initial peace talks are held with neither side gaining any ground
in the war, but it drags on for 2 more years as the fighting continues.
APRIL 1951 – General Douglas MacArthur is fired after publicly dis-agreeing with
Truman over bombing China. Rest of the War is a complete stalemate. On July 27th
1951 the North and South agree to a truce. The countries are still divided today,
but have agreed to create a neutral demilitarised zone to separate the 2 nations.
1. It extended the Cold War into the far east. China also helped communist rebels in
Indo-China (Vietnam) against the French.
2. It appeared that America and the Soviet Union did not want to escalate the cold war
into a ‘hot war’. The war did not spread beyond Korea and the USSR was never directly
3. It indicated that Truman was prepared to adhere by the Truman doctrine and the
main focus of containing communism.
4. It marked the emergence of a new super power, China. The recently converted
communist nation had managed to help prevent the USA defeating North Korea and
became more friendly towards the Soviet Union.
5. The UN had resisted an act of aggression, something its predecessor The League of
Nations had never done.
6. Korea was still divided, and appeared as if the separation was going to be permanent.
In 1953 Stalin died and this led to a new direction in Soviet policy. Now both Super
Powers had developed a hydrogen nuclear bomb, it seemed wise to ease the tensions, with
fears of an all-out nuclear war. The US was willing to negotiate as they had seen Stalin as
the main problem. This new co-operation between the two also gave the assumption that
the Soviets were open to ending the war in Korea.
This thought was further strengthened by the USSR’s signing of the Austrian state
treaty, which ended the occupation of Soviet controlled Austria. Austria became
independent for the first time since before 1937 and was given back its original borders.
The new Soviet leader-ship was a giant coalition to begin with, but eventually a man
named Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the leader. He seemed to want a fresh start
with the West.
He argued it was necessary to live in peace with the West, regardless of Soviet
foreign policy in the past. A summit conference was held in Geneva 1955, for the
first time since Yalta in 1945, and was attended by the leaders of Britain, China,
the USA, the USSR and France. Although little was agreed on, it was seen as a
turning point in the Cold War, as now the East and West were beginning to meet
and talk again.
This new start was labelled ‘PEACEFUL CO-EXISTANCE’ by Khrushchev, regarding
his new policies. It helped ease the tensions slightly, and his intentions did seem
genuine based on events that had unfolded since he had come to power, but at this
point it was still clear that nothing had been agreed upon by the two sides.
In what ways were Khrushchev’s policies different to Stalin?
Unlike Stalin, Khrushchev seems to be a man who didn’t want to dominate and build
an empire in Eastern Europe.
One of his first actions in May 1955 was to sign the Austrian state treaty, ending
previous occupation and re-establishing Austria as an independent state.
Khrushchev also pulled out any remaining forces from the Soviet Austria zone.
In 1956 Khrushchev made a secret speech to the Communist party in which he
publicly denounced Stalin. Towers of Stalin were destroyed and cities renamed, and
the secret police that was once so feared throughout all Eastern Europe had
started to become less and less active.
More consumer goods were put into production, and these new reforms became
known as ‘DE-STALINIZATION’. Popular both in the West and the Soviet Union.
Khrushchev appeared to want to replace the old policy of confrontation with
peaceful co-existence.
In what ways were Khrushchev’s policies similar to Stalin?
Although slightly more lenient and open to change, Khrushchev was still ruthless
and willing to use devastating and crushing force against opposition, just like Stalin
had been.
He also feared a potential demise in communism in Eastern Europe, and was
definitely not prepared to compromise the Soviet Union’s security through the
dismantling of its buffer zone in East Germany and Europe.
So when revolts took place against Soviet rule in Poland and Hungary, they were
met with brutal force, particularly in Hungary.
Despite hopes of a fresh start between the East and West after Stalin died,
relations between the East and West deteriorated again, bringing an end to the
In 1955 West Germany joined NATO. In a sort of retaliation, the Soviet Union
formed the Warsaw Pact, a treaty of ‘friendship, co-operation and mutual
assistance’ and a military alliance between the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania,
Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria
Soon after this, the Soviets officially terminated their war time alliances with
Britain and France, which had surprisingly dragged on for a decade after the war
had ended, and took East Germany into the Warsaw Pact.
