The Cold War

The Cold War was a rivalry between two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War started at the end of World War II and lasted until the collapse of Communism in the 1980s. The superpowers tried to prevent each other from gaining too much power. It was not a real war, but there were conflicts in which war almost broke out.

After World War II

The United States and the Soviet Union had been allies during World War II, but they had different ideas about the future. After WWII the Soviets controlled much of Eastern Europe, which had Communist governments. The United States wanted to stop Communist ideas from spreading, so it helped Western European countries remain free. The United States also gave them money to help rebuild their weak economies. The border between the Communist east and the free west ran through the middle of Europe. It was called the Iron Curtain.

In 1949 the United States and other western countries founded NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). The Soviets led the Warsaw Pact, a military organization of eastern European countries. Both military blocs wanted to defend themselves from attack by the other.


Two of the major events of the Cold War took place in Berlin. After World War II the city was divided into four zones. The French, British and American zone became West Berlin and the Soviet zone was East Berlin. The Soviets tried to cut off supply routes to the city. The Americans reacted by airlifting food, clothing, and other supplies to Berlin.

In the 1950s thousands of East Berliners moved to West Berlin to escape Communism. In 1961 the East German government built a wall through Berlin to stop the movement across the border. The Berlin wall became a symbol of the Cold War.

Source: The Cold War
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