This post is a comprehensive timeline of the Cold War, from the origins of the Russian-American conflict following World War Two to the final dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall at the end of the 20th century.

Scroll down to learn more. Alternatively, watch this nine-minute explainer video for an overview of the Cold War.


Cold War Timeline



Detailed Information

February 4th – 11th 1945 Yalta Conference Meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin to decide what would happen at the end of the war. Topics discussed included –

Partitioning of Germany
Fate of Poland
The United Nations
German reparations

May 8th 1945 V E Day Victory in Europe as Germany surrenders to the Russian army.
July 17th – August 2nd 1945 Potsdam Conference The Potsdam Conference formally divided Germany and Austria into four zones. It was also agreed that the German capital Berlin would be divided into four zones. The Russian Polish border was determined and Korea was to be divided into Soviet and American zones.
August 6th 1945 Hiroshima The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima
August 8th 1945 Nagasaki The United States dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
August 14th 1945 V J Day The Japanese surrendered bringing World War Two to an end.
September 2nd 1945 Vietnam Independence Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam an independent republic.
March 5th 1946 Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Churchill delivers his ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech which contain the famous phrase “..an iron curtain has descended on Europe”
March 12th 1947 Truman Doctrine President Truman promised to help any country facing a Communist takeover
June 5th 1947 Marshall Plan This was a programme of economic aid offered by the United States to any European country. The plan was rejected outright by Stalin and any Eastern Bloc country considering accepting aid was reprimanded severely. Consequently the aid was only given to Western European Countries.
September 1947 Cominform The USSR set up Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) which was the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties responsible for the creation of the Eastern bloc.
June 1948 Formation of West Germany The French, USA and UK partitions of Germany were merged to form West Germany
June 24th 1948 Berlin Blockade Russia’s response to the merger of the French, USA and UK partitions of Berlin was to cut all road and rail links to that sector. This meant that those living in Western Berlin had no access to food supplies and faced starvation. Food was brought to Western Berliners by US and UK airplanes, an exercise known as the Berlin Airlift.
May 1949 End of Berlin Blockade Russia ended the blockade of Berlin.
April 4th 1949 NATO formed The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formed with member states Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States
June 25th 1950 Korean War The Korean war began when North Korea invaded South Korea.
March 5th 1953 Death of Stalin Joseph Stalin died at the age of 74. He was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev.
July 27th 1953 Korean War The Korean war ended. North Korea remained affiliated with Russia while South Korea was affiliated with the USA.
Summer 1954 Geneva Accords This set of documents ended the French war with the Vietminh and divided Vietnam into North and South states. The communist leader of North Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh while the US friendly south was led by Ngo Dinh Diem.
May 14th 1955 Warsaw Pact The Warsaw Pact was formed with member states East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union.
October 23rd 1956 Hungarian Revolution This began as a Hungarian protest against Communist rule in Budapest. It quickly gathered momentum and on 24th October Soviet tanks entered Budapest. The tanks withdrew on 28th October and a new government was formed which quickly moved to introduce democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. The Soviet tanks returned on 4th November encircling Budapest. The Prime Minister Imre Nagy made a World broadcast that Hungary was under attack from the Soviet Union and calling for aid. Hungary fell to Russia on 10th November 1956.
October 30th 1956 Suez Crisis Following military bombardment by Israeli forces, a joint British and French force invaded Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal which had been nationalised by the Egyptian leader Nasser. The attack was heavily criticised by World leaders, especially America because Russia had offered support to Egypt. The British and French were forced to withdraw and a UN peace keeping force was sent to establish order.
November 1st 1957 Space Race USSR Sputnik II carried Laika the dog, the first living creature to go into space.
1960 Paris East/West talks Talks between Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight Eisenhower concerning the fate of Germany broke down when a USA U2 spy plane was shot down over Russian airspace.
April 12th 1961 Space Race Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyvich Gagarin became the first human being in space.
April 17th 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion A force of Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA, aided by the US government attempted to invade Cuba and overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. The attempt failed.
August 13th 1961 Berlin Wall Berlin wall built and borders sealed between East and West Germany.
