This timeline details the main events of the period known as the Cold War and is linked to the GCSE topic International Relations: The Cold War Era 1945 – 1991
This was a meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin to decide what would happen at the end of the war. They agreed:
that Germany would be split into four zones controlled by the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), the United States, Britain and France
that Berlin would be split into four zones controlled by the USSR, USA, Britain and France
that Nazi war criminals would be tried in an international court
that liberated countries could have free elections
that a United Nations Organisation would be established to maintain peace
that the USSR would have influence over eastern Europe.
The disagreed on:
the fate of Poland
The Soviet army disarmed the Romanian army and forced King Michael I to appoint a Communist government under Petru Groza.
Germany surrendered to the Russian army bringing the war in Europe to an end.
A coalition government took control in Poland.
By July 1945, the Soviet army had liberated and occupied Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
This meeting between Attlee, Truman and Stalin revisited what would happen at the end of the war. They agreed
To partition Germany and Berlin into four zones as agreed at the Yalta Conference
to set up and become members of a United Nations Organisation.
that Germany should be demilitarised
that free elections should be held in Germany
that Germany should pay reparations
that Poland’s border would be moved west. Korea was divided into a northern Soviet Zone and a southern American zone.
over the extent to which Germany should be disabled – Truman did not want Germany subjected to another treaty like Versailles while Stalin totally disagreed
Stalin refused to allow the countries of Eastern Europe to hold free elections.
Japan surrendered bringing World War Two to an end.
Elections were held and the Smallholders Party led by Bela Kovacs received 57% of the vote. However, the Soviet commander in Hungary refused to allow them to form the government and instead insisted that a coalition government be set up with Communists holding the main positions.
An election was held and results were rigged to return a Communist majority government. This government banned all other parties in Bulgaria.
A General Election was held that saw the Communist party gain the most votes in the Czech region and the Democratic Party gain the most in Slovakia.
Elections saw the Communist gain 80% of the vote to become the dominant party.
Elections were fixed to ensure a Communist government was put in power.
President Truman argued that the World was being divided into two armed camps – Capitalist and Communist. He promised to use the resources of the United States to follow a policy of containment and prevent Communism from spreading.
This was a programme of economic aid offered by the United States to any European country on condition that they agree a free trade deal with the United States. Truman approved the plan because it would help other countries resist Communism and the free trade clause would help the United States economically. Stalin rejected the plan and warned that any Eastern Bloc country would be severely dealt with if they accepted. He was unhappy that the Allied zones were included in the plan and took steps to ensure that aid did not reach West Berlin.
A General Election was held which saw a Communist government returned to power. This government banned all other parties.
King Michael I was forced to abdicate the throne. The monarchy was abolished and King Michael was exiled.
The Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia.
In response to the Western announcement of a planned unified West Germany and a new currency for West Germany and West Berlin, Stalin accused the West of interfering in the Soviet Zone and cut all road, canal and rail links to the American, British and French partitions of Berlin. Western Berliners were left with no access to food and faced starvation.
American and British planes took food, clothing, oil and building materials to West Berlin in an exercise known as the Berlin Airlift.
Stalin ended the Berlin Blockade. Truman saw this as a Cold War victory for the West and a defeat for Communism which in turn increased rivalry between the two nations.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was formed with Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States all signing to the treaty. The aim of the organisation was to provide a defensive alliance against Soviet aggression and also to stop the spread of Communism to the West.
Communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. Truman, fearful of the spread of Communism sent American troops to restore South Korea’s non-Communist status.
The Korean War ended. North Korea remained affiliated with Russia while South Korea was affiliated with the United States.
This set of documents ended the French war with the Vietminh and divided Vietnam into North and South states. The communist leader of North Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh while the US friendly South was led by Ngo Dinh Diem.
The Warsaw Pact was formed with member states: East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union. This was a military alliance of the member states to counter the threat of NATO.
This began as a Hungarian protest against Communist rule in Budapest.
Soviet tanks entered Budapest.
Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Budapest. 12 people were killed and hundreds injured.
The new Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, held talks with the Soviets and it was agreed that Soviet tanks would leave Budapest. Nagy believed he had the support of the United States.
