IGCSE History Road to War title


The Allied forces had pushed Nazi Germany back in 1944-5, after launching D-Day and fending off a desperate German counter-resistance. Hitler was pronounced dead and the war in Europe came to an end. The Big 3 (USA, USSR, Britain) agreed to meet in Yalta in the Crimea, to discuss what to do with victory

Yalta, Feb 1945

The mood at Yalta was good; the Russians were happy that the Americans had opened up a second front in the West, and it was clear that the Nazis were being swept away. Japan was still a problem though. As they discussed what to do, several agreements were made.

  • Russia would give the US a helping hand and join the war in Japan (in return for 'influence' on their Asian borders).
  • Germany would have to suffer the humiliation of total surrender, and would be divided into four zones according to where the different allied troops were.
  • Berlin would suffer the same fate.
  • All Nazi-controlled states would get free elections, though Stalin would be allowed some influence in Eastern Europe; the Russians had - after all - lost 20 million men.
  • A "Committee on Dismemberment of Germany" would decide whether to split Germany into 6 nations.
  • Russia would join the UN
  • They was disagreement on Poland though. Stalin wanted to move his border into Poland. Churchill and Roosevelt disagreed but came to an understanding that he could do this, so long as he didn’t interfere in Greece.
  • Reasons for worsening tensions

  • A change in leadership - Roosevelt had died, and was replaced by the inexperienced Truman, who was looking to assert his authority. His black-and-white nature meant conflict with Stalin was inevitable; the USSR accused him of using 'the language of a Missouri mule driver'. Atlee had also surpisingly beaten Winston Churchill in the British election, which gave Britain less international clout
  • The atmomic bomb - The USA had not told the USSR about its development and use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Stalin was worried they would be turned on him.
  • The situation in eastern Europe - Stalin, though promising to honour self independence at Yalta, had left 3m men in eastern Europe and was in no rush for them to leave. Communist officials - some trained in Russia like the German Walter Ulbricht - were also appearing in these countries, which went against the idea of free elections.
  • Stalin had dragged his heels about helping the US in Japan
  • Potsdam, July 1945

    By July 1945, the divisions ran deep - by the time they met at Postdam, the 'Yalta feel' was gone. There were divisions over all the main issues; what to do with Germany, and how best to move forward with Europe in general. The following points were agreed:

  • Reparations - a 'payments in kind' method was agreed, which meant that the Allies would swap resources from their four zones. Other than this, little else was agreed - quite how Germany should be split in the future, and the amount of reparations could not be decided. The USSR wanted more for the 20m Russians that had died -
  • The 4 D's - They did agree to denazify. demilitarize, democratize and decentralise Germany though. The 4 zones would stay (decentralization) whilst denazification took place thorugh the Nuremberg trials (where top Nazis were judged and sentenced) and the banning of the Nazi Party and other extremist parties.
  • Poland - The Big 3 also agreed to give Poland free elections
  • IGCSE history; cold war; yalta, 1945

    Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in good spirits at Yalta, 1945 [source: National Archives, UK]

    IGCSE history; cold war; potsdam; 1945

    Atlee, Truman and Stalin at Potsdam, 1945. Note the more formal, distant body langauge. [source: Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives ]

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; Who was to blame for the Cold War?; the Cold War revision

    What was the Iron Curtain?

    This was the name that Churchill gave in a famous speech in March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri (USA) to the way Stalin had gained pro-USSR, Communist governments in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania. The border between these eastern countries and the western countries was now known as the Iron Curtain. It symbolized the secrecy and division between communism and capitalism and is seen as a definite marker that the Cold War had begun and was acknowledged.

    How did Stalin gain control of eastern Europe?

    Liberate…but stay: Stalin had liberated country after country in eastern Europe from the Nazis as they marched to Berlin. Instead of taking his troops back to Russia though, he left them there – they then fixed/pressured people into voting Communist Comminform – this was set up in October 1947 and was meant to be a co-ordination organization so that all eastern European countries did as Stalin wanted. Examples:

  • Albania – communists gained control directly after the war
  • Bulgaria – a left-wing coalition won elections in 1945. The Communist members then executed the members who were not communist!
  • Romania – In 1945 a Communist was elected President. By 1947 they had killed the monarchy
  • Hungary – Communists, under Rakosi became the largest party in elections with Russian involvement. Initially did not gain a majority, but Rakosi threatened Russian involvement until other parties were banned. They then persecuted politicians and Church leaders
  • Czechoslovakia – In 1946 Communists were the largest party. By 1948 they felt threatened so expelled all other parties in the coalition government. Were forced to reject Marshall Aid.
  • Poland – After the war the Communists formed a coalition government. By 1947 they had forced the other parties out.
  • Yugoslavia – Marshall Tito had been resisting the Nazis throughout the war. Though he was Communist he had his own style, making Stalin annoyed!
  • Reactions to Soviet expansionism

    Conflict in Greece, 1945

    After Germans left Greece there were two rival groups left: the Monarchists and Communists. Greece was seen as a backdoor to western Europe and the home of democracy. As a result, Churchill sent troops to Greece in 1945, under the pretence of maintaining order, but in reality to help the Monarchists. The USSR appealed to the new United Nations but it did nothing as the United States had a veto– Stalin therefore paid for the Communists in Greece to keep fighting. It was now a proxy Civil War, backed by two different sides.

    The British could not afford to spend more money on war, so declared they were leaving Greece. Fearing the spread of Communism, the Americans stepped in and paid for the British to stay. The US was now fighting the USSR through the UK and Greece! In the end the monarchists won, but were always very weak. Greece showed the world that America was no longer isolationist but interventionist.

