The Cold War

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At first, the western powers hoped that Khrushchev would be the start of a ‘thaw’ in the Cold War.
1. Khrushchev often met western leaders at ‘summit’ meetings.

2.. Stalin had made all Communist countries do what he wanted – and he had fallen out with President Tito of Yugoslavia. But in 1955 Khrushchev went to Yugoslavia, telling Tito that ‘there are different roads to communism’. Western leaders thought he would no longer insist that all communist countries take orders from Russia.

3. In a speech in 1956, Khrushchev attacked Stalin, saying that Stalin was a murderer and a tyrant. Khrushchev began to ‘de-stalinise’ Russia. Political prisoners were set free and Beria (Stalin’s Chief of Secret Police) was executed.

4. Khrushchev said that he wanted ‘peaceful

co-existence’ with the West. Western leaders hoped this meant the end of the Cold War.

Source A

You do not like Communism. We do not like capitalism. There is only one way out – peaceful co-existence.
Khrushchev speaking on a visit to Britain in 1956.

Source B

We may argue. The main thing is to argue without using weapons.
Khrushchev speaking in 1959.

Peaceful Co-existence

If the rulers of the West hoped that there would be an end to the Cold War, they were disappointed.

1. ‘De-stalinisation’ did not mean a change back to capitalism, or freedom from Russia. When communist countries went too far in their reforms, Khrushchev sent in the Red Army to stop them.
2. By ‘peaceful co-existence’, Khrushchev really meant ‘peaceful competition’. He started to build up Russian power:

  1. He visited countries like Afghanistan and Burma and gave them economic aid if they would support Russia.

  2. Russia began the ‘space race’ with the America. In 1957 Russia launched Sputnik the first satellite. In 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut to orbit the earth.

  3. Russia began an ‘arms race’ with America. In 1953, Russia got the hydrogen bomb.

  4. Khrushchev set up the Warsaw Pact – a military alliance of Communist countries – to rival NATO.

3. Faced by this, America became just as aggressive:

  1. In America, Senator McCarty led a ‘witch-hunt’ for ‘Communists’ in America (e.g. Charlie Chaplin was accused of being a Communist.)

  2. America had an ‘arms race’ with Russia. In 1955, NATO agreed to a West German Army of ½ million men (this led to the formation of the Warsaw Pact).

  3. The Americans used U2 planes to spy on Russia.

As a result, the period 1955–1963 was the time of GREATEST tension in the Cold War.

New Words

summit: meeting of the major world powers.

destalinisation: dismantling Stalin’s tyranny.

Co-existence: living together.

capitalism: western system of a free economy.

economic aid: money given to a country to help build up its economy.

Did you know?
Even though he was a poorly-educated peasant, Khrushchev had insight and a good turn of phrase. He once said that Communism and capitalism would only agree ‘when shrimps learned to whistle’.

Source C

This Russian cartoon shows Khrushchev destroying the Cold War.


Make notes on the ways Khrushchev seemed to improve the Cold War.

Source D

EIGHT Countries in the Warsaw Pact:

  • USSR

  • Albania

  • Bulgaria

  • Czechoslovakia

  • East Germany

  • Hungary

  • Poland

  • Romania.

Source E

Crises after 1955:

1956 Poland

1956 Hungary

1960 U2 crisis

1961 The Berlin Wall

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

Did you know?
Khrushchev was NOT a gentle easy-going man; he had been Stalin’s right-hand man –

Stalin had used him to run the terror purges after World War II. Khrushchev loved to argue. This often caused tension between leaders.


Make notes on the ways Khrushchev made the Cold War worse.

In 1956, Khrushchev faced crises in two countries which were destalinising.


In Poland, a number of political prisoners were set free. At the same time, a bad harvest led to unrest.
Railway workers led a protest of people calling for ‘Cheap Bread’ and ‘Higher Wages’. When the police shot some of the marchers, there was a riot. Government officials were killed. Mr Gomulka, (who had been in prison) took power.

Khrushchev sent Russian troops into Poland to put down the rebels. But he left Gomulka in power – Gomulka continued the process of destalinisation, but he kept Poland loyal to Russia and the Warsaw Pact.

Hungary – Causes

The basic cause of the Hungarian revolution was that the Hungarians hated Russian communism:
1. Poverty

Hungarians were poor, yet much of the food and industrial goods they produced was sent to Russia.

2. Russian Control

The Hungarians were very patriotic, and they hated Russian control – which included censorship, the vicious secret police (AVH) and Russian control of what the schools taught.

3. Catholic Church

The Hungarians were religious, but the Communist Party had banned religion, and put the leader of the Catholic Church in prison.

4. Help from the West

Hungarians thought that the United Nations or the new US president, Eisenhower, would help them.

5. Destalinisation

When the Communist Party tried to destalinise Hungary, things got out of control. The Hungarian leader Rakosi asked for permission to arrest 400 trouble-makers, but Khrushchev would not let him.

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