International Relations: The Cold War Timeline 1945-1991

cold warThis timeline details the main events of the period known as the Cold War and is linked to the GCSE topic International Relations: The Cold War Era 1945 – 1991

See Also:
Leaders of the Soviet Union 1922 – 1991
Presidents of the United States 1789 – Present day


1945 (4th – 11th February)
Yalta Conference
This was a meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin to decide what would happen at the end of the war. They agreed:
that Germany would be split into four zones controlled by the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), the United States, Britain and France
that Berlin would be split into four zones controlled by the USSR, USA, Britain and France
that Nazi war criminals would be tried in an international court
that liberated countries could have free elections
that a United Nations Organisation would be established to maintain peace
that the USSR would have influence over eastern Europe.
The disagreed on:
German reparations
the fate of Poland
1945 (March)
The Soviet army disarmed the Romanian army and forced King Michael I to appoint a Communist government under Petru Groza.
1945 (12th April)
Franklin Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry Truman.
1945 (8th May)
V E Day
Germany surrendered to the Russian army bringing the war in Europe to an end.
1945 (June)
A coalition government took control in Poland.
1945 (July)
Soviet Bloc
By July 1945, the Soviet army had liberated and occupied Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
1945 (16th July)
The United States successfully detonated an atomic bomb.
1945 (17th July to 2nd August)
Potsdam Conference
This meeting between Attlee, Truman and Stalin revisited what would happen at the end of the war. They agreed
To partition Germany and Berlin into four zones as agreed at the Yalta Conference
to set up and become members of a United Nations Organisation.
that Germany should be demilitarised
that free elections should be held in Germany
that Germany should pay reparations
that Poland’s border would be moved west. Korea was divided into a northern Soviet Zone and a southern American zone.
They disagreed:
over the extent to which Germany should be disabled – Truman did not want Germany subjected to another treaty like Versailles while Stalin totally disagreed
Stalin refused to allow the countries of Eastern Europe to hold free elections.
1945 (26th July)
Winston Churchill was defeated in the General Election and Clement Attlee was elected Prime Minister. Attlee replaced Churchill at the Potsdam Conference.
1945 (6th August)
The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
1945 (8th August)
A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
1945 (14th August)
V J Day
Japan surrendered bringing World War Two to an end.
1945 (2nd September)
Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam an independent republic.
1945 (4th November)
Elections were held and the Smallholders Party led by Bela Kovacs received 57% of the vote. However, the Soviet commander in Hungary refused to allow them to form the government and instead insisted that a coalition government be set up with Communists holding the main positions.
1945 (18th November)
An election was held and results were rigged to return a Communist majority government. This government banned all other parties in Bulgaria.
1946 (early March)
Stalin stated his intention to have a ‘buffer zone’ of controlled Communist satellite states between the West and the Soviet Union.
1946 (5th March)
Churchill delivered his ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech which included the famous words “ iron curtain has descended on Europe.” His statement marked the delineations in the Cold War.
1946 (26th May)
A General Election was held that saw the Communist party gain the most votes in the Czech region and the Democratic Party gain the most in Slovakia.
1946 (November)
Elections saw the Communist gain 80% of the vote to become the dominant party.
1947 (1st January)
In Germany the United States and Britain merged their sectors to create the Bizone.
1947 (January)
Elections were fixed to ensure a Communist government was put in power.
1947 (12th March)
Truman Doctrine
President Truman argued that the World was being divided into two armed camps – Capitalist and Communist. He promised to use the resources of the United States to follow a policy of containment and prevent Communism from spreading.
1947 (5th June)
Marshall Plan
This was a programme of economic aid offered by the United States to any European country on condition that they agree a free trade deal with the United States. Truman approved the plan because it would help other countries resist Communism and the free trade clause would help the United States economically. Stalin rejected the plan and warned that any Eastern Bloc country would be severely dealt with if they accepted. He was unhappy that the Allied zones were included in the plan and took steps to ensure that aid did not reach West Berlin.
1947 (August)
A General Election was held which saw a Communist government returned to power. This government banned all other parties.
