Superpower relations 5

What do we mean by the term Soviet expansionism?

RECAP Quiz – Each of the answers is the name of a person – the answers are below but use your work from the last few lessons to try and figure out the answers
  1. I was the American President during the Yalta Conference. Who am I?
  2. I was the American President at Potsdam. I also gave the order to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Who am I?
  3. I am the American ambassador in Moscow who wrote the Long Telegram. In it I put forward the idea of containing communism. Who am I?
  4. I am the communist leader of the USSR. I was at all three wartime conferences. Who am I?
  5. I am the British Prime Minister who was at Tehran and Yalta. I also gave a speech in 1946 where I talked of an iron curtain dividing Europe. Who am I?
  6. I am the British Prime Minister who was at Potsdam. Who am I?
  7. I am a Soviet diplomat who wrote a telegram in 1946 which said that the USA was trying to use its military powerr to take control around the world. Who am I?
Answer (click to reveal)
  1. Roosevelt (he was also at Tehran and got on well with Stalin)
  2. Truman
  3. Kennan
  4. Stalin
  5. Churchill
  6. Attlee
  7. Novikov

What do we mean by the term Soviet expansionism?

Today we will be learning about a key time period in the Cold War that is often referred to as ‘Soviet expansionism‘ . It is based in Europe and took place between 1945 and 1948.

Stalin had one main aim after WWII ended in 1945; to protect the USSR and make sure it could not be invaded. Since 1900, the USSR had been invaded 3 times and each time it had been from the West. Therefore, after WWII Stalin felt it was crucial to secure the Western border of the USSR (Eastern Europe). This was an area which was already occupied by the USSR’s ‘Red army’ as that is where they had been fighting in WWII.

Between 1945 and 1948, using various methods, countries in Eastern Europe became communist countries. They were not part of the USSR but in many ways were controlled by them.

These countries included Poland, The Soviet controlled zone of Germany (in Eastern Germany), Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. (Yugoslavia and Albania were also communist but they were not controlled or influenced by the Soviet Union) Look at the green map below.

Each time the USSR had been invaded it had come from the West. Stalin, already a paranoid individual, feared another invasion after WWII.

Soviet expansionism = the USSR expanding their power by taking control of Eastern European Countries.

Satellite states = another name for the countries in Eastern Europe controlled by the USSR. They were not part of the USSR. Sometimes this area was known as the Eastern Bloc (as it is a group of countries in Eastern Europe).

Buffer zone = another name for this area of Eastern Europe. The idea was that is the USSR controlled Eastern Europe it would act as a buffer so that the USSR could not be invaded.

The iron curtain = this was an idea made famous by Churchill in his 1946 speech. Remember it is not a physical wall. It is a metaphor to show the division in Europe. Most of those east of the iron curtain in Europe were in communist controlled countries, those West were in capitalist controlled countries

Rigged elections = this was one of the methods used to take control of satellite states and ensure they became communist. Elections would happen, but key members would ensure that communism ‘won’.

Your tasks – write your answers as 3 separate, short paragraphs

1. Why and where did Stalin expand Soviet control over Europe after WWII? (things to consider: the impact WWII had on governments in Eastern Europe, Stalin’s paranoia and fears, ideology, the limitations of the agreements at Yalta and Potsdam, the threat of the atomic bomb)
2. How does Soviet expansionism link to Kennan’s long Telegram?
3. Look at the cartoons below (there are 4, you scroll across). Pick one (you can do more) and try to explain what it’s message is. Think about whether the artist would have been communist or capitalist, who are the people in the image, what is happening and what it tells us.

Well done you have completed this lesson!

Want to know more?

Research into HOW the USSR took control of countries in Eastern Europe. Two interesting ones to look at are Poland and Czechoslovakia. You might want to use this link:

Cartoons taken from Alpha history, John D Clare, sutari