Crisis of the Cold War – The Berlin Wall & Nuclear Race Goes to Space

Crisis of the Cold War – The Berlin Wall & Nuclear Race Goes to Space

The Berlin Wall

GCSE History Revision - The Berlin WallOver the 1950s, West Berlin, and West Germany, began to prosper. The East half of the city, like East Germany, was stagnant. Thousands of people in East Germany started to flee to West Germany via West Berlin, therefore avoiding the closed border between East and West Germany.

The Soviet Union wanted to put a stop to this, because frankly it was making them look bad. In June 1961, Khrushchev delivered an ultimatum to the US: it had to leave West Berlin. The new US President, John F. Kennedy, flatly refused. Khrushchev responded by building a big wall along the East-West dividing line of Berlin, so that people couldn’t move from one side of the city to the other.

Both sides used Berlin as part of their propaganda:

* To the Soviets, it demonstrated their commitment to stop the capitalist USA trying to destroy communism.

* In the US President Kennedy spoke defiantly about how he would stand up for the people of West Berlin against communism. This included a famous speech made by Kennedy in Berlin, in which he declared that Berlin demonstrated the difference between the free West and the unfree East.

Ultimately, the fact that West Berlin prospered while East Berlin remained poor helped contribute to undermining the Soviet Union.

The Nuclear Race Goes to Space

The arms race between the US and USSR continued to rage throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to it being about building up the biggest collection of weapons, the arms race was also about each side proving the superiority of their way of their ideology by being able to produce the most advanced technology.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)

GCSE History Revision - ICBMThe original atomic bombs had to be dropped by aeroplanes. Both the US and the USSR saw the advantage of being able to be able to have nuclear missiles instead, because it meant it would be easier to attack the enemy from a long distance away. Over the 1950s both powers invested billions of dollars into creating missiles that could be launched at their targets from several thousands of miles away. By1957, the USA had developed the Polaris missile, which had a range of over 1000 miles.

The Space Race

Bright sparks in America and the Soviet Union quickly realised that the rocket technology used in missiles could also be used to send people into space. And both sides soon came to believe that conquering space would prove their superiority over their rival. And so the space race, a key propaganda battle of the Cold War, began in earnest.

Initially, the Soviet Union scored some early victories in the space race. In October 1957, the first ever satellite, Sputnik 1, was sent into space. In April 1961, the Soviet Union successfully sent Yuri Gagarin into space and – almost as importantly – brought him back to earth again, having previously sent various cute but unfortunate dogs up there first on one way tickets.

However, the Americans won the ultimate victory: putting a man on the moon. This dream was realized on 20th July 1969, when Apollo 11 and its crew of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon.

We hope this proves useful in your History GCSE Revision and it helps while you study!
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