1947 (5th October)
Stalin set up the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) which was responsible for the control of the Eastern Bloc.
1947 (30th December)
King Michael I was forced to abdicate the throne. The monarchy was abolished and King Michael was exiled.
1948 (February)
The Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia.
1948 (20th March)
An Allied Control Council had been established in 1945 to jointly administer the partitions of Germany. However the aims of Stalin and those of the Western leaders differed greatly. The West wanted a strong Germany that would be able to prevent the spread of Communism and also offer a strong economic trading partner, Russia wanted to weaken Germany. Unable to agree the Soviet representative walked out of the meeting. The Soviet’s never returned.
1948 (June)
The Western powers agreed plans to create a unified West Germany and introduce a new currency, the Deutschmark, to West Germany and West Berlin.
1948 (24th June)
Berlin Blockade
In response to the Western announcement of a planned unified West Germany and a new currency for West Germany and West Berlin, Stalin accused the West of interfering in the Soviet Zone and cut all road, canal and rail links to the American, British and French partitions of Berlin. Western Berliners were left with no access to food and faced starvation.
1948 (28th June)
Berlin Blockade
American and British planes took food, clothing, oil and building materials to West Berlin in an exercise known as the Berlin Airlift.
1948 (24th July)
Stalin announced a new currency for the Soviet zone of Germany, the Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank. It was known as the Ostmark or East Mark.
1949 (8th January)
In response to the Marshall Plan, the Soviet Union set up COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) in order to offer financial aid to Eastern Bloc countries. The aid was used as a means of controlling the economies of the Eastern Bloc.
1949 (4th April)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formed with Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States all signing to the treaty. The aim of the organisation was to provide a defensive alliance against Soviet aggression and also to stop the spread of Communism to the West.
1949 (8th April)
The French agreed to merge their partition of Germany with the Bizone to create the Trizone.
1949 (12th May)
Berlin Blockade
Stalin ended the Berlin Blockade. Truman saw this as a Cold War victory for the West and a defeat for Communism which in turn increased rivalry between the two nations.
1949 (24th May)
The Trizone (American, British and French partitions of Germany) became the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) with Bonn as the capital city.
1949 (1st October)
Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Party in China, announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
1949 (October)
In response to the announcement of the intention to create the Federal Republic of Germany, Stalin announced the creation of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
1950 (25th June)
Korean War
Communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. Truman, fearful of the spread of Communism sent American troops to restore South Korea’s non-Communist status.
1953 (5th March)
Josef Stalin died aged 74 years. He was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev who pursued a less aggressive policy towards the West.
1953 (27th July)
Korean War
The Korean War ended. North Korea remained affiliated with Russia while South Korea was affiliated with the United States.
1954 (1st March)
The United States tested its largest hydrogen bomb.
1954 (April)
Eisenhower’s Domino Theory – This theory which dominated much of 1950’s US policy held that if Communism took one state then neighbouring states would quickly fall to Communism as well. This prompted greater US intervention in Indochina.
1954 (Summer)
Geneva Accords
This set of documents ended the French war with the Vietminh and divided Vietnam into North and South states. The communist leader of North Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh while the US friendly South was led by Ngo Dinh Diem.
1955 (9th May)
West Germany became a member of NATO.
1955 (14th May)
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Pact was formed with member states: East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union. This was a military alliance of the member states to counter the threat of NATO.
1956 (23rd October)
Hungarian Revolution
This began as a Hungarian protest against Communist rule in Budapest.
1956 (24th October)
Hungarian Revolution
Soviet tanks entered Budapest.
1956 (25th October)
Hungarian Revolution
Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Budapest. 12 people were killed and hundreds injured.
1956 (26th October)
Hungarian Revolution
The new Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, held talks with the Soviets and it was agreed that Soviet tanks would leave Budapest. Nagy believed he had the support of the United States.
1956 (28th October)
Hungarian Revolution
Soviet tanks left Budapest and a new government was formed under Prime Minister Imre Nagy. The government moved quickly to establish democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
1956 (30th October)
Hungarian Revolution
Imre Nagy released a number of political prisoners.
