The Cold War Inside Europe

Refer to the timeline, and the map showing the division of Europe in the Cold War.

The major powers often responded to each other in a tit for tat fashion being mutually suspicious, defensive and aggressive.

1. Division of Germany (see map)

This was mentioned at Yalta (February 1945) and at Potsdam (July 1945). It was decided to divide Germany into four occupation zones:

Berlin lies 110 miles within the Russian zone and it too was divided into four. The powers jointly controlled the city and administered their occupation zones from Berlin.

Britain, France and the USA ran their zones on similar lines so that Germany could recover. The USSR however took away equipment (e.g. they dismantled factories and other buildings for their building material) as reparations in kind. Stalin’s aim was to reduce his zone so that the people there would eventually accept communism as a better alternative.

In 1946 and 1947 discussions were held about German unity, but Molotov refused. With this disagreement official American anti-Soviet Policy began.

2. Containment

a. The Truman Doctrine (March 1947)

Truman outlined aid to be offered to countries in Europe that bordered onto communist countries (i.e. Stalin’s satellites could also apply for aid.) Greece and Turkey received aid and did not become communist.

b. Marshall Plan (June 1947)

Marshall extended aid to any country in the world. In all, 16 nations received $12,000 million by 1951.

3. The USSR’s Responses

  1. Stalin refused to let his satellites receive any aid.
  2. Stalin set up Cominform (September 1947) to control the economies in the eastern bloc; he said it was only a news agency.
  3. To strengthen the USSR’s hold in Eastern Europe, the only none-Communist country, Czechoslovakia, was taken over in February 1948. (Masaryk was killed.)

4. The West’s Reaction (June 1948)

Britain, America and France introduced a new deutschmark to bring financial unity to their three zones. The USSR was offended. This led to the Berlin blockade (June 1948).

5. Berlin blockade and airlift (June 1948 – May 1949)

The Russians struck at what they thought was the west’s weakest point and Berlin was vulnerable, because it was surrounded on all sides by communists. On the 22nd June 1948 (in the night) the USSR closed the Elb Road Bridge and then blocked all road, rail and canal transport into Berlin, and they withdrew from their joint control of the city. In time the West realised that the USSR did not want direct warfare but wanted to oust the West from Berlin by siege tactics.

Operation Victuals (Victuals means supplies)

The West sent supplies by air, i.e. 2/3 US aircraft, 1/3 RAF aircraft. Goods were landed every 30 seconds and the record for one day was 1,400 landings. They delivered food, clothing, medicines, drink and fuel, e.g. coal – 5,000 tonnes were delivered per day (total – 2.3 million tonnes). The 2 million West Berliners accepted rationing and to increase their chances of survival they built a new airfield and extended two others. The airlift cost 100 million (this figure is probably Western propaganda). The siege ended in May 1949; one month after NATO had been set up. The West claimed a victory, but they knew that the USSR could strike the same blow on Berlin at any time in the future.

6. The Results of the Berlin blockade and Airlift

There were political, military and economic results for east and west.

a. Political – The Two Germanys

The West united its three zones as the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD). The Soviets responded by naming their zone the German Democratic Republic (DDR). The communists used ‘democratic’ as propaganda.

b. Military (April 1949) – NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

This was set up to bring military unity to the west. It gave the USA the right to base its troops in Western Europe.


NATO’s headquarters was known as S.H.A.P.E. (Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe). It was based in Paris. Its Secretary General (C in C) was Eisenhower, his deputy was Montgomery. It was instantly successful because the Berlin blockade was ended on month later. It the long term it was successful, because it achieved containment in Europe (stopped the spread of Communism in Europe).

c. Economic (January 1949) – Cominform changed to Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance)

Hereby the USSR centralised the economic polices of the satellites, e.g. Bulgarian trade with the USSR:

d. Military (1955) – Warsaw Pact

This was a belated response of the USSR to NATO. It gave the USSR the right to base its troops in the satellite countries. The Pact was set up just after West Germany joined NATO.

e. Military – The Arms Race

There was a steady build-up of arms:

Other weapons were built:

All of these are nuclear weapons.