After these events, it was now impossible to deny that Europe was completely split
between Democratic West and Communist East, and showed no signs of slowing
People living in Hungary took inspiration from the death of Stalin and the Polish
revolt which had resulted in the Soviets granting concessions to the Poles. The
Hungarian believed that De-Stalinization and the Thaw had provided the right time
to upstage a rebellion and win back independence. They also hoped for the
withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary.
At first, demonstrations and protests in Budapest took place, and these helped
lead to the election of a man named Imre Nagy as prime minister in October 1956,
who was known to be somewhat of a moderniser. The Soviets, caught off guard by
the revolts, withdrew its army. Khrushchev hoped that this withdrawal would calm
the precarious situation.
Nagy immediately announced a programme of reform, and brought an end to
government control of the press and radio. Non-communists were allowed to
participate in government, and he even promised free democratic elections. But the
last straw was when Nagy announced Hungary would disband from the Warsaw
This last move was intolerable in the eyes of Khrushchev, as the Hungarian and
Polish reforms had made the Soviets look bad and dented its pride, but this was a
different matter entirely, and regarded as a threat to Soviet military security.
So, on November the 4th 1956, the infamous Soviet Red Army returned in strength
and brutally crushed the uprising.
In the fighting that ensued, 4000 Hungarians were killed, with perhaps as many as
200,000 Hungarian refugees fleeing to the West.
Nagy was arrested and later executed.
Protestors were imprisoned, and a further 300 people were executed.
A hard-line communist government was formed under Janos Kadar, which abolished
all of Nagy’s reforms.
The Hungarian rising ended in disaster for the Hungarians, and was a military
victory for Khrushchev. Hungary returned to being a pro-Soviet communist state.
In a futile attempt to put pressure on the Soviets, the United Nations passed a
resolution in support of the Hungarians, but did nothing more.
The US was shown as powerless in attempting to ‘roll back’ communism.
People in the West even joked that NATO stood for No Action : Talk only.
Khrushchev joked that support from the US was like the support given by a rope to
a hanged man.
However, in terms of propaganda, the Hungarian rising was a defeat for
Khrushchev, as it made Soviet Communism look brutal and cruel. In Britain,
thousands of people resigned from the communist party.
On the whole, the West grew more frightened of the USSR, and although the
events were not perhaps as significant in escalating hostilities between the two
sides as the Korean War, in which there were direct confrontations between ProDemocracy and Communist forces (both supported by the US and USSR), the
Hungarian rising did help to intensify the Cold War.
After the formation of the NATO, Western Allies stepped up spending on armaments.
The US military spending rose by a significant 18% of its GNP, while British and French
rose to 10%.
1949 - Only the USA has the atomic bomb, first used in 1945 against Japan,
decimating the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 152,000 people in the space of
three days.
1950 - Soviets announce that they too now have successfully developed and possess an
atomic bomb, after performing a trial detonation in August 1949. This ended American
monopoly over the weapon, sparking an arms race between the two powers.
1952 - American scientists develop the Hydrogen bomb, around a colossal 2500 times
more powerful than the original A-bomb.
1953 – Russians declare they too have developed the Hydrogen bomb.
1955 – Americans now have 2000 nuclear War Heads, along with the means to carry
and fire them, in the form of 50 B-29 bombers in 1948, and more than 1000 just five
years later. Also, in 1953, American forces in West Germany receive their first nuclear
weapons designed for use on the battlefield. This was stark contrast to the USSR’s 50
atomic bombs in 1953, who didn’t catch up to the USA until 1978. However, on the other
hand, President Truman was afraid of the Soviet Union’s huge conventional army of well
trained, experienced and disciplined soldiers, tanks, planes and artillery etc.
If one side advanced beyond the other in terms of weapons, there was a fear that a hot
war would spark and brink an outright victory for one of the sides, with the possible use
of nuclear weaponry. This kept arms spending high, resulting in the rapid development of
Although nuclear weapons were supposed to be a deterrent to war, there was of course
always the option of using the weapons and sparking a war, due to their availability to both
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