1956 (30th October)
Suez Crisis
Following military bombardment by Israeli forces, a joint British and French force invaded Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal which had been nationalised by the Egyptian leader Nasser. The attack was heavily criticised by World leaders, especially America because Russia had offered support to Egypt. The British and French were forced to withdraw and a UN peace keeping force was sent to establish order.
1956 (31st October)
Hungarian Revolution
Imre Nagy announced a number of reforms he proposed to introduce to a new democratic Hungary. He also announced that Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. He asked for support from the United Nations.
1956 (4th November)
Hungarian Revolution
Khruschev did not want to appear weak and he was also concerned that if Hungary abandoned Communism other Eastern Bloc countries would follow. He therefore ordered Russian tanks to circle Budapest. Imre Nagy made a World broadcast that Hungary was under attack from the Soviet Union and calling for aid.
1956 (10th November)
Hungarian Revolution
As no aid had arrived from the West, Hungary did not have the resources to fight off the Soviets and Hungary fell to the Soviet Union. Janos Kadar was appointed the leader of Hungary. Nagy was arrested.
1957 (25th March)
Treaty of Rome
This treaty established the European Economic Community. Khruschev was alarmed that West Germany became a member of this community because it would help West Germany to become stronger economically.
1957 (4th October)
Space Race
The USSR launched a satellite, Sputnik, which could orbit the earth in 90 minutes. The Americans saw this as a threat to national security.
1957 (1st November)
Space Race
The USSR Sputnik II carried Laika the dog into space.
1958 (29th July)
Space Race
The United States founded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to coordinate the exploration of space.
1958 (10th November)
Berlin Ultimatum
Khrushchev accused the United States of breaking the Potsdam Agreement and told them to leave Berlin and allow it to become a neutral city. President Eisenhower agreed to meet Khrushchev in Paris on 14th May 1960.
1959 (8th January)
Revolutionary, Fidel Castro, overthrew the Cuban government of Batista and took control of the country. Castro removed all American businesses and investment from Cuba.
1959 (After January)
In retaliation for the expulsion of American business from Cuba, America refused to buy Cuban sugar and cut off diplomatic relations. Khrushchev, keen to have Soviet influence close to America offered to buy Cuban sugar and also offered Cuba machinery and oil.
1960 (5th May)
The Soviet Union announced that it had shot down an American U2 spy plane. The pilot, Gary Powers, was interrogated.
1960 (16th May)
Paris Talks
Tension between Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight Eisenhower was high following the U2 spy plane incident. Khruschev demanded that the United States stop any further flights and also that those responsible should be punished. While Eisenhower was happy to agree to suspend further flights he refused to punish anyone. Khrushchev left the meeting and did not return.
1960 (19th August)
The pilot of the US spy plane, Gary Powers, was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
1961 (January)
Khrushchev was worried that increasing numbers of people were leaving East Berlin for West Berlin.
1961 (12th April)
Space Race
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyvich Gagarin became the first human in space.
1961 (17th April)
Cuba – Bay of Pigs Invasion
A force of Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA, aided by the American government attempted to invade Cuba and overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro by creating an uprising against him. However, when they landed they were met by Castro’s force of 20,000 soldiers. The local support they were expecting did not materialise and the force of Cuban exiles were slaughtered.
1961 (June)
Vienna Summit
Khrushchev and Kennedy met for talks. Khrushchev again demanded that western forces leave West Berlin but Kennedy refused.
1961 (July)
Kennedy announced that he was increasing the American defence budget by $3.5 billion. Khrushchev increased the Soviet defence budget by 30%.
1961 (13th August)
Berlin Wall
During the night Russia built a wall of barbed wire and sealed the 50 km border between East and West Berlin. Once that was in place work immediately began on a concrete wall that was completed by 14th August.
1962 (10th February)
Gary Powers, American pilot serving 10 years in a Soviet prison for espionage, was exchanged for a Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher, also known as Rudolf Abel.
1962 (September)
Following the Bay of Pigs Invasion, links between Cuba and the Soviet Union had strengthened. The Soviet Union had installed military advisors and ground forces in Cuba as well. Khrushchev now decided to install ballistic missiles on the island.