7. Khrushchev’s (Krushchev) Foreign Policy and its effect on the Cold War

Stalin died in 1953, and Krushchev became sole ruler in 1956. From 1956, Krushchev followed the policy of de-Stalinization, in domestic policy. In foreign policy he did two things.

a. Co-existence with the West (The thaw in the Cold War)

This meant that he wanted to agree to differ with the west. To show goodwill to the west he agreed to grant Austrian unity. This was in the 1955 Austrian State Treaty. Austria claimed neutrality in Europe.

b. He offered more freedom to the Satellites

They took advantage of this, as can be seen in the Hungarian Crisis (1956)

8. The Hungarian Rising (1956)

Long term causes

  1. No traditional ties between Hungary and the USSR.
  2. Hungarians disliked the Soviet occupation at the end of the Second World War.
  3. Even some Hungarian communists were against the pro-Stalinist regime in Hungary (led by Rakosi and his AVH -–secret police)
  4. Cardinal Mindzenty was arrested/imprisoned in 1949 and Catholics resented this
  5. Hungarians resented Soviet control via Comecon (January 1949) and the Warsaw Pact (1955)

Short term causes

  1. Hungarians expected more freedom under Krushchev.

The Rising

After the death of Stalin (1953) Rakosi was without his patron and in October 1956, Nagy became PM, with liberal reforms (no totalitarianism, less trade with Comecon, free trade with the West, a free press). Soviet tanks entered Budapest, Nagy offered talks, but made the mistake of saying Hungary was like Austria, and should lave the Warsaw Pact (neutral). Tanks shelled the city (4th November), students demonstrated and toppled the bronze statue of Stalin. Nagy said this was symbolic, the rising was anti-Stalin, rather than anti-USSR.


    • 20,000 killed
    • 20,000 imprisoned
    • 200,000 to internal exile

    (Probably Hungarian and western propaganda)

  1. The AVH was restored, Nagy was arrested and tried in Romania, then shot. He was replaced by Kadar.
  2. Krushchev’s policy with the satellites was failing.

NB. The West did nothing to help Hungary.

9. The Berlin Wall (not the Berlin Blockade!)

Krushchev tried to get the West to recognise the DDR (East Germany). He met the USA on two occasions:

a. Paris (1960) – Eisenhower

The talks were wrecked by the U2 scandal (U2=spy plane with photographic equipment, which flies above the radar trap) Gary Power’s plane landed in the USSR (May 1960). In Paris Krushchev asked Eisenhower for an apology. Eisenhower refused.

b. Vienna (1961) – Kennedy

Krushchev wanted JFK to recognise the DDR and to arrange for the West to withdraw from Berlin. Kennedy refused and later, on the 25th July, he made a speech about West Berlin:

‘Berlin…is more than a showcase of liberty. It is even more than a link with the free world, a beacon of hope behind the iron curtain, and escape hatch for refugees.’

Krushchev retaliated on the 13th August, 1961, by building a 40km barbed wire fence across Berlin and phone and postal links ceased between East and West Berlin. The fence became a wall with a crossing called Checkpoint Charlie. The Berlin Wall was built for two reasons:

  1. USA would not recognise the DDR.
  2. To stop the flow of refugees from Eastern Europe into the West via Berlin. Between 1948 and 1960 the exodus amounted to 20,000 people a month (Estimated total 2.88 million. Probably Western propaganda). It wasn’t just the quantity of people it was the quality, because Technocrats were leaving.

West Berliners protested and JFK sent his deputy to Berlin, L.B. Johnson to Berlin who guaranteed freedom for West Berliners. Nothing else was done and the West Berliners felt betrayed. (The wall did not come down until 1989.)

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