Soviet tanks left Budapest and a new government was formed under Prime Minister Imre Nagy. The government moved quickly to establish democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Imre Nagy released a number of political prisoners.
Following military bombardment by Israeli forces, a joint British and French force invaded Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal which had been nationalised by the Egyptian leader Nasser. The attack was heavily criticised by World leaders, especially America because Russia had offered support to Egypt. The British and French were forced to withdraw and a UN peace keeping force was sent to establish order.
Imre Nagy announced a number of reforms he proposed to introduce to a new democratic Hungary. He also announced that Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. He asked for support from the United Nations.
Khruschev did not want to appear weak and he was also concerned that if Hungary abandoned Communism other Eastern Bloc countries would follow. He therefore ordered Russian tanks to circle Budapest. Imre Nagy made a World broadcast that Hungary was under attack from the Soviet Union and calling for aid.
As no aid had arrived from the West, Hungary did not have the resources to fight off the Soviets and Hungary fell to the Soviet Union. Janos Kadar was appointed the leader of Hungary. Nagy was arrested.
This treaty established the European Economic Community. Khruschev was alarmed that West Germany became a member of this community because it would help West Germany to become stronger economically.
The USSR launched a satellite, Sputnik, which could orbit the earth in 90 minutes. The Americans saw this as a threat to national security.
The USSR Sputnik II carried Laika the dog into space.
The United States founded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to coordinate the exploration of space.
Khrushchev accused the United States of breaking the Potsdam Agreement and told them to leave Berlin and allow it to become a neutral city. President Eisenhower agreed to meet Khrushchev in Paris on 14th May 1960.
In retaliation for the expulsion of American business from Cuba, America refused to buy Cuban sugar and cut off diplomatic relations. Khrushchev, keen to have Soviet influence close to America offered to buy Cuban sugar and also offered Cuba machinery and oil.
Tension between Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight Eisenhower was high following the U2 spy plane incident. Khruschev demanded that the United States stop any further flights and also that those responsible should be punished. While Eisenhower was happy to agree to suspend further flights he refused to punish anyone. Khrushchev left the meeting and did not return.
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyvich Gagarin became the first human in space.
A force of Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA, aided by the American government attempted to invade Cuba and overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro by creating an uprising against him. However, when they landed they were met by Castro’s force of 20,000 soldiers. The local support they were expecting did not materialise and the force of Cuban exiles were slaughtered.
Khrushchev and Kennedy met for talks. Khrushchev again demanded that western forces leave West Berlin but Kennedy refused.
During the night Russia built a wall of barbed wire and sealed the 50 km border between East and West Berlin. Once that was in place work immediately began on a concrete wall that was completed by 14th August.
Following the Bay of Pigs Invasion, links between Cuba and the Soviet Union had strengthened. The Soviet Union had installed military advisors and ground forces in Cuba as well. Khrushchev now decided to install ballistic missiles on the island.
An American spy plane reported that the Soviets were building a nuclear missile base in Cuba.
President Kennedy set up a committee of 9 members of the National Security Council and 5 other advisors known as EXCOMM to decide what to do. The options were:
use diplomacy to negotiate a settlement and the removal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba
invade Cuba and overthrow Castro
attack and destroy the missile sites
set up a naval blockade around Cuba to prevent further missiles reaching Cuba.
Although the members of the National Security Council believed America should attack Kennedy was not convinced.
Robert Kennedy met with Soviet Foreign Minister Adrei Gromyko, the meeting had been scheduled some time previously. Gromyko stated that the missiles were for the defence of Cuba rather than an act of aggression on the part of the Soviet Union.
It was agreed that the United States navy would be used to quarantine Cuba. The term blockade was not used because it could be interpreted as an act of war.
Kennedy made a speech on television explaining the crisis to the American people. He confirmed that he had ordered a naval quarantine around Cuba and had ordered the Soviets to remove the weapons.
Soviet ships in the Atlantic were reported to have halted their journey westward.
Khrushchev refused to remove missiles from Cuba.
EXCOMM began drawing up plans to invade Cuba and take control of the missiles.
Khrushchev agreed to remove missiles from Cuba if Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove American missiles from Turkey.