1962 (14th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
An American spy plane reported that the Soviets were building a nuclear missile base in Cuba.
1962 (15th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
President Kennedy set up a committee of 9 members of the National Security Council and 5 other advisors known as EXCOMM to decide what to do. The options were:
Do nothing
use diplomacy to negotiate a settlement and the removal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba
invade Cuba and overthrow Castro
attack and destroy the missile sites
set up a naval blockade around Cuba to prevent further missiles reaching Cuba.
Although the members of the National Security Council believed America should attack Kennedy was not convinced.
1962 (18th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
Robert Kennedy met with Soviet Foreign Minister Adrei Gromyko, the meeting had been scheduled some time previously. Gromyko stated that the missiles were for the defence of Cuba rather than an act of aggression on the part of the Soviet Union.
1962 (20th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
It was agreed that the United States navy would be used to quarantine Cuba. The term blockade was not used because it could be interpreted as an act of war.
1962 (22nd October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
Kennedy made a speech on television explaining the crisis to the American people. He confirmed that he had ordered a naval quarantine around Cuba and had ordered the Soviets to remove the weapons.
1962 (23rd October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
Soviet ships in the Atlantic were reported to have halted their journey westward.
1962 (24th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
Khrushchev refused to remove missiles from Cuba.
1962 (26th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
EXCOMM began drawing up plans to invade Cuba and take control of the missiles.
1962 (27th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
Khrushchev agreed to remove missiles from Cuba if Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove American missiles from Turkey.
1962 (28th October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
Khrushchev made a broadcast on Radio Moscow stating that he had agreed to remove missiles from Cuba and that Kennedy had promised not to invade Cuba.
1963 (26th June)
President Kennedy visited West Berlin and made his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech where he offered solidarity to the people of West Germany.
1963 (5th August)
Partial Test Ban Treaty
This treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that both countries would stop testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.
1953 (September)
Kennedy declared that while the United States would remain supportive of South Vietnam and would send military advisers, no ground troops would be sent.
1964 (April)
The Romanian Workers’ Party publicly stated that it was going to exercise its right to follow its own Communist path without outside interference.
1964 (15th October)
Nikita Krushchev was removed from office. He was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.
1965 (March)
America began airstrikes on North Vietnam and also sent the first batch of ground troops.
1965 (March)
Nikolai Ceausescu became leader of Romania. He continued the policy of remaining distant from Moscow.
1965 (July)
Vietnam War
Lyndon Johnson sent a further 50,000 troops to Vietnam
1966 (during)
The economy in Czechoslovakia had been steadily declining for the past three years. Unpopular leader Antonin Novotny introduced reforms known as the New Economic Model but this failed to improve the situation.
1966 (December)
US forces in Vietnam had increased to 400,000 soldiers.
1967 (May)
Middle East
Egypt declared that the United Nations Peace Keeping force, established after the Suez Crisis in 1956, was no longer welcome in the Suez region and mobilised Egyptian forces in the region. The Egyptians also set up a naval blockade closing the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships.
1967 (5th June)
Six Day War
Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria destroying the airforces of each country. Syria, Jordan and Iraq retaliated with air strikes on Israel.
1967 (6th June)
Six Day War
Israeli forces captured Gaza and the West Bank.
1967 (7th June)
Six Day War
Egyptian President Nasser, rejected a cease-fire and Jordan’s King Hussein ignored a similar request. Israeli forces destroyed Egyptian tanks in the Sinai desert and advanced to the Suez Canal. They aslo removed Jordanian forces from the area west of the Jordan river.
1967 (8th June)
Six Day War
Egypt accepted a cease-fire.
1967 (10th June)
Six Day War
Syria agreed a cease fire. The war ended in victory for Israel.
1967 (mid June
Arab nations were angered that Israel had received support from the United States. Egypt and Syria developed a close relationship with the Soviet Union.
1967 (October)
A number of reformers led by Alexander Dubcek challenged Novotny’s leadership.
1967 (November)
Vietnam War
The number of US troops in South Vietnam had reached 535,000. Public opinion in America was not in favour of the war and there were an increasing number of protests against the war.
