Tag Archives: USSR

The Road to World War II, 1933-39

This podcast is designed to present the key reasons for the breakout of World War 2 by explaining the different impacts of Hitler’s aims and actions, the policy of appeasement, the problems caused by the peace treaties, the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the failures of the League of Nations.

The first part of the podcast deals with Hitler’s aims: abolish the Treaty of Versailles, expand German territory, and remove the threat of communism.  It explains how his policies were designed to fulfill these aims.  Key actions from the first years of Hitler’s Chancellorship that are described include: rearmament, remilitarisation of the Rhineland, his role in the Spanish Civil War, and Anschluss with Austria.

The podcast then goes on to assess appeasement.  Arguments in favour of, and against, the policy of appeasement are presented.  This is followed by an explanation of the Sudetenland Crisis, the Munich Agreement and the Nazi-Soviet Pact.  The views of historians are considered.

This episode concludes with a brief explanation of how to answer an examination question on this topic.

          

The origins of the Cold War

This podcast aims to look at three key areas – why the alliance between the USA and the USSR broke down in 1945, how Stalin take control of eastern Europe in 1945 and America’s reaction to it, and the consequences of the Berlin Blockade.

The podcast opens with a short explanation of the deteriorating relationship between the USA and the USSR through the Second World War.  It goes on to present an overview of the two major Allied conferences – Yalta and Potsdam – and outlines the key agreements and disagreements that emerged from them.

Opening with an extract from Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech, the second part of this episode explores the way in which Stalin extended Soviet control over eastern Europe to establish a ‘buffer zone’ of communist states around the USSR.  It then goes on to detail the USA’s response in terms of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.  Examples are given of each.

The third section of the podcast focuses on the Berlin Blockade of 1948-9.  It begins with the background of the divided Germany after the Second World War.  An explanation is then given of how Berlin became further divided between the communist and non-communist zones leading to Stalin launching the Berlin Blockade.  The Allied ‘air lift’ is then described.

The episode finishes with some exam tips on how to answer a question about who was to blame for the Cold War in a balanced way.

          

Yalta Conference

Brief introduction to the Yalta Conference

On the 4th February 1945 the Yalta Conference began. Attended by the “Big Three” Allied leaders, the conference saw United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin meet to discuss the government of post-war Europe.

The three leaders had previously met at the Tehran Conference in 1943 where they set out a unified military strategy, but at Yalta the focus was exclusively on the end of the war and its aftermath. It was clear that the war in Europe was in its final stages, so they agreed to demand Germany’s unconditional surrender after which the country – and Berlin – would be split into four zones of occupation. Germany was to undergo a process of demilitarization and denazification, and Nazi war criminals were to be hunted down and brought to justice.

Furthermore, the three allies considered the fate of Eastern European countries that had been under Nazi occupation. Poland was the focus of much of the discussion, but the agreement reached was intended to apply to every country. The Protocol of Proceedings stated that the allies would assist the liberated countries to form “interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population…and the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people.”

The terms of the agreement, when they were made public, were met with harsh criticism in Britain and the United States. Some of these criticisms came to be justified when, at the end of the war, the Soviet Union installed communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.

The origins of the Cold War: Yalta and Potsdam

This video presents an explanation of the start of the Cold War. The end of WW2 presented the Allies with the problem of what would happen to liberated Nazi territory. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met at Yalta in 1945 to discuss these issues. At Potsdam later that year the leaders of the USA (which was now led by Truman), Britain (under Atlee) and the USSR met again.

Trinity nuclear test

Brief account of USA’s first ever nuclear test in the Manhattan Project

The 16th July 1945 marked the start of the atomic age when the USA detonated the first nuclear bomb under the codename ‘Trinity’.

Nicknamed ‘the gadget’ by the people working on it, the plutonium-based weapon was detonated at the Alamogordo Test Range in New Mexico. The explosion was equivalent to about 20 kilotons of TNT, and the blast-wave was felt by civilians up to 160 miles away. To maintain secrecy, a press release was issued shortly after the successful detonation that claimed a large ammunition storage magazine had exploded.

The development of nuclear weapons by the US Army in the Manhattan Project that began in 1942 at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico started due to concerns that Nazi Germany would develop an atomic bomb. By 1944 scientists had designed an implosion-type device and proposed that a test take place. The location was chosen in September, and an on-site laboratory was set up.

President Truman was keen to test the bomb before the Potsdam Conference began on the 18th July, so the 16th was chosen to give time to try again in case it failed. However when the appointed hour came rain was falling, which would have increased radioactive fallout, and so the detonation time was pushed back from 4am to 5.30am. At 5:29am the “the gadget” was exploded on top of a 100-foot steel tower, known as Point Zero. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, later said that after the explosion he recalled a verse from Hindu scripture: ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’

Atomic Explosion

History of the Atomic Bomb 1945-49

A short film outlining the early history of the atomic bomb, from dropping ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima in 1945 to the creation of an atomic bomb by the USSR in 1949.

Byrnes, Truman and Leahy

Truman and his advisors: different opinions of the atomic bomb

This short clip is taken from the BBC’s Curriculum Bites and offers a good overview of the different opinions about the use of the A-bomb in 1945.

Bombing of Hiroshima

Interpretations of why the USA dropped the atomic bomb on Japan

This video presents historical interpretations of why America chose to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It also explains how it affected relations between the USA and the USSR.

Containment policy

The origin of the ‘Containment’ policy

On the 24th September 1946, Clark Clifford and George Elsey presented a report to President Truman in which they recommended “restraining and confining” Soviet influence. The report helped to shape Truman’s decision to follow a policy of containment, having a direct impact on the introduction of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, and on the formation of NATO.

The report was a detailed appraisal of relations between the USA and the Soviet Union, elaborating on the points raised in the so-called “Long Telegram” by George F. Kennan at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Kennan’s telegram highlighted the USSR’s ‘perpetual war’ with capitalism, stating that the communist and capitalist worlds could never peacefully coexist.

These warnings were picked up by Clifford and Elsey, who also noted Kennan’s comments regarding the likelihood that the Soviets would back down from any direct conflict in their attempts to expand communism. Consequently they recommended “restraining and confining” Soviet influence in an attempt to maintain some form of coexistence. Elsey noted that the USSR needed to be persuaded that the USA was “too strong to be beaten and too determined to be frightened”. The term ‘containment’ was first used to describe this approach in an expanded essay in the Foreign Affairs journal.

Ten copies of the report were printed, the first of which was presented to the President. Truman’s daughter, Margaret, wrote that – having stayed up most of the night to read it – he ordered all copies to be brought to him and locked away since the content was a serious threat to US-Soviet relations.

Berlin Blockade

Berlin and the Cold War 1945-1949

Contrasting Pro-Soviet and Pro-American films from the post-WW2 period related to the increasing tensions between the two countries.