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The World Since WWII

I. The War Ends

A. May 8, 1945 was called V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day
i. most of Europe was in ruins, especially Germany, France, Italy, and the Soviet Union
a) entire villages were wiped out, infrastructure was destroyed (roads, railways, ports)
ii. the people looked to government to help them through these times
a) Socialists and Communists both pushed for power, but both were in the minority
• Western Europe tended to lean towards socialism
• the socialists were only looking for moderate control over businesses and
social institutions
• Eastern Europe was used to dictatorial rule, and therefore leaned towards
• Communists looked to take absolute control over countries
b) Communists were a significant minority, but were well organized and directed by the
Soviet Union
II. The Struggle for Peace and Power
A. for centuries, Austrian and German strength had served as a buffer between the West and
i. after the war, the Soviet Union emerged as the strongest nation on the continent
a) tensions between democratic West and communist East elevated and served to slow
reconstruction in the years immediately following the war
B. just before the end of WWII, the nations opposing the Axis formed the United Nations in
order to preserve the peace
i. the Soviet Union used its veto power on the Security Council to block actions
unfavorable to its policies
C. the Soviets set up puppet regimes in nations occupied by its troops
i. a series of new treaties designed to preserve the peace gave huge gains to the Soviets
a) these were to act as a buffer against Germany if they rose again: Poland, Hungary,
the Balkans (minus Greece), Austria, and eastern Germany
• the Soviets basically stripped these areas to feed their industrial machine
III. Communism Divides Europe
A. once Fascism was defeated, the Soviets began training people from other countries, who
then returned home to build Communist parties
i. these parties gained followers and took control of nearly all the central and eastern parts
of Europe
a) the Soviets worked to strengthen any emerging Communist elements in other
countries (most successfully in China)
• in order to prevent rehabilitation in Europe, the Soviets also prevented lasting
peace treaties for Austria and Germany
IV. The Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan
A. when it was clear that the Soviet Union would not work with other nations in Europe and
the UN, the United States abandoned its policy of isolation
i. in 1947, President Truman proclaimed the US would “contain” Soviet expansion
a) this became known as the Truman Doctrine
• financial aid was given to Greece and Turkey, who were dealing with strong
Communist parties
• military aid was also given to Greece to contain Communist guerrilla fighters
B. soon after the Truman Doctrine, the US proposed a basic idea for European recovery
i. the European Recovery Plan, aka the Marshall Plan (named for the Sec. of State)
a) would provide economic aid to any European country, including Communist
• they, of course, refused (the Soviet Union wouldn't let them)
b) Western Europe desperately needed the help
• most had lost colonies, had trade issues, outdated machinery, and little to no
• they quickly voted to accept the US's offer
c) the Soviet Union “persuaded” Czechoslovakia to withdraw its original plan to join
the West
• soon after, the Communists in Czechoslovakia overthrew the government
ii. the Soviets continued to block recovery for their part of Germany
a) the US, Britain, and France merged their occupied zones of Germany and rebuilt the
V. The Cold War
A. the Soviet Union entered a period of obstructionist policies
i. they wanted the Allies to quit Germany by blockading their region
a) the US got around it by airdropping supplies
• eventually, the Soviets built a physical wall through Berlin and fully cut off the
East from the West after people in the East kept running West
ii. over the next many years, the Soviets and US struggled through intermediaries, like
Korea, Vietnam, China, and Afghanistan
a) both wanted to avoid open confrontation, especially after the Soviets tested their first
nuclear weapon in 1949
b) in the short term, the Soviets were in many ways more powerful than the US, but
uprisings in their satellite countries and underground resistance fighters forced them
to commit resources to squashing any uprisings
• in the long term, the US proved more stable economically and militarily
VI. 1945-Present
A. Britain
i. after the war, Britain was in heavy debt and needed to rebuild
ii. the Labor Party (Attlee) replaced the Conservative Party (Churchill)
a) Churchill would be reelected from 1951-55 after Britain loses many of its colonies
• as a result of losing colonies, Britain fully embraced the free-market ideas of the
US, but also focused more on social programs and state ownership of public
iii. the Conservative Party came back into power in 1979 with the election of Margaret
Thatcher, who served until 1990
a) she was the first female leader in the West of the modern era
b) she worked closely with President Reagan and adopted a “trickle down” economic
policy, cut taxes on the wealthy in hopes they would hire new workers
• she also cut many social programs like education, health care, and welfare
• many of these helped in the short time, but as time has gone on we can see
the programs did not help the poorest workers
iv. the Conservative Party stayed in power until 1997, when the New Labour Party took
v. today, a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have controlled the
a) recently, a more Conservative swing has taken hold, leading to Britain's withdrawal
from the EU and Scotland looking to become independent
B. France
i. the Vichy regime that worked with the Nazis was replaced by the Fourth Republic,
which lasted until 1958
a) after the war, France pulled its people out of many of its colonies
• an uprising in one of the remaining colonies, Algeria, made French leaders fear
that the people would rise up against them again
• they turned to a major hero of the French forces who fought the Nazis,
Charles De Gaulle, who refused to take power unless a more powerful
central government was put in place
ii. in 1958, the Fourth Republic was replaced by the Fifth Republic with a strong
authoritarian President headed by De Gaulle
a) many blunders led to his resignation in 1969
• he was followed by two right wing presidents
iii. in 1981 until 1995, Francois Mitterand served as President
a) he was a socialist and implemented many social programs
• he abolished the death penalty, nationalized banks, insurance, and defense, he
raised worker's pay and lowered hours
• however the French economy began to suffer after his programs went too far,
so he abandoned socialism and the economy bounced back
