The Cold War Explained: Facts, dates and deaths

Cold War

When did the Cold War take place and when did it end?

The Cold War predominantly engulfed two world superpowers – the USA and the USSR – which started in 1947 at the end of World War II and lasted until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

What was the catalyst that started the Cold War?

After the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 9th 1945, marking the culmination of World War II, the fragile wartime partnership between the US and Great Britain on one side, along with the Soviet Union, on the other, started to crumble.

By 1948, the Soviet Union had successfully established left-wing regimes in the Eastern European nations that were liberated because of the forces of the Red Army. Both the American and British governments expressed concerns regarding the potential long-term Soviet control over Eastern Europe, as well as the perceived risk of communist parties that were influenced by the Soviet Union gaining power in the Western European democratic nations.

In contrast, the Soviet Union exhibited a resolute commitment to retaining dominion over Eastern Europe as a precautionary measure against potential resurfacing German aggression. Moreover, the Soviets were driven by a fervent aspiration to propagate communism on a global scale, primarily motivated by ideological considerations.

The Cold War was firmly established by 1947–48, as evidenced by the consolidation of American influence within Western Europe through the provision of aid under the Marshall Plan, as well as the installation of openly communist regimes by the Soviets throughout Eastern Europe.

Where did the Cold War take place?

The Cold War had a global reach, although its timing varied to some extent outside of Europe. As detailed below in our summary, the countries most affected by this include Germany, China, Korea, Hungary and Egypt.

Who fought in the Cold War?

The Cold War denotes a distinct period characterized by geopolitical strain, characterized by the rivalry and discord between communist states under the leadership of the Soviet Union and Western democratic nations, notably the United States.

Cold War Summary

The Cold War indicates a historical period characterized by political strain and competition between the United States as well as its Western allies,  and the Soviet Union along with its Eastern bloc allies, on the other side.

This era endured from the conclusion of World War II in 1945 until the disintegration of the Soviet Union on 31st December 1991. The historical period under consideration was distinguished by ideological, political, as well as military rivalry, wherein the two dominant global powers refrained from direct military confrontation but instead pursued proxy conflicts, engaged in espionage activities, and participated in a race to develop nuclear weaponry.

The major crises during this period encompassed the Berlin Blockade spanning from 1948 to 1949, the Chinese Communist Revolution occurring between 1945 and 1949, the Korean War that took place from 1950 to 1953, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Suez Crisis of 1956, the events of the Berlin Crisis during 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis during 1962, and the Vietnam War spanning from 1964 to 1975. Both major global powers engaged in a competition to exert their influence over the regions of Latin America and the Middle East too, as well as the decolonizing nations of Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

The Cold War exerted a significant influence on global geopolitics, as it played a pivotal role in shaping international alliances. Furthermore, its impact extended beyond political realms, as it had profound implications for culture, science, as well as technology.

Who won the Cold War?

The Cold War did not result in a definitive winner in the conventional sense, given that it was not marked by a direct military confrontation resulting in a conclusive victory.

That said, the Cold War concluded with the collapse of the Soviet Union on 31st December 1991, signifying the fall of a significant global power. The above-mentioned occurrence is frequently regarded as a symbolic culmination of the conflict, wherein the United States, as well as its allies, assert their prominence as the prevailing power in the world’s geopolitics.

The resolution of the Cold War resulted in substantial transformations in the realm of international relations, signifying the beginning of an all-new era in global politics.

How many people were killed?

While the Cold War itself did not result in direct casualties, it is important to acknowledge that the loss of life did occur in the various proxy conflicts that emerged during this period. Determining the precise number of the overall deaths during the Cold War poses a challenge due to the inclusion of fatalities from the United States, the Soviet Union, and third-world countries.

The classification of deaths among third-world citizens as either integral or extraneous to the Cold War remains a subject of debate. While precise and comprehensive figures are not available, it is estimated that the United States incurred a casualty count exceeding 100,000 individuals as a consequence of its involvement in proxy wars.

What happened after?

Following the conclusion of the Cold War, the global landscape underwent substantial geopolitical transformations. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the formation of a number of newly independent states. In fact, there were 15 in total: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The 1990s witnessed significant changes in international relationships and the proliferation of democratic systems in particular geographic regions. Furthermore, the implementation of economic reforms and the rapid progress in technological advancements have played a pivotal role in expediting the process of globalisation and shaping the contemporary global order.

Why was the Cold War so important?

The protracted Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union had a profound impact on global economic, political, as well as ideological dynamics in the aftermath of World War II. The two nations played significant roles as anti-fascist allies during World War II. However, they swiftly descended into the depths of the Cold War immediately following the war’s ending.

The Cold War was responsible for precipitating the emergence of the arms race, space race, as well as proxy wars on a global scale. The profound implications over international relations and the balance of power were brought about by the likelihood of nuclear war as well as the splitting of the globe into two opposing groups.

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