October 14th 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis A US spy plane reported sighting the construction of a Soviet nuclear missile base in Cuba. President Kennedy set up a naval blockade and demanded the removal of the missiles. War was averted when the Russians agreed on 28th October to remove the weapons. The United States agreed not to invade Cuba.
November 22nd 1963 JFK Assassination JF Kennedy was assassinated while on a visit to Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder but there has always been speculation that he was not a lone killer and that there may have been communist or CIA complicity.
October 15th 1964 USSR Nikita Krushchev removed from office. He was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.
July 1965 Vietnam War 150,000 US troops sent to Vietnam.
August 20th 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia Warsaw Pact forces entered Czechoslovakia in a bid to stop the reforms known as ‘Prague Spring’ instigated by Alexander Dubcek. When he refused to halt his programme of reforms Dubcek was arrested.
December 21st 1968 Space Race US launched Apollo 8 – first manned orbit of the Moon.
20th July 1969 Space Race US Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon.
April 30th 1970 Vietnam War President Richard Nixon ordered US troops to go to Cambodia.
September 3rd 1971 Four Power Agreement Berlin The Four Power Agreement made between Russia, USA, Britain and France reconfirmed the rights and responsibilities of those countries with regard to Berlin.
May 26th 1972 SALT Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty signed between the US and USSR.
August 15th 1973 Vietnam The Paris Peace Accords ended American involvement in Vietnam.
April 17th 1975 Cambodia Killing fields The Khmer Rouge attacked and took control of Cambodia. Any supporters of the former regime, anyone with links or supposed links to foreign governments as well as many intellectuals and professionals were executed in a genocide that became known as the ‘killing fields’.
April 30th 1975 Vietnam North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese led to the whole country becoming Communist
July 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Joint space venture between USA and USSR heralded as an end to the ‘Space Race’
January 20th 1977 Carter President Jimmy Carter became the 39th President of the United States
November 4th 1979 Iranian hostage crisis A group of Iranian students and militants stormed the American embassy and took 53 Americans hostage to show their support for the Iranian Revolution.
December 24th 1979 Afghanistan Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan
July 1980 Olympic Boycott by USA A number of countries including the USA boycotted the summer Olympics held in Moscow in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Other countries including Great Britain participated under the Olympic flag rather than their national flag
December 13th 1980 Poland Martial law was declared to crush the Solidarity movement
January 20th 1981 Iranian hostage crisis ended The Iranian hostage crisis ended 444 days after it began
June 1982 START During a summit in Geneva Reagan proposed Strategic Arms Reduction Talks
July 1984 Olympic boycott by Russia Russia and 13 allied countries boycotted the summer Olympics held in Los Angeles in retaliation for the US boycott of 1980.
March 11th 1985 Govbachov leader of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union
April 26th 1986 Chernobyl Disaster An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine  remains the worst nuclear disaster in history
June 1987 Glasnost and Perestroika Mikhail Gorbachev announced his intention to follow a policy of glasnost – openness, transparency and freedom of speech; and perestroika – restructuring of government and economy. He also advocated free elections and ending the arms race.
February 15th 1989 Afghanistan The last Soviet troops left Afghanistan
June 4th 1989 Tiananmen Square Anti Communist protests in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China were crushed by the government. The death count is unknown.
August 1989 Poland Tadeusz Mazowiecki elected leader of the Polish government – the first eastern bloc country to become a democracy
October 23rd 1989 Hungary Hungary proclaimed itself a republic
November 9th 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall The Berlin wall was torn down
November 17th – December 29th 1989 Velvet Revolution The Velvet Revolution, also known as the Gentle Revolution, was a series of peaceful protests in Czechoslovakia that led to the overthrow of the Communist government.
December 2nd, 3rd 1989 Malta Summit This meeting between Mikhail Gorbachov and George H W Bush reversed much of the provisions of the Yalta Conference 1945. It is seen by some as the beginning of the end of the cold war.
December 16th – 25th 1989 Romanian Revolution Riots broke out which culminated in the overthrow and execution of the leader Ceauşescu and his wife.
October 3rd 1990 German reunification East and West Germany were reunited as one country.
1st July 1991 End of Warsaw Pact The Warsaw Pact which allied Communist countries was ended
31st July 1991 START The Strategic Arms Reduction treaty was signed between Russia and the USA
25th December 1991 Gorbachev resigned Mikhail Gorbachev resigned. The hammer and sickle flag on the Kremlin was lowered
26th December 1991 End of the Soviet Union Russia formally recognised the end of the Soviet Union



This article is part of our larger collection of resources on the Cold War. For a comprehensive outline of the origins, key events, and conclusion of the Cold War, click here. 


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