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The Cold War Review for AP World History (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

The Effects of Decolonization

Independence did not buy peace or prosperity to most of the new African nations. New states tended to maintain colonial boundaries, meaning that they often cut through ethnic and cultural groups. Sometimes ethnic conflicts turned violent, as in the tribal conflicts in the territories of the former Belgian Congo.

Soviet Communism

After the Russian civil war, which lasted from 1918 to 1921, Lenin moved quickly to announce a program of land redistribution and a nationalization of basic industries. When his initial programs culminated in industrial and agricultural decline, Lenin instituted his New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP permitted some private ownership of peasant land and small businesses; it resulted in an increase in agricultural production.

In 1923, Russia was organized into a system of socialist republics under a central government and was renamed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The republics were under the control of the Communist Party. When Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin eventually became the leader of the Soviet Union. Stalin's regime was characterized by purges, or the expulsion or execution of rivals. Especially targeted were the kulaks, wealthy peasants who refused to submit to Stalin's policy of collectivization. Collectivization consolidated private farms into huge collective farms worked in common by farmers. Farmers were to share the proceeds of the collective farms and also to submit a portion of the agricultural products to the government. Millions of kulaks were executed or deported to Siberia. Even after farmers accepted collectivization, however, lack of worker initiative prevented it from being successful.

Stalin had greater success in improving Soviet industry. He set up a series of Five Year Plans that concentrated on heavy industry. By the end of the 1930s, the Soviet Union was behind only Germany and the United States in industrial capacity.

The Expansion of Soviet Rule

During the final weeks of World War II, the Soviet Union liberated Eastern Europe (except Yugoslavia and Greece) from Nazi rule. By 1948, these areas, except for Greece, had communist governments. Yugoslavia's communist rule under Marshall Tito did not become a part of the Soviet bloc, attempting instead to forge a style of communism more responsive to its citizens.

In 1956, a Hungarian revolt against repressive Soviet rule was put down by Soviet tanks. When large numbers of East Germans began migrating to West Berlin, the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 to stem the tide of refugees. In Prague Spring (1968), Czech leader Alexandr Dubcek stood up against Soviet oppression, abolishing censorship; the result of his efforts was Soviet invasion. Only in Poland was Soviet rule somewhat relaxed; religious worship was tolerated and some land ownership allowed. In the late 1970s, Solidarity, Poland's labor movement, challenged the Soviet system.

Soviet Rule after Stalin

In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev rose to power in the Soviet Union. Criticizing Stalin's ruthless dictatorship, Khrushchev eased up on political repression. In 1962, Soviet construction of nuclear missiles in Cuba brought days of tense confrontation between Khrushchev and U.S. President Kennedy. Khrushchev ultimately backed down, and the missiles were removed. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a classic example of brinkmanship, or the Cold War tendency of the United States and the Soviet Union to be on the brink of war without actually engaging in battle. Also during Khrushchev's regime, the rift between the Soviet Union and Communist China widened.

The Later Decades of the Twentieth Century

In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to support communist combatants in Afghanistan's civil war. The Soviets withdrew their forces in 1989 after failing to establish a communist government for Afghanistan.

In the 1980s, economic setbacks and the military power of the United States produced a reform movement within the Soviet Union. The new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, reduced Soviet nuclear armaments. His reform program revolved around the concepts of glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost, meaning "openness," allowed Soviet citizens to discuss government policies and even criticize them. Perestroika was an economic reform program that permitted some private ownership and control of agriculture and industry. Foreign investments were allowed, and industry was permitted to produce more consumer goods.

Latin America

Mexico emerged from its revolution with a one-party system. The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) dominated Mexican politics for seventy years.

In Argentina, government was under the control of military leaders who wanted to industrialize the country. Some of them were fascist sympathizers, among them Juan Perón and his wife, Evita. Although Perón raised the salaries of the working classes, his government controlled the press and denied civil liberties to its citizens. When he died in 1975, Argentina continued to be ruled by military dictators. In 1982, a short war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands resulted in Argentine defeat.

From 1934 to 1944, and from 1952 to 1959, Cuba was ruled by dictator Fulgencio Batista. U.S. trade relations with Cuba gave it an influence over the island nation. In 1959, the Cubans revolted against the corruption of the Batista regime, replacing it with the rule of a young revolutionary lawyer named Fidel Castro. During the revolution, Batista lost the support of the United States because of his corrupt government.

Shortly after assuming power in Cuba, Castro proclaimed himself a Marxist socialist. He seized foreign property and collectivized farms. In 1961, Castro terminated relations with the United States and gradually aligned Cuba with the Soviet Union. Also in 1961, the United States sponsored an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles. Cuba's dependence on the Soviet Union led to the missile crisis of 1962.

Throughout Central America, U.S. businesses such as United Fruit invested in national economies, resulting in a U.S. presence often resented by Central Americans. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas carried out a protest against U.S. intervention that resulted in a socialist revolution in the 1980s.

The United States attempted to contain communism in Latin America by supporting governments that professed adherence to democratic principles. It also sponsored programs such as the Alliance for Progress, begun in 1961 and intended to develop the economies of Latin American nations. By the final decades of the twentieth century, the United States changed its position to one of less intervention in Latin America. Under the Carter administration, the United States signed a treaty with Panama that eventually returned control of the Panama Canal to Panama. By the 1980s, the United States was again assuming a more direct role in Central America. In 1990, the United States helped end the Noriega government, which was known for its authoritarianism and control of the drug trade.

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