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Unit 9 - The Cold War & Globalization & Review Page

The Cold War, 1945-65

The years that followed World War II were the start of a new world conflict between the Communist East and Democratic West. The Cold War, which lasted from 1945 to 1991, is perhaps one of the most defining events of the 20th century. With the Nazi and Fascist forces defeated in Europe and Japan's unconditional surrender, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two strongest super powers, and the conflict between these nations would drag them- and much of the world along with them- into various conflicts. Western powers realized they could no longer sustain empires any more, and as a result, this period is also known for mass decolonization: African nations, much of Asia and the Pacific Islands, and India would finally gain independence from European nations- often resulting in political and economic uncertainty. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union went through various phases of power after the death of Stalin, and with each successor, the Soviet Union showed its shifting principles while also forcefully maintaining power in its Eastern European buffer zone against the West. As Europe healed from its old wounds and dealt with new ones, its society faced shifting economies and social values as Europe left its old traditions even further behind.

The Cold War, 1965-85

The second half of the Cold War saw both Eastern and Western Europe sink into a state of economic stagnation, but societal and political values changed in response to decades of war, uncertainty, and struggle. Young people of the west expressed their discontent with the state of the world through various social movements, in particular during the turbulent year that was 1968. Attitudes about sex, gender, race, imperialism, education, war, and politics barely resembled the attitudes of the early 20th century. Perhaps for this reason, the 20th century was nicknamed "The Short Century", since historians believe it really started in 1914. During the 1960's through the 1980's, Western and Eastern Europe developed different political, social, and economic identities, as Eastern Europe was subjected to continued repression from the Soviet Union. The United States entered the world stage in a new light as it entered the Second Vietnam War- a conflict that was very unpopular both at home and abroad, and seen as an extension of imperialist policies. At the same time, science and technology merged to revolutionize life itself and create a new frontier: the space race and advent of the computer, as well as new ideas about gender inequality, the meaning of life, and humanity itself were questioned and expressed as abstract concepts through art and entertainment. 

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