Khrushchev made a broadcast on Radio Moscow stating that he had agreed to remove missiles from Cuba and that Kennedy had promised not to invade Cuba.
This treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union agreed that both countries would stop testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.
Kennedy declared that while the United States would remain supportive of South Vietnam and would send military advisers, no ground troops would be sent.
The Romanian Workers’ Party publicly stated that it was going to exercise its right to follow its own Communist path without outside interference.
Nikolai Ceausescu became leader of Romania. He continued the policy of remaining distant from Moscow.
Lyndon Johnson sent a further 50,000 troops to Vietnam
The economy in Czechoslovakia had been steadily declining for the past three years. Unpopular leader Antonin Novotny introduced reforms known as the New Economic Model but this failed to improve the situation.
US forces in Vietnam had increased to 400,000 soldiers.
Egypt declared that the United Nations Peace Keeping force, established after the Suez Crisis in 1956, was no longer welcome in the Suez region and mobilised Egyptian forces in the region. The Egyptians also set up a naval blockade closing the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships.
Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria destroying the airforces of each country. Syria, Jordan and Iraq retaliated with air strikes on Israel.
Israeli forces captured Gaza and the West Bank.
Egyptian President Nasser, rejected a cease-fire and Jordan’s King Hussein ignored a similar request. Israeli forces destroyed Egyptian tanks in the Sinai desert and advanced to the Suez Canal. They aslo removed Jordanian forces from the area west of the Jordan river.
Egypt accepted a cease-fire.
Syria agreed a cease fire. The war ended in victory for Israel.
A number of reformers led by Alexander Dubcek challenged Novotny’s leadership.
The number of US troops in South Vietnam had reached 535,000. Public opinion in America was not in favour of the war and there were an increasing number of protests against the war.
Alexander Dubcek invited Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev to Czechoslovakia. He wanted the Soviet leader to see how unpopular Novotny was.
Antonin Novotny was replaced by Alexander Dubcek as First Secretary of the Communist Party.
Antonin Novotny resigned as President of Czechoslovakia. He was succeeded by General Ludvik Svoboda.
TV footage of the Tet Offensive and the Mai Lai Massacre increased protests against the war.
Alexander began to introduce a number of reforms including:
freedom of speech
freedom of the press
a reduction in the power of the secret police
the establishment of works councils to represent the workforce and improve working conditions
Demands for more reforms than proposed by Dubcek, led to the formation of the Social Democratic Party to rival the Communist Party. The reporter Ludvik Vaculik, called on the people to rise up and force more reforms.
Brezhniv was concerned that Czechoslovakia would leave the Warsaw Pact and join NATO. He therefore did not withdraw Soviet tanks from the country following a military exercise.
This treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to stop production of nuclear weapons.
Brezhniv met with Dubcek who agreed not to allow a new Social Democratic Party and affirmed that Czechoslovakia would remain a member of the Warsaw Pact.
President Tito of Yugoslavia visited Czechoslovakia where he received a warm welcome. This alarmed Brezhniv who saw it as another sign that Czechoslovakia was moving towards independence.
Brezhniv told Dubcek that his actions were going to undermine the Warsaw Pact.
Russian forces invaded Czechoslovakia to stop the reformist government. Rebel Czech forces tried to stop the advance by using petrol bombs. They also removed sign posts and set up barricades. However, the Czech army did not get involved and the Soviets put down the revolt. Dubcek and other leaders were arrested and taken to Moscow. He was forced to resign and was sent as ambassador to Turkey.
Ceausescu condemned the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Leonid Brezhnev declared that all Soviet Bloc countries had to be one party states and remain members of the Warsaw Pact. He also stated that if a Capitalist country invaded any Communist country then other members were bound to intervene with force.
The United States launched Apollo 8, the first manned spacship to orbit the Earth.
Student Jan Palach, set fire to himself in Wencelas Square in protest against the Soviet invasion.
Gustav Husak replaced Dubcek as leader of Czechoslovakia. He was a hard line Communist who returned the country to strict Communist rule.
President Richard Nixon began bombing Cambodia in a bid to block North Vietnamese supply lines known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The American spaceship Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon.
Richard Nixon sent American troops to Cambodia.
