The Cold War

Questions to ask yourself:

Who was responsible for the Cold War?

What you will be able to do:

Identify the causes of the Cold War.

Describe the aspects of the bi-polar world.

Name areas of Cold War conflict.

Describe the consequences of the Cold War on Canada.

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Note that our document collection is already available here.

Engage idea

Analyse the picture at right. Give that the main centre of the image focuses on the USSR and views from city of Moscow, who do you think published this map, and why like this?

Now read the source information here!

Were you surprised? Were you right?

Europe from Moscow | Asia from Irkutsk. By Flickr user "manhhai" at https://www.flickr.com under /by/2.0/

Overview of the Cold War and a Bipolar World

The Cold War was from 1946-1991, between the two superpowers that emerged from the ashes of the second world war - the United States and the Soviet Union. During this time the world was essentially divided between these two countries. In Europe two "blocs" of countries emerged. In the West, there were the member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was comprised of western European countries and also Canada and the United States. In the East there was the Warsaw Pact; these were the countries that had been entered, occupied, or otherwise controlled by the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War.

Text and video adapatation by Matt Russell

English adaptation and voice over by LEARN resources, of original French RECIT Univers Social (RECITUS) video "La Guerre Froide" under a CC BY license.

Explore idea: Tour and share available videos on the Cold War period

There are many available videos that will briefly describe the Cold War period. A few are presented here, or you can search the web yourself, but when you do, consider especially the source of the video! Also consider the perspective, since many available videos on this subject are produced for an American audience.

Student groups could each pick one, watch it together, and note any additional important points they noticed, any surprises, groups involved, etc. They could share their impressions, and try to find common elements so as to begin to develop a picture of "The Cold War"!

“Capitalism demands the best of every man and rewards him accordingly. It leaves every man free to choose the work he likes... and to go as far on the road of achievement as his ability and ambition will carry him.” –Ayn Rand, Philosopher

“Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.” ― Vladimir Lenin

An ideological confrontation

During the Cold War, the world was divided between two ideologies, capitalism in the west and communism in the east. Former British prime minister Winston Churchill warned that an ‘Iron Curtain’ had descended on Eastern Europe and also that the Soviet Union sought to expand communism around the world.

The Americans, for their part, tried to spread their vision of the world after the war by implementing the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The Truman Doctrine stated that the United States would confront and contain communism anywhere in the world. The Marshall Plan was a policy to give massive economic aid to European countries in order to help them rebuild, if they promised not to implement socialism.

The Cold War was also a cultural struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. For example, each side competed at the Olympic Games for the most medals and thus tried to prove that their system was better than the others. For Canada this type of confrontation occurred during it was the 1972 Summit hockey series where the Canadians best of the NHL went up against the Soviet Red Army. In the end the Canadians won the 8 game series 4 to 3 with one tie.

Text source: Matt Russell

Investigate: Consider the Causes of the Cold War

Research conferences like Conferences Potsam and Yalta, and the dividing up of Europe. View available documents in our larger collection to create a top five list of how what exactly caused the Cold War.

Areas of Cold War Conflict - Flashpoints in Europe, Asia

The Cold War led to a number of flashpoints where communists and capitalists confronted each other. Even though there was no direct fighting between the United States and the Soviet Union each side supported coup d'etats, revolutions, and civil wars.

One of the earliest of these flashpoints was the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. Communist North Korea had advanced to the south, which led to an intervention by the Americans who landed at Inchon. Together with their allies like Canada, the Americans pushed the North Koreans back to the border with China. After massive reinforcements from China counter attacked, a stalemate occurred around the current armistice line that separates North and South Korea.

Some other flashpoints in the Cold War were the Hungarian Uprising, the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviet Union, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War.

Text source: Matt Russell

Investigate: Areas and Types of Conflicts

Research conferences various hot spots and conflicts around the world during the Cold War period. View available documents in our larger collection and map and explain the conflicts and their importance. Consider how these conflicts affected Canada.


Areas of Cold War Conflict - Arms Race and Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons were also another characteristic of the Cold War. In 1949 the Soviet Union announced itself as a nuclear power when they detonated an atomic bomb. Soon both sides began to increase their nuclear stockpiles and the world feared a nuclear catastrophe. The closest the world came to nuclear war was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when the Soviets tried to install missiles in Cuba, right off the coast of Florida. The Americans wanted to prevent this and threatened to sink any Soviet ships that came near the island. In the end, cooler heads prevailed. By the late 1960s the anti-nuclear movement began to gain traction and treaties were signed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to restrain the number of missiles that the United States and the Soviet Union could possess.

Fear over a Soviet nuclear attack on North America was what caused Canada and the United States to establish a North American defense system called NORAD where radar posts were put in the far north. The goal was to have an early warning system for the potential of a Soviet attack.

Canadian and American air defences were also installed and saw Canada acquire nuclear weapons from the United States to potentially vaporize any Soviet bomber attack over the north. Canada even forcibly moved Inuit people further north to gain sovereignty over the Arctic.

Text source: Matt Russell

Comic Book - If An A-Bomb Falls (1951). Public Domain https://archive.org/

ATOMIC WAR! No. 1 - Comic Book, 1952 https://archive.org/

Explore: Propaganda and the Cold War in Media

Comic books, posters, main stream films and even television. Propaganda was everywhere during the Cold War, and on both sides of the ideological fences. Research some examples and share with your classmates. Search "Propaganda during the Cold War" on Google.


End of the Cold War

By the end of the 1980s the Soviet Union began to open itself to the world. As well, there were revolutions in several Eastern European countries like Poland and Romania. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union did not intervene, it symbolically showed that the Cold War was coming to an end. In 1991, the Soviet Union split up into 15 independent states officially ending the Cold War.

Text by Matt Russell

Investigate/Create: Consequences of the Cold War on Canada


Under construction.

This page, resources and suggested activities are all under construction at this point.

Feel free to browse our larger document collection is available here.

1945-1980 - Cold War

Gallery tests from Getty Images and others..

Communist Propaganda

Arms Race and Negotiations

Russian Military Might

Berlin Wall Coming Down