A Brief Introduction
When did it start?
The Cold War was a time of tension between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or the Soviet Union and the United States, and their respective ideologies. It followed the Second World War and persisted from roughly 1945-1991. It was not declared in the same sense as most wars, rather it progressed over time. Therefore there are different opinions on the exact beginning of the War.
Some say the Cold War really began with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech in 1946 in which he described an “iron curtain” which separated the East and the West, and their respective ideologies. The East was the Soviet Union and its countries of influence and the West included the United States and their allies, the major ones being Canada, France, Britain, and Japan. The War involved the use of expensive resources on both of these sides.
The relationship between the two powers started to waiver between 1945 and 1947, but by 1947 the Cold War was visible.
What is a Cold War?
A Cold War stands in opposition to a hot war which is made up of battles, like the World Wars. The potential for conflict was more important in the Cold War. While the United States and the Soviet Union did not battle each other physically, they did so through others in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
The actual battle grounds were more often competitions such as who could get to space first, sporting events, and spying. It was more about proving superiority than actually fighting.
There were some instances when the two superpowers did openly meet each other though. Planes that flew over the Soviet Union for information (such as radar location) were almost destroyed and fifteen were actually brought down. Nearly 200 American aircrew either died or were taken to Soviet prisons. And there were also instances where Soviet and American planes fought during the Korean War.
The Cold War was a world war, some have argued even more so than the World Wars themselves. It drew in many people and economies and saw fighting in more places than the Second World War, including the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America, and Central America. Millions of people did actually die.
The War ended in 1991 because there was no longer a Soviet Union.