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What was the Cold War?

The cold war impacted most parts of the world in one way or another.
A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.
The Cold War led the Space Race, which landed Americans on the Moon in 1969.
A sign commemorating the Berlin Wall, which was built during the Cold War.
Several powers, including the U.S. and U.S.S.R., began to field ballistic missile submarines during the Cold War.
The People's Republic of China.
The American flag.
Versatile, high-quality combat aircraft like the F-16 Fighting Falcon were developed by the United States during the Cold War to counter numerically superior Soviet forces.
The race to the moon was part of the Cold War.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Kheng Guan Toh, Axellwolf, Yuri Arcurs, York, Iruhsa, Franck Thomasse, n/a, Mccarthys_Photoworks, Hugo A. Quintero G.
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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The Cold War was a period of tension and subdued hostility which gripped most of the world between the 1940s and the early 1990s. The primary actors in it were the United States and its allies, countered by Russia and countries aligned with that nation. Rather than engaging in a potentially devastating out and out war, the countries involved in the Cold War jockeyed for position in more subtle ways. Many major events in global history including the rise of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis were related to this war.

The Cold War has its roots in the Second World War, when the Allied powers made an uneasy pact with Russia to defeat Germany and Italy. The Allied countries were concerned about joining forces with a Communist nation, and Russia was likewise hesitant about the agreement. After the Second World War, Germany was divided into territories occupied by the Allies and Russia, and the relationship started to go sour shortly after that.

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From the point of view of the West, Communist was a dangerous idea. Russia had firm control of Eastern Europe, but the Allies and the United States in particular hoped to prevent the spread of Communism through containment. The West was also concerned about the potential for conversion in developing nations in Africa, Asia, and South America. The West heavily controlled regions which bordered Communist countries, and sent a variety of spies across the borders to gather information about Communist regimes. In addition, both Communists and Westerners engaged in wars on other ground, such as in Korea and Vietnam, in an attempt to gain the upper hand.

Russia and allied nations such as China, on the other hand, wanted to protect themselves and the Communist nations that they were allied with. The division between Communist Eastern Europe and the West was called the “Iron Curtain,” due to the difficulty in crossing it, thanks to Communist officials trying to keep citizens in and Westerners out. Communist nations competed with the West economically, scientifically, and technologically in an attempt to establish superiority. The Cold War led the Space Race which landed Americans on the moon in 1969, and it also led to nuclear proliferation, as a growing number of countries grew concerned for their safety.

Numerous attempts were made at reaching a diplomatic agreement during the Cold War, but the Cold War truly began to end when Eastern European nations rose up against Communism. The Solidarity anti-communist movement gained ground in Poland as the Berlin Wall fell and leaders of the United States and Russia started to engage in cooperative talks. Diplomatic relationships between the major players were re-established in the 1990s, to the relief of many people around the world who had been impacted by the Cold War.

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Discuss this Article

anon270254
Post 41

Why did the United States involve itself in the Cold War? Second, please describe one piece of American foreign policy utilized to wage the Cold War. Third, please explain one government initiative, policy, or campaign used on the home front to carry out the aims of the Cold War.

2. Please consider the significance of television in American society during the Cold War.

anon265393
Post 40

Was the Vietnam War taking place during the Cold War?

anon157636
Post 35

this is really helpful. it's answered most of my questions. thank you for this.

anon104749
Post 30

the cold war was from 1945-1991. where did you get 1950 or 60 from annon80998? whoever you heard that from has no idea.

anon81566
Post 28

How does the cold war deal with the song "Imagine" by John Lennon?

anon80998
Post 27

the cold war was from 1945-1950 or 60? I've heard both.

anon62464
Post 24

The cold war shouldn't be the cold war in diplomatic terms. This "cold" war led to other very serious wars such as "The Vietnam war" that led to millions of deaths. so to label it the cold war, is simply an understatement. - Nathan

anon61646
Post 23

it was called the Cold war and not a Hot war because:

a hot war is actual warfare. All talks have failed and the armies are fighting.

Cold War: Neither side ever fought the other.

anon59556
Post 22

Why was it called the cold war? why cold? why couldn't it be hot?

anon42860
Post 21

how did the cold war have an affect on the counter culture movement (the hippie movement)?

anon41896
Post 19

I think this article is very interesting and it really helps those looking up the information.

anon33577
Post 12

No- there were no battles with guns.

anon28443
Post 10

Did they have guns in the war?

anon28441
Post 9

I have a report on Ronald Reagan and The Cold War. This website gave me all the answers and I think Ronald Reagan did end the Cold War.

anon27031
Post 8

What other events did The Cold War lead to? And also, what was the Cold war about?

anon26884
Post 7

ok i'm doing a power point and i need to know exactly what the cold war is. please tell me without going into detail or explaining it. thank you for your help.

anon26261
Post 6

What do the cold war and "the butter battle book" have in common?

anon25042
Post 5

Did Ronald Reagan end the cold war?

anon18032
Post 4

Greek Civil War, Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Bay of Pigs Invasion, Gulf War and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan are just some examples of numerous actual conflicts caused or supported by the Cold War.

anon15798
Post 3

As an answer to your question, anon10775, no there were no wars with guns during the Cold War. In fact the Cold War was more the threat of a war happening as nobody was sure who had nuclear missiles so everyone was uneasy and tension was high. Despite the fact there was no physical war it was more of a mental and political war which did affect many people all over the world (like how most US Americans hate communism because of the threat of Russia during the cold war)

anon10775
Post 2

Was there actually a war with guns during the Cold War?

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