Presentation on theme: "In our March 14 issue, you’ll read about Russia and its halting efforts to achieve democracy. From 1922 until 1991, Russia was part of the Soviet Union,"— Presentation transcript:
In our March 14 issue, you’ll read about Russia and its halting efforts to achieve democracy. From 1922 until 1991, Russia was part of the Soviet Union, the world’s first Communist country.
For decades, the Soviet Union was locked in a conflict with the U.S. and its allies, who feared the spread of Communism around the world—sometimes to the point of hysteria, as this poster shows. Because Soviet and American forces never clashed directly, the conflict was called the Cold War.
During World War II (1939- 1945), the U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union fought together against Nazi Germany. When the war ended in May 1945, the Soviet army occupied most of Eastern Europe. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin unexpectedly installed Communist governments there. The Soviets took control of a section of the German capital, Berlin, which was given the name East Berlin. (U.S., British, and French forces occupied West Berlin, which became part of West Germany.) “An iron curtain has descended across the continent,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asserted in 1946 about Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.
For decades, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria were trapped behind the Soviet barrier of repression. In June 1948, the Soviets tried to force the U.S. and its allies out of West Berlin by blockading (blocking off) all routes to the city. Residents were left to starve. The allies began a daily airlift of food and other necessities. By the time the Soviets lifted the blockade in May 1949, more than 2 billion tons of supplies had been delivered.
After World War II, North Korea also adopted a Communist government. In June 1950, backed by Communist China and the Soviet Union, North Korea attacked its southern neighbor. United Nations forces, led by U.S. troops (pictured here), defended South Korea. The Korean War, in which about 37,000 Americans died, lasted three years and ended in a stalemate.
The Cold War was waged in many ways. For instance, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the world’s two superpowers, competed fiercely in developing new technologies, including nuclear weapons. In October 1957, the Soviets sent the first satellite, called Sputnik (shown here), into orbit around Earth. Sputnik shocked Americans and started the race to “conquer” space. The space race reached its climax in July 1969, when the U.S. became the first country to put astronauts on the moon.
Cuba declared itself a Communist country in 1961. The Soviet Union had already pledged to defend the tiny Caribbean island nation. In October 1962, U.S. spy planes discovered nuclear- missile sites being built by the Soviets in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy (left) announced a blockade of Cuba and demanded that the Soviets remove the missiles. For a tense week, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were on the verge of nuclear war. Finally, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Vietnam War pitted Communist North Vietnam, aided by the Soviets and Chinese, against South Vietnam. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent 125,000 U.S. troops to fight on South Vietnam’s side. That number grew steadily, stirring passionate opposition among many Americans. Intense pressure at home caused the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam in 1974. Some 58,000 Americans died during the conflict, which ended in North Vietnam’s victory.
By the 1980s, decades of Communist policies had resulted in a collapsing Soviet economy and deep unrest among its people. In 1985, the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev (left), sought to revitalize his country with free-market reforms. He also improved relations with the U.S. Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, or “openness,” encouraged a limited freedom of expression. For the first time, the Soviet people were able to criticize their government openly.
In the summer and fall of 1989, a wave of protests swept across Eastern Europe, forcing one Communist leader after another from power. That November, people were finally allowed to travel through openings in the Berlin Wall, which had been built in 1961 to prevent East Germans from escaping to the West. Soon, Germans tore down the wall, piece by piece. Their dramatic act symbolized the end of Soviet control of Eastern Europe. A month later, Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush met in Malta and declared an end to the Cold War. In December 1991, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.