Unit Question: How do ideologies shape and effect our world?

During the Second World War, Britain and America were allies of Russia, fighting together against Germany. After the war, they became enemies. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from World War II as the world’s two superpowers. No other countries were equal to them in military power or political influence. Differences in political and social beliefs and policies soon pulled the two superpowers apart and led to a struggle between them known as the cold war.

Historians have thought about the cold war first in terms of Russian blame then later the revisionists talk of U.S. blame and now we tend to focus on the cold war as a social, and political clash of ideas. It is the ideas that have motivated the event we call the cold war

Allies: US and Russian troops meet at the Elba River
After Hiroshima, and particularly after 1949 when then Russian scientist Kurchatov developed the atomic bomb, politicians realized that the bomb would change international politics. In the cold war, each superpower sought world influence by means short of total war. This was because the possibility of nuclear war made the costs of a hot war too high. Another ‘hot war’ would kill all humankind. War would be MAD (mutually assured destruction).

So the USA (along with its allies) and Soviet Russia stopped short of war. They didn’t declare war. But they did everything to oppose each other short of war. The weapons used in the cold war included the threat of force, the use of propaganda, and the sending of military and economic aid to weaker nations. It was called the ‘cold war’. It lasted until 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Source: adapted from John D Clare

The political event we call the cold war had two rivals: East vs West or Capitalism vs Communism or the USA vs the USSR but the impact of this event was global. Other nations were impacted by the cold war often in very significant ways that altered the shape and fortunes of these nations.

Causes of the Cold War
A New Balance of Power and the Cold War (1945-1948)

An introductory Video

Read the speech and interview below

Winston Churchill: Iron Curtain Speech

Winston Churchill gave this speech at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, after receiving an honorary degree. With typical oratorical skills, Church introduced the phrase "Iron Curtain" to describe the division between Western powers and the area controlled by the Soviet Union. As such the speech is often said to mark the onset of the Cold War.

Winston Churchill March, 1946

A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin. There is deep sympathy and goodwill in Britain--and I doubt not here also towards the peoples of all the Russians and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships. We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. We welcome her flag upon the seas. Above all, we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone--Greece with its immortal glories--is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.

Sinews of Peace. The Winston Churchill Centre. Speeches and Quotes. 20 Apr. 2005 <http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=429>.

Joseph Stalin: Reply to Churchill, 1946

In his critique of Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech in a Pravda interview in 1946, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) rebutted the Prime Minister's characterizations of Russian policies in Europe and accused him of proselytizing for war.

Q. How do you assess the last speech of Mr. Churchill which was made in the United States? . . . Can one consider that the speech of Mr. Churchill is damaging to the cause of peace and security?

A. [Stalin says] Undoubtedly, yes. In substance, Mr. Churchill now stands in the position of a firebrand of war. And Mr. Churchill is not alone here. He has friends not only in England but also in the United States of America.

In this respect, one is reminded remarkably of Hitler and his friends. Hitler began to set war loose by announcing his racial theory, declaring that only people speaking the German language represent a fully valuable nation. Mr. Churchill begins to set war loose also by a racial theory, maintaining that only nations speaking the English language are fully valuable nations, called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world . . . .

In substance, Mr. Churchill and his friends in England and the United States present nations not speaking the English language with something like an ultimatum: "Recognize our lordship voluntarily and then all will be well. In the contrary case, war is inevitable." . . . There is no doubt that the setup of Mr. Churchill is a setup for war, a call to war with the Soviet Union . . . .

Q. How do you assess that part of Mr. Churchill's speech in which he attacks the democratic regime of the European countries which are our neighbors and in which he criticizes the good neighborly relations established between these countries and the Soviet Union?

A. [Stalin says] . . . Mr. Churchill maintains that Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations of those areas, are within the Soviet sphere and are all subjected to Soviet influence and to the increasing control of Moscow . . . . To begin with, it is quite absurd to speak of the exclusive control of the USSR in Vienna and Berlin, where there are Allied control councils with representatives of four states, where the USSR has only one-fourth of the voices.

Secondly, one cannot forget the following fact: the Germans carried out an invasion of the USSR through Finland, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Germans were able to carry out the invasion through these countries by reason of the fact that these countries had governments inimical to the Soviet Union.

As a result of the German invasion, the Soviet Union has irrevocably lost in battles with the Germans, and also during the German occupation and through the expulsion of Soviet citizens to German slave labor camps, about seven million people. In other words, the Soviet Union has lost in men several times more than Britain and the United States together.

Churchill argues that the Soviet Union is a threat to democracy and freedom as it dominates and controls Central and Eastern Europe. This is a valid argument. Are there other reasons why the Western Nations would fear the Soviet Union? Stalin argues that nobody lost as much or suffered as much as the Russian people and they have a right to secure their borders and the lands the have been used to attack them. This is also a valid argument. Are there other reasons why the Soviet Union would fear the United States and the west?

Ideological Differences Between the USA and Soviet Union

Other important beliefs/ideas at the start of the Cold War

  • Communism is a threat to Europe, the world and democracy and must be stopped
  • Communism threatens future American markets
  • Stalin cooperated with Hitler (the Nazi-Soviet Pact). He can’t be trusted
  • Communism is evil

  • After 3 invasions, Russia needs a buffer zone of controlled nations for security.
  • Britain and the USA tried to destroy the revolution (in 1918) once already.
  • Britain and the USA tried to let Germany survive long enough to destroy Russia. They can’t be trusted.
  • Capitalism is evil

Lesson 1: Potsdam and Yalta

Lesson2: A New Super Power: The Truman Doctrine and The Marshal Plan

Lesson 3: The Berlin BlockadeLesson 4: Witch Hunt!Lesson 5: Korea: The Cold War Warms Up

Lesson 6: The Hungarian Uprising of 1956

Lesson 7: Cuban Missile Crisis

Lesson 8: The Congo

Lesson 9: VietnamLesson 10: Afghanistan Study suggestions for final

Timeline Resource:Here is a timeline that looks like it is created by some students. It is pretty good. Check it out.