Cold War Events Timeline


joseph stalin

1924 - march 5, 1953

franklin d. roosevelt

march 4, 1933 - april 12, 1945

yalta conference

february 4, 1945 - february 11, 1945

Often known as the Crimea Conference, it was the WWII meeting with the head of government’s in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The conference was represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin. The purpose was to discuss Europe’s post-war reorganization. Not only that, but the meeting was also intended to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. Within a few years, with the Cold War dividing continents, Yalta became subjected to intense controversy. To some extent, to this day, it still remains slightly controversial.

harry truman

april 12, 1945 - january 20, 1953

potsdam conference

july 17, 1945 - august 2, 1945

The participants included were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. The three powers were represented by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, and, later, Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman. The goals of the conference also included the establishment of post-war order, peace treaties issues, and countering the effects of the war. Some of the things that the Potsdam Conference lead to was that, The Soviet Union began occupying Central and Eastern Europe, Britain had received a new Prime Minister, President Truman became the new president for the United States, and the war was coming to an end.

long telegram

february 22, 1946

The Long Telegram was written by George F. Kennan. The purpose was to reply to the US Treasury department. It was a reply to the US Treasury department when the US embassy in Moscow asked why the soviets weren’t supporting the newly created world bank and the International Monetary Fund.

the truman doctrine

march 12, 1947

The Truman Doctrine was an international relations policy set forth by the U.S. President Harry Truman in a speech on March 12, 1947, which stated that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent them from falling into the Soviet sphere. The Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from détente (a relaxation of tension) to a policy of containment of Soviet expansion as advocated by diplomat George Kennan.

the marshall plan

june 5, 1947

It was the American initiative to aid Europe, in which the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again.

berlin blockade/ berlin airlift

june 24, 1948 - september 30, 1949

It was an international crisis that arose from an attempt by the Soviet Union, in 1948–49, to force the Western Allied powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) to abandon their post-World War II jurisdictions in West Berlin. By the end of July three groups of U.S. strategic bombers had been sent as reinforcements to Britain. Tension remained high, but war did not break out. The end to the blockade was brought about because of countermeasures imposed by the Allies on East German communications and, above all, because of the Western embargo placed on all strategic exports from the Eastern bloc. As a result of the blockade and airlift, Berlin became a symbol of the Allies’ willingness to oppose further Soviet expansion in Europe.


april 4, 1949

It stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty. The organization constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the global total. Members' defense spending is supposed to amount to 2% of GDP.

soviet nuclear weapon testing

august 29, 1949

The Soviet weapons program proper began in 1943 during World War II, under the leadership of physicist Igor Vasilievich Kurchatov. The program was initiated by reports collected by Soviet intelligence about the rapidly growing Manhattan Project in the U.S. It remained largely an intelligence operation until the end of the war, but it was a highly successful one, due to sympathies of many for the wartime Soviet Union fighting Nazi Germany; the socialist political sympathies of some; and the weak security screening program necessitated by the hasty assembly of the vast program. Klaus Fuchs, an important physicist at Los Alamos, was by far the most valuable contributor of atomic information. Immediately after the conclusion of the war against Japan, the Soviet program moved into high gear. Lavrenti Beria was appointed to head the entire project, with Kurchatov remaining as scientific director. Using the detailed data available on the American program, and the detailed design description of the Fat Man bomb provided by Fuchs in June 1945, the Soviet program achieved its first test in almost exactly four years.

revolution in china

october 1, 1949

It was the culmination of the Chinese Communist Party's drive to power since its founding in 1921 and the second part of Chinese Civil War. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek, 600,000 Nationalist troops, and about two million Nationalist-sympathizer refugees retreated to the island of Taiwan. After that, resistance to the Communists on the mainland was substantial but scattered, such as in the far south. An attempt to take the Nationalist-controlled island of Kinmen was thwarted in the Battle of Kuningtou. In December 1949 Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan the temporary capital of the Republic, and continued to assert his government as the sole legitimate authority of all China, while the PRC government continued to call for the unification of all China. The last direct fighting between Nationalist and Communist forces ended with the communist capture of Hainan Island in May 1950, though shelling and guerrilla raids continued for a number of years. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 led the American government to place the Fifth Fleet in the Taiwan Straits, which kept each side from attacking the other.

