Topic 1 – The Origins of the Cold War 1941-58
What is this topic about? What does the exam board say?
The story begins with a ‘marriage of convenience’ in late 1941, as the United States and its British ally were thrown together with the communist Soviet Union in a struggle to defeat Nazi Germany in the so-called Grand Alliance. The first Key topic charts the breakdown of this relationship, particularly in 1945, and you should understand the growing ideological differences seen in the Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences. You should appreciate the impact of the invention of nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union’s establishment of a dominant position in Eastern Europe as a buffer against what they perceived as the repeated hostility of western powers. You should understand that both sides built spheres of influence through military and economic aid programmes before the first serious clash over Berlin in 1948 led to the development of two armed camps, NATO (1949) and ultimately the Warsaw Pact (1955), made all the more dangerous by a nuclear arms race that threatened to bring both to the brink of mutually assured destruction. The topic ends with the dramatic attempt by the people of Hungary to break away from their masters in the Soviet sphere in 1956, Khrushchev’s response and the international reaction.