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Cold War Lesson

History, Civics, and Government

Yalta Summit with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin
Yalta Summit with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin

The Cold War was a period of military competition with the United States and Western Europe on one side and the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe on the other.

It started in 1945 at the end of World War II when the Allied powers disagreed on how Europe should be divided after the war.

Although the USA and the USSR never fought each other directly, they participated in wars that took place in other countries.

Planes Ready for Berlin Airlift
Planes Ready for Berlin Airlift

The biggest threat during the Cold War was the possible use of nuclear weapons.

If nuclear weapons had been used, it could have led to the mutual assured destruction of the warring countries and the destruction of the rest of the world.

Nuclear weapons are still a serious threat to the world.

Astronaut Aldrin on Moon in 1969
Astronaut Aldrin on Moon in 1969

The Cold War also included political conflict and economic competition. This led to spying and technological competition.

The US Space Program started in earnest when the Soviets launched Sputnik I in 1957. Sputnik was the first artificial object to orbit the Earth.

The US and its allies wanted to stop the spread of communism. Communism is an economic system where land and businesses are owned and controlled by a single-party government. Private ownership is not allowed.

Capitalism saw communism as a threat to its expansion. Capitalism is an economic system where land and businesses are owned by private individuals and companies.

Competition between the two sides led to an arms race. An arms race is when countries spend large sums of money on military personnel, equipment, and weapons research.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan with Soviet President Gorbachev
U.S. President Ronald Reagan with Soviet President Gorbachev

Cold War events:

1. Eastern Bloc
2. Containment of Communism
3. Berlin Blockade
5. Korean War
6. China-Soviet split
7. Berlin Crisis
8. Cuban Missile Crisis
9. Soviet War in Afghanistan
10.Polish Solidarity
11.Gorbachev Reforms
12.USSR Dissolution
13. Russian Invasion of Ukraine in 2022

The Soviet economy stagnated. It never provided the high standard of living that was enjoyed by western countries.

The Cold War ended in 1991 when the USSR was dissolved. Gorbachev's reforms had opened a floodgate of change that couldn't be controlled. It started again when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.


1. Glasnost means openness, perestroika means reorganization, and d├ętente means to relieve political tensions.

2. The United States and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) fought on the same side in World War II.

3. Some experts believe the Cold War started after World War I, not World War II.

4. Scientific research benefited from military funding during the Cold War.

5. The economies of Eastern Europe improved after the break up of the USSR.

6. The U.S. issued Cold War Recognition Certificates to the armed forces and some federal personnel who served during the Cold War.

7. Some countries refused to take sides during the Cold War. They were called non-aligned countries.