The Origins of the Cold War (1945–1949)

The Origins of the Cold War (1945–1949)

The Cold War tantalized over a generation of the World and lasted through the breakup of the USSR in 1989/1990. Many aspects of the Cold War still reverberate today and Cold War Lesson Plans can conclude with the lingering impact of the Cold War which many students can appreciate. Cold War Lesson Plans should start with the post World War II period which helped to define our generation.

From Hot to Cold

While the Cold War is generally assumed to have begun at the end of World War 2, the seeds for it were sowed much earlier, even before the development of the Ribbentrop Molotov pact which divided Poland into German and Russian Spheres.

The three victorious Allies (United States, Great Britain, and Russia) met during the Yalta and Tehran Conferences and scoped out what post-war Europe would look like. During these conferences it was clear that Great Britain was the junior party and that the fate of Europe would be dependent on American and Russian negotiation. While post-war European spheres were discussed during these conferences, much of the concluded terms were later renegotiated after the conclusion of the war and after the death of American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Despite the negotiations during these Peace Conferences, it was the actions of the troops and their race for Berlin that determined the fate of post war Europe. The USSR made it to Berlin first and never let go of their hold of Eastern Europe after expelling the German Army from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Eastern Germany.

Post-War Negotiation

Truman assumed the negotiation process for the United States and used the results of the Manhattan project to build a stronger hand for the Allies. Still, the USSR reneged on many of their promises and several stand-offs emerged between the Western powers and the USSR. The Berlin Airlift, engineered by George Marshall was the highlight of the early Cold War and kept the Western World involved in protecting the interests of the German people, even with Russian belligerence.

The Asian Theater

The European theatre was hardly the only playground of the Cold War. The early Cold War was fought in China during the postwar period until 1949 with the emergence of the communist party under Mao. Mao’s Red Army was heavily financed by the Stalin led USSR and was able to defeat the Western backed Nationalist Army led by Chiang Kai Shek, who fled to the island Formosa to start Taiwan.

Much of Asia which had long been subject to the colonial European powers was suddenly freed after World War 2 and took root of Communist ideals. Places like Vietnam and Korean began to emerge as battlegrounds of the Cold War even from these early origin years. These areas would go on to be the major battlegrounds of later conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, which was long contested between Britain and Russia under the Great Game.

The Origins of the Cold War is an interesting topic for students that can bridge the gap between the end of World War Two up until the modern era. A detailed lesson plan can highlight the key moments of the conflict and put it in relevance to the world today.

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