b) in 1986, the right won Parliament, meaning the Prime Minister was right wing and
the President was left
• this has happened many times since
iv. today, the socialist Francois Hollande is President (but elections are going on right now)
C. Germany
i. Germany was divided by the conquering nations after WWII
a) most of Germany was controlled by the West, but the Soviets controlled East, split
through Berlin
ii. from 1949 to 1963, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer came to power in the West
a) he resisted public calls for neutrality and instead pushed to integrate with NATO and
the US Western alliance
b) under his leadership, West Germany saw a great economic revival
• he pushed to denazify text books, censor films showing Nazis as heroes, and
worked with the West to put high ranking Nazis on trial in the Nuremberg Trials
• since so many Germans had worked with the Nazis in limited roles, many
were not prosecuted because they were minor and still needed to rebuild
c) tensions with the East and the split in Berlin became a sign of the separation
between East and West- Berlin was where the Cold War started, and was where it
would have to end
iii. from 1969 to 1974, a new chancellor sought economic friendship and trade ties with the
a) he still supported NATO, but his friendliness to the East made him suspect and
eventually he lost power
iv. in the 1980s, Chancellor Kohl oversaw the reunification of East and West when the
Berlin wall fell in 1989
a) East Germany's economy still lags far behind the West today
v. in 1993, the European Union started
a) Germany is one of (if not the highest) leading members of the Union
vi. today, Germany is led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is growing in significance
around the world
a) some even say she is the new leader of the free world
VII. Mutual Defense Organizations
A. the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed to protect Western Europe
i. it included most Western European countries, the US, and Canada
ii. because the Soviet Union had such a massive army, NATO was designed to join forces
automatically if any member state was attacked
a) countries neutral during WWII, Switzerland and Sweden, did not join NATO, and
Austria and Finland were excluded due to details in the WWII peace treaties
• France withdrew in 1966 because they didn't like the way the Cold War was
pitting countries against one another
• they also were unhappy with the US's role in Asia (Korea and Vietnam)
b) NATO also inspired a Europe only version in 1955, called the Western European
Union (WEU) made up of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany,
the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and France
c) the Soviets forced their own version with their satellite countries, called the Warsaw
Treaty Organization (WTO)
VIII. Euro-communism and the Reform of Communism
A. the WTO invaded Czechoslovakia to prevent a liberal democratic group from taking control
i. while it successfully kept Communists in power, it led to an overall shift away from the
belief in Soviet domination
a) this was especially strong in France, Italy, and Spain as well as Venezuela, Australia,
and Japan
• these areas shared several common principles
• rejection of the subordination of all Communist parties to Soviet
• support of the establishment of socialism through legitimate political means
and free elections
• backing of alliances with other parties that support similar objectives
• rejection of atheism as an essential ingredient of Communism
• the countries turned further from the Soviets with the invasion of Afghanistan
B. in the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, brought about electoral,
economic, and Communist party reforms
i. these reforms brought about protests and demands for greater reforms
a) this resulted in loosening travel restrictions in 1989, and people flooded through East
and West Berlin
C. Soviet oriented governments of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania,
and Bulgaria began to relax the Communist party's monopoly on power or to abandon
Communism for democratically elected governments and expanded market economies
i. in 1990, the Soviet Baltic states declared independence, but the Soviets refused to
recognize their independence and cracked down on them
IX. The Fall of the Soviet Union
A. in 1991, there was a coup staged attempting to depose Gorbachev that failed
i. he responded by suspending all activities of the Communist party
ii. individual republics took back their property and funds of the Communist party, and the
Baltic states were granted independence
iii. by December the Soviet Union ceased to exist, and the Cold War was over
X. Terrorism
A. starting in the late 1960s, European cities were often targets of terrorist attacks
i. remember, terrorism is not only from the Middle East, it is anyone who does something
for the express purpose of causing terror
B. some of the larger terrorist attacks were
i. 1972 in Munich on Israeli athletes
ii. assassination in 1973 of a high ranking member of Spain
iii. kidnapping and murder of a high ranking member of Italy in 1978
iv. assassination of the last English viceroy of India in 1979
v. attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981
vi. assassination of Sweden's Prime Minister in 1986
vii. bombing of Pan American Airlines flight 103 in 1988
C. attacks of this nature have increased over the last 30 years, the largest against the US on
9/11 with the attacks on the World Trade Centers
XI. Europe Today
A. much of Europe belongs to the European Union
i. the EU shares currency, has open borders with member states, and free trade
ii. recently, Britain pulled out of the EU after a referendum vote, and now they are finding
that their economy is suffering greatly
a) the vote rode on the back of racism- ultra-conservatives accused entire
neighborhoods of operating under Sharia Law (Muslim Law), they wanted to send
immigrants back to their countries of origin, etc
iii. Germany has taken place as the strongest economy of Europe, and Angela Merkel acts
as a strong voice of reason in a period of hyper-conservatism
iv. Italy and France have had significant issues with high level corruption
v. Spain suffered under the Fascist leadership of Francisco Franco, but after he died they
began to push for democracy
a) after fully joining the EU, Spain has seen massive economic growth
• in 2008, Spain had an economic crash based on property (much like the US) and
they are still attempting to recover
B. East Europe is still recovering from the Soviet Union's use of their people, resources, and
extensive pollution
i. most are not part of the EU
C. tensions with Russia have increased over the last ten years, with Vladimir Putin (a former
KGB agent in the Soviet Union) ruling with an iron fist
a) journalists, political opponents, and others have consistently disappeared since Putin
took power