Radio Free Europe

Overview of Radio Free Europe’s first broadcast on 4th July 1950

On the 4th July 1950, Radio Free Europe – founded the previous year to transmit uncensored information to audiences behind the Iron Curtain – completed its first broadcast.


Why were the Rosenbergs sentenced to death? Overview podcast

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg met when they were members of the Young Communist League in New York. It was only after his previous membership of the organisation was discovered that Julius was dismissed from his position at the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He had worked as an engineer-inspector for nearly 5 years during the Second World War, and it was during this time that he was recruited to spy for Russia.

Blood in the Water match

‘Blood in the Water’ – the Cold War water polo match

On the 6th December 1956, the “Blood in the Water” water polo match took place between the USSR and Hungary. A semi-final in the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympic Games, the game is famous as a result of the violence that marked the game. It gained its nickname, and ended, after a Hungarian player was punched by one of the Russian opponents so hard that it drew blood.

Imre Nagy

The execution of Hungarian Communist leader Imre Nagy

On June 16th 1958, Hungarian Communist politician Imre Nagy was executed. Arrested after Soviet forces brought the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to an end, Nagy was found guilty of treason in a secret trial and executed by hanging.

Prague Spring

The origin and start of the Prague Spring

On the 5th January 1968, the Prague Spring began when Alexander Dubček became the new First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring lasted for just over seven months before the Soviet Union, along with other members of the Warsaw Pact, invaded Czechoslovakia to bring the reforms to a halt.

Comparing and contrasting Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968

This I/GCSE History revision podcast looks at the uprisings in Communist Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  Although they were 12 years apart, they share some common similarities but also have some marked differences.  The podcast is divided into three main sections.  Considering Hungary first, then Czechoslovakia, I explain the respective causes of the uprisings, the events during them, and finally the consequences. The third part of the podcast compares the two revolutions.

The first part of the episode addresses the Hungarian uprising of 1956 from the downfall of Rakosi to the rise of Nagy and his own eventual execution before the USSR reasserted its control over Hungary through Kadar.  An explanation is given of why the USSR was so unwilling to allow Nagy’s reforms to take hold, and the extent to which the Hungarian people fought to assert their independence.

The second part of the revision podcast focuses on Czechoslovakia in 1968.  The policies of Dubček and the Prague Spring are outlined, along with their effect on the attitudes of both the Czech people and the Soviet Union.  The eventual demise of Dubček following the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is then described.

The final part of the podcast is arguably the most important for revising History GCSE and IGCSE.  The episode concludes with a comparison of the two uprisings, detailing an essay technique that helps you to explain the similarities and differences between them in an examination answer.  It doesn’t actually matter whether you think they were more similar or more different, but it is important to present a balanced answer as outlined in the podcast.


End of the Prague Spring

The end of the Prague Spring – a podcast account

At around 11pm on the 20th August 1968, troops from the USSR, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary entered Czechoslovakia in an invasion that brought the Prague Spring to an end. The invasion, known as Operation Danube, led to almost half a million soldiers crossing the border to bring Alexander Dubček’s reforms to an end.

Laika the dog

Laika the dog: the first animal in orbit

On the 3rd November 1957, Laika the dog became the first animal to enter orbit around the Earth when she was launched into space on board the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2.

Kennedy’s announcement of a plan for manned moon landing

On the 25th May 1961, American President John F. Kennedy made the announcement to a joint session of Congress that he had set his sights on a manned moon landing before the end of the decade.

The Berlin Wall

The construction of the Berlin Wall

Beginning at midnight on the 13th August 1961, East German police and army began to close the border with West Berlin. The barbed wire and mesh barrier that was constructed overnight was gradually replaced with a virtually impregnable ring of reinforced concrete that ran 155km around West Berlin.