The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, which began following World War II. The period is generally considered to have lasted from 1947 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
This article lists historic sites associated with the Cold War.
The Cold War began in 1945 at the conclusion of World War II (World War II in Europe and the Pacific War) and continued until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, leaving the United States standing as the world's sole superpower. It was a key period in modern history, because it occurred primarily due to rivalries between capitalist and communist societies, and was also a power struggle between the world's superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States.
During the Cold War, the border between the capitalist and communist parts of Europe was known as the Iron Curtain. While the two superpowers never went to war with each other, both sides were often indirectly involved in various proxy wars through their respective allies.
While World War II had brought the United States, United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China into an uneasy alliance by necessity, the lack of a common enemy after the end of the war, and competing political ideologies led to a break between the United States, the United Kingdom and their capitalist allies on one side, and the Soviet Union and its communist allies on the other. In China, while the Nationalists and Communists had briefly put aside their differences to unite in fighting the Japanese during World War II, both sides would swiftly turn on each other following the defeat of Japan, and the country rapidly descended into civil war. The Communists emerged victorious in 1949, and the Nationalists were forced to retreat to Taiwan.
Following the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, embarked on a de-Stalinization policy, in which Stalin's cult of personality was suppressed, and his human rights abuses were revealed and denounced. This offended Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who had admired Stalin greatly, and led to the Sino-Soviet Split in 1961. Following this split, the United States attempted to court China as an ally against the Soviet Union, culminating in Richard Nixon's historic visit to China and meeting with Mao in 1972. This was followed by the normalization of ties between the United States and Communist China under the Jimmy Carter administration in 1979. China allied itself with the United States against the Soviet Union during the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and also joined the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
- Canada's Cold War Museum, in Carp, west of Ottawa, is housed in what is popularly known as the "Diefenbunker" (named after the Canadian leader Diefenbaker). The underground bunker was built to protect the Canadian government from nuclear attack. In addition to preserving and promoting Canada's Cold War history, the museum offers a variety of visitor programs and services.
Multiple topics cover the Cold War era:
Key rivalries in this time period include:
- The Korean War, which left a bitterly-divided North Korea and South Korea divided by a heavily-fortified demilitarized zone
- The nuclear arms race between the United States of America and the Soviet Union
- The Cuban revolution, Cuban missile crisis and U.S. embargo of the island nation
- The Indochina Wars, which ended in a humiliating U.S. withdrawal and full communist control over Vietnam and Laos
- The Chinese Civil War pitted the Kuomintang (Nationalists) against the Chinese Communist Party, resulting in a win for the Communists in the mainland and the retreat of the Nationalists to Taiwan in 1949.
- The race for space, which began with Sputnik in 1957 and ended with multiple US moon landings in 1969-1972.
- The civil war in Nicaragua, beginning with the fall of (U.S.-backed) Somoza and ending with a bizarre combination of military victory and electoral defeat for the left wing FSLN
- Malaysia and Thailand had communist insurgencies that ended peacefully in 1989 and 1983 respectively.
- The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979-1989, during which the United States, Saudi Arabia, China and their allies sponsored, trained and/or provided other types of support to Muslim extremist fighters known as the Mujahedeen to fight the Soviets. This led to the rapid growth of fundamentalist Islam in much of the Muslim world, the effects of which are still evident today. The Mujahedeen splintered into various factions such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
- Cape Canaveral, the location of Kennedy Space Center, was important in the space race
- Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, U.S. ICBM site in South Dakota
- Mödlareuth, Franconian border village divided by the East German border wall
- Berlin; the city was divided at the Brandenburg Gate and some sections of the Berlin Wall have been preserved