The Cold War was the political and military tension that existed primarily between the USA and its allies, on the one hand, and the USSR on the other, even despite the fact that these forces were allies during the Second World War. The Cold War started after the ending of World War II and finished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was associated with the conflict of two inconsistent ideologies: capitalist (the U.S.) and communist (the USSR); the representatives of both sides tended to almost demonize one another.
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There is a position according to which the USA’s politics were based on the desire of large American companies to justify the mass production of weapons in order to gain enormous profits (Zinn 546); economic motives can also be suspected to have been a motive for the USSR.
The Cold War started around 1947, when the USSR created Cominform, whereas Truman stated that it is necessary to counter the efforts of the Soviet Union to cause discrepancies and conflicts inside the capitalist world. The policy of containment of the Communist threat was proclaimed by the U.S. Somewhat later, in 1949, China became a communist state, turning it into a potential ally of the Soviet Union (Gaddis ch. 2), which by that time created its own nuclear weapons. Simultaneously, NATO was created to counteract the spread of Communism, thus turning the Cold War into a global phenomenon.
As the leaders of the USSR changed, the hope that the threat of Communist expansion would be reduced sometimes arose, but often proved short-lived; for instance, Khrushchev’s actions in Hungary in 1956 dispelled such hopes. There were a number of conflicts in which the sides of the Cold War engaged, for instance, the situation in Cuba in 1962, in which the sides nearly started a direct confrontation.
In the 1980s, the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, certain concessions made by the USSR started to alleviate the tension. The Cold War ended primarily due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union (Gaddis ch. 7).
‘End of empires’
The 20th century is called “the end of empires,” for, at the beginning of this century, most of the world lived in colonies which were parts of European empires, but practically all the empires were dissolved during that century (Florig n.pag.). The only currently existing empire in Japan, but the title is only nominal and originates from the fact that the head of the state is called an Emperor; however, in fact, the country is a constitutional monarchy.
There were a number of colonial empires at the beginning of the 20th century; the countries which had colonies included Great Britain, the U.S., Italy, France, German Empire, the Netherlands, and others (Florig n.pag.). In addition, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Russian Empire, and the German Empire were also major empires.
Most of the dissolutions of these empires were related to the two World Wars, even though in certain cases the situation within the empires themselves was unstable. For instance, in the Ottoman Empire, the dissolution began with the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, when a multi-party form of government was established. During World War I, the country engaged in military actions, taking the side of the Central Powers. Furthermore, constant conflicts that occurred later drained the empire of its military power, causing its dissolution.
Austria-Hungary and the German Empire were engaged in World War I, being the core members of the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary collapsed at the end of the First World War due to the military defeat; a number of new states, such as the First Austrian Republic, the Kingdom of Hungary, Yugoslavia, the Union of Transylvania with Romania, etc., emerged. Germany also lost in World War I; during the November Revolution in 1918, the German Empire collapsed, and what later became known as the Weimar Republic was established.
In addition, a number of new states were created from the Russian Empire due to the revolutions that took place there; the Russian Empire also ceased its existence, and many of its territories became the Soviet Union. On the whole, numerous new states emerged in Europe on the ruins of the previously existing empires; as was mentioned, the same happened in the Middle East, where the Ottoman Empire previously existed (Florig n.pag.).
As history unfolded, the process of dissolution of empires continued. Many colonial empires ceased their existence after World War II; the power of European countries, such as Great Britain, was significantly undermined by the war (Darwin n.pag.). Decolonization mostly took place during the 1940s-1960s (Florig n.pag.). In addition, the attention of many of the Western countries was focused on the Cold War, which also stimulated the process of decolonization of the Third World.
For instance, the U.S. was concentrated on “building the global architecture of containment” (Fain 586), as were certain other countries. This provided the opportunity for the countries of the Third World to declare independence; also, a number of prominent political figures were able to obtain a good education, in Western countries in particular, and popularize the ideas of independence in the Third World.
Thus, the 20th century proved to be “the end of empires” due to the fact that practically all the empires and colonial empires disintegrated during that century. The main causes of these dissolutions were the World Wars and the Cold War; in addition, a number of cultural causes such as the spread of the ideas of independence were also essential for the dissolutions to take place.
Darwin, John. Britain, the Commonwealth and the End of Empire. 2011. Web.
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Fain, W. Taylor. “Mapping the End of Empire: American and British Strategic Visions in the Postwar World.” American Historical Review 120.2 (2015): 585-586. EBSCOhost. Web.
Florig, Dennis. The History of the 20th Century. n.d. Web.
Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War. London, UK: Penguin Books, 2011. Google Books. Web.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present. n.d. Web.