1967 (December)
Alexander Dubcek invited Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev to Czechoslovakia. He wanted the Soviet leader to see how unpopular Novotny was.
1968 (5th January)
Antonin Novotny was replaced by Alexander Dubcek as First Secretary of the Communist Party.
1968 (March)
Antonin Novotny resigned as President of Czechoslovakia. He was succeeded by General Ludvik Svoboda.
1968 (March)
Vietnam War
TV footage of the Tet Offensive and the Mai Lai Massacre increased protests against the war.
1968 (Spring)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
Alexander began to introduce a number of reforms including:
Political freedom
freedom of speech
freedom of the press
a reduction in the power of the secret police
the establishment of works councils to represent the workforce and improve working conditions
1968 (June)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
Demands for more reforms than proposed by Dubcek, led to the formation of the Social Democratic Party to rival the Communist Party. The reporter Ludvik Vaculik, called on the people to rise up and force more reforms.
1968 (June)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
Brezhniv was concerned that Czechoslovakia would leave the Warsaw Pact and join NATO. He therefore did not withdraw Soviet tanks from the country following a military exercise.
1968 (1st July)
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
This treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to stop production of nuclear weapons.
1968 (July)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
Brezhniv met with Dubcek who agreed not to allow a new Social Democratic Party and affirmed that Czechoslovakia would remain a member of the Warsaw Pact.
1968 (late July)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
President Tito of Yugoslavia visited Czechoslovakia where he received a warm welcome. This alarmed Brezhniv who saw it as another sign that Czechoslovakia was moving towards independence.
1968 (mid August)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
Brezhniv told Dubcek that his actions were going to undermine the Warsaw Pact.
1968 (20th August)
Czechoslovakia – Prague Spring
Russian forces invaded Czechoslovakia to stop the reformist government. Rebel Czech forces tried to stop the advance by using petrol bombs. They also removed sign posts and set up barricades. However, the Czech army did not get involved and the Soviets put down the revolt. Dubcek and other leaders were arrested and taken to Moscow. He was forced to resign and was sent as ambassador to Turkey.
1968 (late August)
Ceausescu condemned the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.
1968 (13th November)
Brezhnev Doctrine
Leonid Brezhnev declared that all Soviet Bloc countries had to be one party states and remain members of the Warsaw Pact. He also stated that if a Capitalist country invaded any Communist country then other members were bound to intervene with force.
1968 (21st December)
Space Race
The United States launched Apollo 8, the first manned spacship to orbit the Earth.
1969 (January)
Student Jan Palach, set fire to himself in Wencelas Square in protest against the Soviet invasion.
1969 (17th April)
Gustav Husak replaced Dubcek as leader of Czechoslovakia. He was a hard line Communist who returned the country to strict Communist rule.
1969 (18th March)
Vietnam War
President Richard Nixon began bombing Cambodia in a bid to block North Vietnamese supply lines known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
1969 (20th July)
Space Race
The American spaceship Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon.
1970 (30th April)
Vietnam War
Richard Nixon sent American troops to Cambodia.
1970 (17th September)
Vietnam War
Peace talks in Paris failed to find a solution to end the war.
1971 (3rd September)
Four Power Agreement
This agreement made between Russia, America, Britain and France re-affirmed the rights and responsibilities of those countries to Berlin.
1972 (February)
President Nixon made a visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China to try to stabilise relations between the two countries. Brezhnev was fearful of an American Chinese alliance.
1972 (26th May)
The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty was signed by America and Russia. However, many thought that the treaty did not go far enough since it placed no restrictions on strategic bombers, nor on the development of new weapons. The treaty did agree:
an Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty whereby anti-ballistic missile systems were only allowed at two sites, each limited to 100 missiles
a five year freeze on the number of inter-continental ballistic missile and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers
each side was allowed to use satellites to check that arms limitations agreements were being kept to.
1972 (August)
Vietnam War
Henry Kissinger reached an agreement with Hanoi, capital of North Vietnam.
