Edexcel Cold War 1943-1991 Revision (Detailed)

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The origins of the Cold War

During 1939-45 the alliance of the three superpowers (USA, Britain and SU) was due to necessity. Once Germany had been defeated, differences began to emerge between Stalin and the Soviet Union. This is, largely, where the capitalist vs communism shebang comes into place.

The cold war is a conflict in which actual fighting takes place by ever means short of war itself. The only time the war seemed to get hot was during Korea in 1950-53 ad Vietnam (60s)

Its main features, and what made it so prominent throughout the world, was:

  1. Spying
  2. Propaganda
  3. Arms Race
  4. Space Race
  5. Loans and Aid

Pre-1941 Rivalry

Superpower rivalry was not new. The differences go back to the 1918-21 revolution where America defended Russia against the Bolshevik uprising. Differences intensified after 1933 when Hitler became leader of Germany.

Stalin, who became leader of the Soviet Union in 1928, was very suspicious of an attack from the west and encouraged Hitler to invade.

Task 1a) What message is the cartoonist trying to put across in Source B?

Source B shows three fat, greedy and typically selfish old men in suits looking down at a pile of bodies. These three men, each wearing a different hat with the flag of France, America and Great Britain on them have totally no remorse and are simply smoking cigarettes. The source tells us that such people were the cause for this atrocity (as they are on a stage looking down over the event). The Russian writing would make it apparent that, even though I can not read Russian, they have taken over the ‘russian stage’ and attempted to gain power by the killing of many.


What went wrong in conferences:

Why did the conferences intensify in 1945?

Allied armies were closing in on Berlin, Germany was close to defeat. The three Allied leaders met at Yalta in early 1945 to consider what to do with Germany.

This was last meeting of the ‘big three’ Roosevelt, Churchill lost the next election. Churchill felt isolated from most of this conference.

Changed between Yalta and Potsdam

In the five months between the conferences, a number of changes took place:

  • Soviet troops liberated countries in eastern Europe but did not remove military presence.
  • Stalin had set up a communist government in Poland and ignored the wishes of the Poles and Yalta conference. He insisted that control of eastern Europe was a defensive measure against possible future attacks.
  • The Red army was the biggest in the world.
  • In April 1945, Roosevelt died. His Vice-President, Harry Truman, replaced him. Truman was totally different from Roosevelt and distrusted Stalin.
  • July 1945 Americans successfully tested an atomic bomb. Stalin was furious he had not heard about his before the conference.
  • Halfway through conference, Churchill was defeated in the British General Election and replaced by Attlee.

Soviet expansion

  1. Memory of the suffering 1918-39
  1. During the interwar years most earstern European countries had been hostile to the Soviet Union, Poland had signed a non-aggression pact with France and during the Second World War Hungary and Romania fought on the side of Germany, against the Soviet Union
  1. Percentages deal
  1. Towards the end of the war, Stalin and Churchill had reached an understanding known as the ‘percentages deal’. Stalin believed that Churchill was accepting the influence of the Soviet Union in eastern Europe.
  1. Strategic importance of Poland
  1. The Soviet Union’s security was depending on a friendly Polish government. Stalin wanted a communist government in what would remain of Poland.
  1. Security
  1. The Soviet Union had been invaded from the west by Germany on two occasions. Stalin wanted to create a zone of ‘friendly’ or ‘buffer states’ to protect against future invasions.
  1. Expansionism.
  1. The USA, Britain and France believed that Stalin’s motives were political – the expansion of the Soviet empire and communism throughout Europe.

Soviet Government 1945-1947

  • Coalition governments were set up with the communists shared power and political parties
  • Backed by Stalin, communists took over the civil service, media, security and defense
  • Opposition leaders were arrested or forced to flee
  • Elections were held but fixed
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June 1945 a coalition government of several parties was set up. January 1947 elections were rigged to ensure total communist control. The leader of the opposition fled to London.


As with Poland, coalition parties were set up and, after demonstrations by the public, the army intervened and disarmed the Romanian army and forced the king to appoint a government by the communists under Peru. The next year, the monarchy was abolished.

What were the effects of the Soviet expansion?

Soviet domination scared Britain and USA, they were convinced ...

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