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Posted: October 24th, 2019

The Cold War and its Impact on Post-WW2 Europe

The Cold War and its Impact on Post-WW2 Europe

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension and ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1947 to 1991. It had a profound impact on the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of post-WW2 Europe, shaping its division, integration and transformation.

## The Division of Europe

One of the most visible effects of the Cold War was the division of Europe into two opposing blocs: the Western bloc, aligned with the US and NATO, and the Eastern bloc, aligned with the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. This division was symbolized by the Iron Curtain, a term coined by Winston Churchill in 1946 to describe the barrier that separated the free and democratic West from the communist and totalitarian East. The Iron Curtain manifested itself in various forms, such as the Berlin Wall, the border fences, the minefields, the checkpoints and the propaganda campaigns.

The division of Europe also resulted in political and military confrontations that threatened to escalate into a nuclear war. Some of the most notable crises were the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Suez Crisis (1956), the Hungarian Revolution (1956), the Berlin Crisis (1961), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Prague Spring (1968) and the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989).

## The Integration of Europe

Another effect of the Cold War was the integration of Europe, especially in the Western bloc, as a response to the Soviet threat and as a way to promote peace and cooperation. The integration process began with the creation of various organizations and institutions, such as the Council of Europe (1949), the European Coal and Steel Community (1951), the European Economic Community (1957), the European Atomic Energy Community (1957) and NATO (1949). These entities aimed to foster economic, political, social and security integration among their members, as well as to protect human rights, democracy and rule of law.

The integration of Europe also led to cultural and scientific exchanges that enriched the European identity and heritage. Some examples are the European Cultural Convention (1954), the European Broadcasting Union (1950), the European Space Agency (1975) and the Erasmus Programme (1987).

## The Transformation of Europe

A third effect of the Cold War was the transformation of Europe, especially in the Eastern bloc, as a result of internal reforms and external pressures. The transformation process began with the emergence of dissident movements and opposition groups that challenged the legitimacy and authority of the communist regimes. Some of these movements were Solidarity in Poland (1980-1989), Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia (1977-1992), Civic Forum in Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and Sąjūdis in Lithuania (1988-1990).

The transformation process culminated with the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991. This event was marked by several milestones, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia (1989), the Romanian Revolution (1989), the Baltic states’ declaration of independence (1990-1991) and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991). The collapse of communism opened a new era for Europe, characterized by democratic transitions, market reforms, ethnic conflicts and regional integration.

## Conclusion

The Cold War had a lasting impact on post-WW2 Europe, dividing it into two blocs, integrating it into various organizations and transforming it into a new political landscape. The Cold War also influenced the development of European values, culture, identity and security. The legacy of the Cold War is still evident in contemporary Europe, as it faces new challenges and opportunities in a globalized world.

## References

– Gaddis, J.L. (2005). The Cold War: A New History. Penguin Books.
– Judt, T. (2005). Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. Penguin Books.
– Mazower, M. (1998). Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century. Penguin Books.
– Naimark, N.M. (2017). The Cold War: A Post-Cold War History. Wiley Blackwell.
– Pons, S. & Romero F. (eds.) (2014). Reinterpreting The End Of The Cold War: Issues,
Interpretations, Periodizations. Routledge.
– Westad O.A. (2017). The Cold War: A World History. Basic Books.

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