1972 (October)
Vietnam War
South Vietnam rejected the agreement made between the United States and North Vietnam in August.
1973 (22nd January)
Vietnam War
South Vietnamese leader, Nguyen Thieu reluctantly agreed terms to end the war with North Vietnam.
1973 (15th August)
Vietnam War
The Paris Peace Accords ended American involvement in Vietnam after agreeing a ceasefire in Vietnam (but not Cambodia or Laos), the exchange of prisoners of war and the removal of American troops.
1973 (6th October)
Arab-Israeli War
Syria and Egypt, both armed by the Soviet Union, launched an attack on Israel that was armed and supplied by the United States.
1973 (24th October)
Arab-Israeli War
The war ended with victory for Israel. However, the defeated Arab nations were angry and punished the West by dramatically raising oil prices.
1974 (July)
Richard Nixon visited Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow for talks. they agreed:
to continue to work towards reducing the likelihood of war
to reduce the arms race
to reduce tension around the world
to work towards mutual cooperation in commercial, cultural, economic, scientific and technical fields.
1975 (April)
North Vietnamese Communists attacked South Vietnam.
1975 (17th April)
The Killing Fields
The Khmer Rouge attacked and took control of Cambodia. Anyone who had supported the American regime or anyone who was thought to have links to foreign governments as well as many intellectuals were executed in a genocide that was known as ‘The Killing Fields’.
1975 (28th April)
Vietnam War
The last US soldiers were evacuated from Saigon.
1975 (17th July)
Space Race
America and Russia agreed a joint space venture – the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project which saw an end to the Space Race when three US astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts met in space.
1976 (11th March)
The Soviet Union began to deploy SS-20 missiles which could reach targets in Western Europe.
1978 (27th April)
The Communist Peoples’ Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew the government. Muhammad Taraki became Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Communist reforms were immediately put in place which led to fierce opposition from Muslims in the country.
1979 (June)
This new strategic arms limitation treaty agreed:
A limit of 2,400 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles for each side
a limit of 1320 MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) systems
the banning of land-based intercontinental ballistic missile launchers
limits on the deployment of new strategic offensive arms.
1979 (after June)
The United States did not ratify the treaty due to concerns about verifying actual numbers of missile launchers.
1979 (10th August)
The Soviet Union began testing an updated version of their SS-20 missiles that had greater range and accuracy.
1979 (September)
Hafizullah Amin took power from Taraki but continued with an anti-Muslim policy. Muslims joined a guerrilla movement, the mujahideen, and declared a jihad (holy war) on Amin’s government. Brezhnev was concerned about the rise of the Muslim guerrilla movement particularly because there were 30 million Muslims living in the Soviet Union. He needed to display a show of force against them.
1979 (December)
The Soviet Union began deploying its new SS-20 missiles. In response NATO began deploying Cruise missiles in Western Europe, including 160 at Greenham Common in the United Kingdom.
1979 (25th December)
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
1979 (27th December)
Party leader Amin was shot and replaced by Babrak Kamal. Kamal could only hold his place in power with Soviet military support. Large numbers of Afghan soldiers joined the Mujahideen which in turn required an increased Soviet military presence.
1980 (early)
The period of warmer relations between the United States and the Soviet Union since the 1970s, known as Detente, was over.
1980 (July)
A number of countries including the USA boycotted the Summer Olympics held in Moscow as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Other countries including the United Kingdom took part under the Olympic flag rather than their national flag.
1980 (13th December)
Martial law was declared to crush the Solidarity movement.
1981 (31st January)
New president, Ronald Reagan, declared his intention to take a tougher line with the Soviet Union. Fighting Communism was a major policy in his government and he announced an increased defence budget.
1981 (November)
President Reagan proposed a ‘zero option’ arms reduction whereby he would cancel deployment of US intermediate-range missiles in western Europe if Brezhnev would dismantle comparable missiles. Brezhnev rejected the option outright.
1982 (29th June)
A new phase of Strategic Arms Reduction Talks were proposed by Ronald Reagan in Geneva.
1983 (23rd March)
President Reagan announced the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). It was a plan for a new ground and space based anti-ballistic system that would create a shield for US land missiles. It became known as the ‘Star Wars Program’.
