Last modified on 19 May 2014, at 23:44

The Cold War/A Divided Europe

After six long years of bloodshed, World War 2 had finally come to an end. Europe was a junkyard - dead bodies littered the streets, buildings were destroyed, and rubble was everywhere. However, the nation that was affected most by this destruction was the Soviet Union.

Over 20 million Soviet citizens died in the conflict and hundreds of thousands of buildings lay in ruins. Stalin, the Soviet leader at that time, was furious. Now confronted with the new threat of western democracy, he didn't want his country to be invaded ever again by the West, as it had been by Nazi Germany.

He decided that he would make Eastern Europe a "buffer zone", protecting the USSR from any future military threat from the West, by putting communist governments there that would be subject to Moscow.

The response and the "Iron Curtain" SpeechEdit

The Americans and British were angered at these actions. They had been fighting for a free, democratic Europe that would be liberated from the evil and murderous ideology of Nazism. But when they found out that the USSR was forcing the countries in Eastern Europe to accept communism, by manipulating the voting system, they felt that they their efforts, which had cost millions of lives, had been wasted. Their former ally had betrayed them and grabbed this opportunity to spread and enforce communism throughout the world.

In March 1946, Churchill visited the USA on an invitation from the American president, Harry Truman. The recent events in Europe were in the backs of the minds of both leaders, and dominated the meeting. In a speech at Westminister College, Fulton, Missouri, Churchill said:

From Stettin in the Baltic Sea to Trieste in the Adriatic an "iron curtain" has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Churchill was right. Europe was ideologically, symbollically and physically split in half: the Western half containing the democratic, capitalist countries and the Eastern half containing the communist countries. But Stalin vigorously defended his actions saying that Churchill was trying to stir up anti-communist rhetoric and that the Soviet Union only wanted to defend itself from future invasions.

A Divided GermanyEdit

After World War Two, Germany was invaded at the same time by the Americans and British from the West, and the Soviets from the East. As soon as Germany surrendered, the Allies agreed to divide it into four zones, one of which would be controlled by each of the four allies: the USA, Britain, France and the USSR. Each country would supposedly take control of their own zone for a temparory period of time until a new government was formed and their occupational troops could leave. Although the capital city, Berlin was far out in the North East of Germany, and in the Soviet zone, it too was divided into four.

There was open hostily and disagreement between the pro-Western countries and the USSR about the running of the country, which eventually culminated in the Berlin Airlift. After this event, the British, French and Americans merged their zones into an independent country, dividing Germany into two separate states in the, naming it the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The Soviets responded by turning their zone into a new, separate state called the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Europe stayed a divided continent and split into two ideological worlds throughout the Cold War, until the late 1980s when Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev radically reformed the Soviet system and allowed the Eastern European states to break free from Soviet influence.