    The Truman Doctrine, March 1947

    The Truman Doctrine was a political idea which promised money, equipment and advice to any country which was threatened by a Communist takeover The aim was to stop communism from spreading any further – a policy known as ‘containment’. The struggle in Greece had persuaded Truman this was necessary

    Marshall Plan and Marshall Aid

  • Truman felt Communism thrived when poverty was greatest; he sent his General, George Marshall to report on the economic state of Europe
  • Marshall came back saying Europe was ruined – it owed $11.5 billion to the US
  • Powercuts were a regular occurance and people still used ration coupons, especially due to harsh winter of 1946-7. Industrial production was half prewar levels.
  • Marshall therefore suggested the Marshall Plan (or the European Recovery Program). It claimed that about $17billion would be needed to rebuild Europe’s economy.
  • Initially the US Congress rejected this idea and the amount of money. However, after the incident in Czechoslovakia, it made it available over 4 years. (In Czechoslovakia a coalition government was in power until it tried pursuing anti-Stalin policies. The Communists came down hard and purged the government of all non-communists. One pro-American leader Jan Masaryk was found dead under his window. USSR said he jumped).
  • Greece and Turkey were first to receive aid.
  • The USSR rejected Marshall Aid entirely and responded by setting up Comminform (1947); a political equivalent to Marshall Aid and Comecon (1949); an economic union to co-ordinate economies. These gave him even more power in E.Europe.
  • IGCSE history, cold war, eastern Europe; Soviet control

    The Iron Curtain as described by Churchill [sourceMosedschurte, CCASA3.0]

    IGCSE history, cold war, greece, containment

    The British army in Greece, 1944, before the Americans arrived [source:IWM]

    IGCSE history, cold war, truman doctrine, marshall aid

    Truman addressing Congress asking for Marshall Aid to be given to Europe, 1947. [source: Truman library]

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; Who was to blame for the Cold War?; the Cold War revision

    The escalation of the Cold War

    What was the Berlin Blockade, 1948?

  • Stalin decided to block all access into and out of Berlin — which was in the Soviet quarter — when the USA, Br and Fr joined their zones to form ‘Trizonia’
  • Roads and railways were closed. Stalin hoped to swallow Berlin into his section.
  • The US realized this was a major propaganda opportunity
  • They had 3 choices: invade, accept or defy. They decided to defy the ban by flying aircraft to supply Trizonia with food and fuel. This became known as the Berlin Airlift.
  • On average, a plane left every 90 seconds to keep it up — 200 000 in total.
  • The USSR lifted the ban in 1949, but 2 new countries were now created.
  • Why did the Soviet Union blockade Berlin?

  • Britain, France and USA had combined their zones in 1946 to form Trizonia – isolating USSR Trizonia had a different currency (the Deutschemark) and was doing well, economically
  • Stalin had looted his section of Berlin for the USSR as reperations and it was struggling economically
  • Stalin needed to show he was strong against the USA; Marshall Aid was humiliating and he needed the upper hand. He had also lost in Greece
  • The superpowers had never agreed that the USSR would allow access into Berlin… this was just assumed and never written down. Stalin wasn’t doing anything illegal—it was within his zone to take Berlin
  • The USSR’s sector of Berlin was embarrassing compared to the West’s. Communism was clearly inferior to the capitalism of the East and it was becoming a chink in Stalin’s iron curtain.
  • What were the consequences of the Berlin Blockade, 1948?

  • NATO: the West felt it needed to be able to protect each other. 13 countries met in Washington in April 1949 and formed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)
  • Warsaw Pact: In retaliation Stalin set up the Warsaw Pact – a Communist equivalent to NATO Separation: Germany was firmly divided into two nations: West Germany (or the Federal German Republic) under the USA, French and British section whilst the USSR’s section was East Germany (or the German Democratic Republic)
  • Economic Difficulties in E.Germany — currency collapse and hard winter forced prices up
  • Improvement in West German-US relationships — the Nazi era was put behind them as a common enemy—USSR was now the focus.
  • IGCSE history, cold war, berlin blockade, berlin airlift
    A map showing the blocked access to Berlin [source: Leerlaufprozess, wikimedia]
    IGCSE history, cold war, berlin blockade, berlin airlift
    A map showing the blocked access to Berlin [source: USAF Historical Research Agency via Cees Steijger (1991), "A History of USAFE", Voyageur, ISBN: 1853100757; USAF photo 070119-F-0000R-101, wikimedia]

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; Who was to blame for the Cold War?; the Cold War revision

    The USA

  • Truman was divisive
    • A-Bomb 1945
      Used harsh language at Potsdam — Molotov complained
      Invited Churchill to talk on Iron Curtain at Missouri
      Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan and Aid
  • Didn’t consider Communism an option—intervened Whites vs Reds 1919 and Greece 1946
  • Trizonia
  • The USSR

  • Showed they were untrustworthy
    • Occupation of E.Europe
      lies at Yalta Lies on Nazi-Soviet Pact
  • Berlin Blockade
  • Began Alliances - Warsaw Pact led to NAATO
  • Inevitable Conflicting systems of government; Battle for economic markets
  • Cold war origins, IGCSE History, Stalin, Truman, USSR, USA

    A cartoon depicting the the origins of the Cold War [source: Carlos3653, CCASA 4.0]

    IGCSE History; CIE revision notes; Who was to blame for the Cold War?; the Cold War revision

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