korean war

june 25, 1950 - july 27, 1953

It was a war between the Republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), at one time supported by China and the Soviet Union. It was primarily the result of the political division of Korea by an agreement of the victorious Allies at the conclusion of the Pacific War at the end of World War II. The failure to hold free elections throughout the Korean Peninsula in 1948 deepened the division between the two sides; the North established a communist government, while the South established a right-wing government. The 38th parallel increasingly became a political border between the two Korean states. Although reunification negotiations continued in the months preceding the war, tension intensified.

dwight eisenhower

january 20, 1953 - january 20, 1961

georgy malenkov

march 5, 1953 - february 8, 1955

the rosenberg trial

march 6, 1953 - june 19, 1953

American citizens executed for conspiracy to commit espionage, relating to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Because the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons did not operate an electric chair at the time, the Rosenbergs were transferred to the New York State-run Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining for execution. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the electric chair at sundown on June 19, 1953. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were buried at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn, New York.

cuban revolution

july 26, 1953 - january 1, 1959

It was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement and its allies against the government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and finally ousted Batista on 1 January 1959, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state. The Movement organization later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October 1965.The Communist Party, now headed by Castro's brother Raúl, continues to govern Cuba today. The Cuban Revolution had great domestic and international repercussions; in particular, it reshaped Cuba's relations with the United States, which continues an embargo against Cuba as of 2014. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Castro's government began a program of nationalization and political consolidation that transformed Cuba's economy and civil society. The revolution also heralded an era of Cuban intervention into foreign military conflicts, including the Angolan Civil War and Nicaraguan Revolution.

nikita khrushchev

march 27, 1955 - october 14, 1964

warsaw pact

may 14, 1955 - july 1991

It was a collective defense treaty among eight communist states of Central and Eastern Europe in existence during the Cold War. The founding treaty was established under the initiative of the Soviet Union and signed on 14 May 1955, in Warsaw. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the regional economic organization for the communist States of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was in part a Soviet military reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955, per the Paris Pacts of 1954 but was primarily motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe which in turn (according to The Warsaw Pact's preamble) to maintain peace in Europe, were guided by the objective points and principles of the Charter of the United Nations (1945) after the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. The alliance was transformed into the subsequent Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO.

suez canal crisis

october 29, 1956 - december 22, 1956

It was a diplomatic and military confrontation in late 1956 between Egypt on one side, and Britain, France and Israel on the other, with the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations playing major roles in forcing Britain, France and Israel to withdraw. The attack followed the President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser's decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal, after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam, which was in response to Egypt's new ties with the Soviet Union and recognizing the People's Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan. The aims of the attack were primarily to regain Western control of the canal and to remove Nasser from power, and the crisis highlighted the danger that Arab nationalism posed to Western access to Middle East oil. The three allies, especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives, but pressure from the United States and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere forced them to withdraw. As a result of the outside pressure Britain and France failed in their political and strategic aims of controlling the canal and removing Nasser from power. Israel fulfilled some of its objectives, such as attaining freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran. As a result of the conflict, the UNEF would police the Egyptian–Israeli border to prevent both sides from recommencing hostilities.

launch of sputnik

october 4, 1957

The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It was visible all around the Earth and its radio pulses were detectable. The surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the larger Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. Sputnik itself provided scientists with valuable information. The density of the upper atmosphere could be deduced from its drag on the orbit, and the propagation of its radio signals gave information about the ionosphere. Sputnik 1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1/5, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in Kazakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite travelled at about 29,000 kilometres per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete each orbit. It transmitted on 20.005 and 40.002 MHz which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on 26 October 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on 4 January 1958, as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after travelling about 43.5 million miles and spending 3 months in orbit.

john f. kennedy

january 20, 1961 - november 22, 1963

bay of pigs

april 17 1961 - april 19, 1961

It was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military, trained and funded by the United States government's CIA, Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front and intended to overthrow the revolutionary left-wing government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban armed forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro. The failed invasion strengthened the position of Castro's administration, who proceeded to openly proclaim their intention to adopt socialism and strengthen ties with the Soviet Union. This led eventually to the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The invasion was a major embarrassment for U.S. foreign policy. John Kennedy ordered a number of internal investigations. Across much of Latin America, it was celebrated as evidence of the fallibility of U.S. imperialism.

