The Cold War (1947-1991) was a period of geopolitical tension that developed between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc.
Though tensions began to ease after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Cold War remains significant due to its direct effects on world history and its indirect effects on political culture, economic policy, education and people’s lives in general.
Here are 10 surprising facts about this momentous event in history that you probably didn’t know!
The Cold War was not so cold after all. For example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USA and Russia were close to nuclear war. It is said that the conflict ended because of luck, not skill or planning. Furthermore, the Soviet Union and United States actually traded with each other.
This is because there was a rule in place called détente, which means lowering tensions. Lastly, Americans would often visit Russia on business trips before it became too expensive and dangerous to do so.
The U.S. and USSR spent a lot of time and effort on developing other types of weapons as well, including chemical and biological weapons. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people were killed by these technologies in the United States alone before they were banned under international law in 1993.
In a show of power the Soviet Union launched In 1957 the first ever satellite into orbit. In response, the United States created NASA to consolidate efforts in space exploration.
The Space Race was a competition between the USA and the USSR on who would reach out further into space and gain greater access to resources as well as understanding of our universe.
While many people might be familiar with major events such as Russia’s Sputnik launch in 1957 or America’s Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969, there are other interesting facts about this era that you may not know about.
For instance, did you know that both sides competed for public support by hosting elaborate exhibits at international fairs?
There were several proxy wars between the Soviet Union and the US throughout the cold war.
The United States and Soviet Union waged a proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where they trained and supplied different groups of Afghan fighters to fight against each other. In Angola, Cuba supported a communist movement, while the United States backed opposing factions.
All told, there were more than 50 armed conflicts around the world during the course of the cold war.
The Berlin Wall Wasn’t the Only Barrier The Berlin Wall was a physical barrier that symbolized the boundaries of the Eastern Bloc and Western Bloc. But there were other barriers as well, like economic restrictions between the Soviet Union and the United States.
In fact, it is estimated that in 1957, trade between the Soviet Union and United States accounted for just 3% of total world trade.
In the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union attempted to place nuclear missiles in Cuba so that they could attack the United States from a safer distance. If these missiles had been successful, it would have been the closest we came to nuclear war.
Thankfully, President Kennedy was able to negotiate with Nikita Khrushchev and get him to remove the weapons without firing a single shot.
We’ve Forgotten How Close We Came to Nuclear War In 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev came close to nuclear war.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union set up nuclear missiles in Cuba to protect it from a U.S.-led invasion by the Organization of American States (OAS). The United States sent a naval blockade around Cuba to stop Soviet ships from delivering more missiles and troops.
In the aftermath of World War II, the newly formed Soviet Union and the United States became locked in a struggle for global supremacy. The Cold War was not just about two countries fighting for power; it transformed every aspect of life on earth. From the end of WWII until 1991, the world lived under constant threat that nuclear Armageddon could be unleashed at any time.
The end of the Cold War was one of the most surprising events in history. The Soviet Union collapsed, and with it ended communism as a living ideology. The Western Bloc won, but the United States lost an important part of its identity—its rivalry with the Soviet Union.
Although the Cold War formally ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991, we are still living with its legacy. The Cold War had a lasting impact on US foreign policy and international alliances, and continues to influence world politics today.