Peace talks in Paris failed to find a solution to end the war.
This agreement made between Russia, America, Britain and France re-affirmed the rights and responsibilities of those countries to Berlin.
The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty was signed by America and Russia. However, many thought that the treaty did not go far enough since it placed no restrictions on strategic bombers, nor on the development of new weapons. The treaty did agree:
an Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty whereby anti-ballistic missile systems were only allowed at two sites, each limited to 100 missiles
a five year freeze on the number of inter-continental ballistic missile and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers
each side was allowed to use satellites to check that arms limitations agreements were being kept to.
Henry Kissinger reached an agreement with Hanoi, capital of North Vietnam.
South Vietnam rejected the agreement made between the United States and North Vietnam in August.
South Vietnamese leader, Nguyen Thieu reluctantly agreed terms to end the war with North Vietnam.
The Paris Peace Accords ended American involvement in Vietnam after agreeing a ceasefire in Vietnam (but not Cambodia or Laos), the exchange of prisoners of war and the removal of American troops.
Syria and Egypt, both armed by the Soviet Union, launched an attack on Israel that was armed and supplied by the United States.
The war ended with victory for Israel. However, the defeated Arab nations were angry and punished the West by dramatically raising oil prices.
to continue to work towards reducing the likelihood of war
to reduce the arms race
to reduce tension around the world
to work towards mutual cooperation in commercial, cultural, economic, scientific and technical fields.
The Khmer Rouge attacked and took control of Cambodia. Anyone who had supported the American regime or anyone who was thought to have links to foreign governments as well as many intellectuals were executed in a genocide that was known as ‘The Killing Fields’.
The last US soldiers were evacuated from Saigon.
America and Russia agreed a joint space venture – the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project which saw an end to the Space Race when three US astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts met in space.
The Communist Peoples’ Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew the government. Muhammad Taraki became Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Communist reforms were immediately put in place which led to fierce opposition from Muslims in the country.
This new strategic arms limitation treaty agreed:
A limit of 2,400 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles for each side
a limit of 1320 MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) systems
the banning of land-based intercontinental ballistic missile launchers
limits on the deployment of new strategic offensive arms.
The United States did not ratify the treaty due to concerns about verifying actual numbers of missile launchers.
Hafizullah Amin took power from Taraki but continued with an anti-Muslim policy. Muslims joined a guerrilla movement, the mujahideen, and declared a jihad (holy war) on Amin’s government. Brezhnev was concerned about the rise of the Muslim guerrilla movement particularly because there were 30 million Muslims living in the Soviet Union. He needed to display a show of force against them.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Party leader Amin was shot and replaced by Babrak Kamal. Kamal could only hold his place in power with Soviet military support. Large numbers of Afghan soldiers joined the Mujahideen which in turn required an increased Soviet military presence.
A new phase of Strategic Arms Reduction Talks were proposed by Ronald Reagan in Geneva.
Mikhail Gorbachev announced his intention to follow a policy of glasnost (openness, transparency and freedom of speech) and perestroika (restructuring of government and economy). He also wanted free elections in the Soviet Union and an end to the arms race.
Gorbachev announced a withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
Hungary declared itself to be a republic.
The Berlin Wall was torn down.
A series of peaceful protests against Communism began in Czechoslovakia.
The Communist government resigned.
This was a meeting between Mikhail Gorbachov and George H W Bush. Many of the provisions of the Yalta Conference 1945 were reversed.
Vaclav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia.
Riots broke out in Romania against the Communist government.
Crowds in Bucharest booed Ceausescu who fled the capital. He was later captured.
The Romanian army joined the popular protests in Romania fighting against the secret police of Ceausescu.
The revolution in Czechoslovakia ended with the overthrow of the Communist government.
Elections were won by the National Salvation Front.
The election was won by the Civic Forum an anti-Communist alliance party.
The election was won by the Bulgarian Socialist Party which was the Communist party renamed.
The Free Trade Union Party, Solidarity, won the election
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union.
Published Aug 26, 2017 @ 6:57 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2017). International Relations: The Cold War 1945 – 1991. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/international-relations-the-cold-war-1945-1991 Last accessed January 19th, 2020