the berlin wall built

august 13, 1961

A barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.A barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.

cuban missile crisis

september 4 1962 - october 28, 1962

It was 13-day confrontation in October 1962 between the Soviet Union and Cuba on one side and the United States on the other side. The crisis is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict and is also the first documented instance of mutual assured destruction (MAD) being discussed as a determining factor in a major international arms agreement. The confrontation ended on October 28, 1962, when Kennedy and United Nations Secretary-General U Thant reached an agreement with Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a US public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba. Secretly, the US also agreed that it would dismantle all US-built Jupiter IRBMs, armed with nuclear warheads, which were deployed in Turkey and Italy against the Soviet Union. After the removal of the missiles and Ilyushin Il-28 light bombers from Cuba, the blockade was formally ended at 6:45 pm EST on November 20, 1962. The tense negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union pointed out the necessity of a quick, clear and direct communication between Washington and Moscow. As a result, the Moscow–Washington hotline was established.

lyndon b. johnson

november 22, 1963 - january 20, 1969

assassination of JFK

november 22, 1963

Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper while traveling with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally's wife Nellie, in a presidential motorcade. A ten-month investigation from November 1963 to September 1964 by the Warren Commission concluded that Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial.

leonid brezhnev

october 14, 1964 - november 10, 1982

the vietnam war

february 13, 1965 - march 29, 1973

It was a Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from December 1956 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a lightly armed South Vietnamese communist common front directed by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. As the war wore on, the part of the Viet Cong in the fighting decreased as the role of the NVA grew. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. In the course of the war, the U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam, and over time the North Vietnamese airspace became the most heavily defended airspace of any in the world.

richard nixon

january 20, 1969 - august 9, 1974

gerald ford

august 9, 1974 - january 20, 1977

james carter

january 20, 1977 - january 20, 1981

ronald reagan

january 20, 1981 - january 20, 1989

yuri andropov

november 10, 1982 - february 9, 1984

konstantin chernenko

february 13, 1984 - march 10, 1985

mikhail gorbachev

march 11, 1985 - december 25, 1991

george h. bush

january 20, 1989 - january 20, 1993

the berlin wall falls

november 9, 1989

The date on which the Wall fell is considered to have been 9 November 1989, but the Wall in its entirety was not torn down immediately. Starting that evening and in the days and weeks that followed, people came to the wall with sledgehammers or otherwise hammers and chisels to chip off souvenirs, demolishing lengthy parts of it in the process and creating several unofficial border crossings. These people were nicknamed "Mauerspechte" (wall woodpeckers). The East German regime announced the opening of ten new border crossings the following weekend, including some in historically significant locations. Crowds on both sides waited there for hours, cheering at the bulldozers which took parts of the Wall away to reinstate old roads. Photos and television footage of these events is sometimes mislabeled "dismantling of the Wall", even though it was merely the construction of new crossings. New border crossings continued to be opened through the middle of 1990, including the Brandenburg Gate on 22 December 1989.Berlin Wall segment in Los Angeles at 5900 Wilshire Boulevard West Germans and West Berliners were allowed visa-free travel starting 23 December. Until then, they could only visit East Germany and East Berlin under restrictive conditions that involved application for a visa several days or weeks in advance and obligatory exchange of at least 25 DM per day of their planned stay, all of which hindered spontaneous visits. Thus, in the weeks between 9 November and 23 December, East Germans could actually travel more freely than Westerners.

dissolving of the ussr

december 25, 1991

The increasing political unrest led the establishment of the Soviet military and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to attempt a coup d'état to oust Mikhail Gorbachev and re-establish a strong central regime in August 1991. On December 26, 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was finalized by declaration no. 142-H of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, acknowledging the independence of the twelve republics of the Soviet Union, and creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. On the previous day, 25 December 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned, declaring his office extinct, and handed over the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That same evening at 7:32 P.M. the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the Russian tricolor. Two weeks later, 8 of the remaining 9 republics signed the Alma-Ata Protocol formally establishing the CIS and declaring that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. The dissolution of the state also marked an end to the Cold War. The Revolutions of 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the end of decades-long hostility between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which had been the defining feature of the Cold War.