1983 (27th March)
Soviet leader Andropov responded to Reagan’s announcement by accusing the United States of trying to start and win a nuclear war. The Soviet economy was facing difficulties and the Soviets knew that attempting to develop a similar system would bankrupt the country.
1984 (July)
The Soviet Union and thirteen allied countries boycotted the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles in protest at the SDI initiative and also in retaliation for the US led boycott of the Moscow games in 1980.
1985 (11th March)
Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union. He had a more conciliatory attitude towards the west. He also wanted to improve conditions for the people of the Soviet Union and began a series of walkabouts where he met and talked to ordinary people on the street.
1985 (8th April)
Gorbachev announced that he would suspend the deployment of SS-20 missiles in Europe
1985 (November)
President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Geneva. They talked and decided to hold further meetings aimed at arms reduction.
1986 (11th October)
Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland for further arms reduction talks. They agreed to a reduction of intermediate-range nuclear forces but then talks stalled over the United States SDI.
1987 (June)
Glasnost and Perestroika
Mikhail Gorbachev announced his intention to follow a policy of glasnost (openness, transparency and freedom of speech) and perestroika (restructuring of government and economy). He also wanted free elections in the Soviet Union and an end to the arms race.
1987 (8th December)
The United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which agreed to eliminate all intermediate range nuclear and conventional missiles
1988 (during)
Gorbachev announced that the Brezhnev Doctrine was abandoned and that Eastern Bloc nations could determine their own affairs without interference from Moscow.
1988 (February)
Gorbachev announced a withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
1988 (May)
Reagan and Gorbachev held further talks in Moscow and agreed further arms reduction.
1989 (May)
The Hungarian/Austrian border was opened allowing thousands of East Germans to escape to the West.
1989 (August)
Communism fell in Poland and Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected leader of the Polish government.
1989 (October)
Gorbachev announced that demonstrations could be legally held in East Germany.
1989 (23rd October)
300,000 people attended a protest in the East German city of Leipzig.
1989 (23rd October)
Hungary declared itself to be a republic.
1989 (4th November)
One million people protested in East Berlin.
1989 (9th November)
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was torn down.
1989 (17th November)
Czechoslovakia – Velvet Revolution
A series of peaceful protests against Communism began in Czechoslovakia.
1989 (24th November)
The Communist government resigned.
1989 (2nd December)
Malta Summit
This was a meeting between Mikhail Gorbachov and George H W Bush. Many of the provisions of the Yalta Conference 1945 were reversed.
1989 (9th December)
Vaclav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia.
1989 (16th December)
Riots broke out in Romania against the Communist government.
1989 (21st December)
Crowds in Bucharest booed Ceausescu who fled the capital. He was later captured.
1989 (22nd December)
The Romanian army joined the popular protests in Romania fighting against the secret police of Ceausescu.
1989 (25th December)
The riots in Romania ended when the leader Ceausescu and his wife were executed by firing squad.
1989 (29th December)
Velvet Revolution
The revolution in Czechoslovakia ended with the overthrow of the Communist government.
1990 (20th May)
Elections were won by the National Salvation Front.
1990 (3rd October)
East and West Germany were reunified as one country.
1990 (15th October)
Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1990 (November)
A summit meeting agreed the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE). The treaty was signed by representatives of NATO and the Warsaw Pact and agreed a reduction in tanks, missiles, aircraft and other non-nuclear weapons.
1990 (9th November)
The election was won by the Civic Forum an anti-Communist alliance party.
1990 (10th November)
The election was won by the Bulgarian Socialist Party which was the Communist party renamed.
1990 (9th December)
The Free Trade Union Party, Solidarity, won the election
1991 (1st July)
The Warsaw Pact was disbanded.
1991 (31st July)
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union.
1991 (25th December)
Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. The hammer and sickle flag on the Kremlin was lowered.
1991 (26th December)
The Soviet Union was officially ended.


Published Aug 26, 2017 @ 6:57 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2020). International Relations: The Cold War 1945 – 1991. Last accessed [date]

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