The Cold War Timeline

The Cold War Timeline

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 1945Yalta ConferenceMeeting 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 1945V E DayVictory in Europe as Germany surrenders to the Russian army.
July 17th - August 2nd 1945Potsdam ConferenceThe 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 1945HiroshimaThe United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima
August 8th 1945NagasakiThe United States dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
August 14th 1945V J DayThe Japanese surrendered bringing World War Two to an end.
September 2nd 1945Vietnam IndependenceHo Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam an independent republic.
March 5th 1946Churchill's Iron Curtain SpeechChurchill delivers his 'Sinews of Peace' speech which contain the famous phrase “… an iron curtain has descended on Europe”
March 12th 1947Truman DoctrinePresident Truman promised to help any country facing a Communist takeover
June 5th 1947Marshall PlanThis 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 1947CominformThe 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 1948Formation of West GermanyThe French, USA and UK partitions of Germany were merged to form West Germany
June 24th 1948Berlin BlockadeRussia'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 1949End of Berlin BlockadeRussia ended the blockade of Berlin.
April 4th 1949NATO formedThe 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 1950Korean WarThe Korean war began when North Korea invaded South Korea.
March 5th 1953Death of StalinJoseph Stalin died at the age of 74. He was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev.
July 27th 1953Korean WarThe Korean war ended. North Korea remained affiliated with Russia while South Korea was affiliated with the USA.
Summer 1954Geneva AccordsThis 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 1955Warsaw PactThe Warsaw Pact was formed with member states East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union.
October 23rd 1956Hungarian RevolutionThis 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 1956Suez CrisisFollowing 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 1957Space RaceUSSR Sputnik II carried Laika the dog, the first living creature to go into space.
1960Paris East/West talksTalks 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 1961Space RaceRussian cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyvich Gagarin became the first human being in space.
April 17th 1961Bay of Pigs InvasionA 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 1961Berlin WallBerlin wall built and borders sealed between East and West Germany.
October 14th 1962Cuban Missile CrisisA 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 1963JFK AssassinationJF 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 1964USSRNikita Krushchev removed from office. He was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.
July 1965Vietnam War150,000 US troops sent to Vietnam.
August 20th 1968Soviet invasion of CzechoslovakiaWarsaw 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 1968Space RaceUS launched Apollo 8 - first manned orbit of the Moon.
20th July 1969Space RaceUS Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon.
April 30th 1970Vietnam WarPresident Richard Nixon ordered US troops to go to Cambodia.
September 3rd 1971Four Power Agreement BerlinThe Four Power Agreement made between Russia, USA, Britain and France reconfirmed the rights and responsibilities of those countries with regard to Berlin.
May 26th 1972SALTStrategic Arms Limitation Treaty signed between the US and USSR.
August 15th 1973VietnamThe Paris Peace Accords ended American involvement in Vietnam.
April 17th 1975Cambodia Killing fieldsThe 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 1975VietnamNorth Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese led to the whole country becoming Communist
July 1975Apollo-Soyuz Test ProjectJoint space venture between USA and USSR heralded as an end to the 'Space Race'
January 20th 1977Carter PresidentJimmy Carter became the 39th President of the United States
November 4th 1979Iranian hostage crisisA 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 1979AfghanistanSoviet troops invaded Afghanistan
July 1980Olympic Boycott by USAA 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 1980PolandMartial law was declared to crush the Solidarity movement
January 20th 1981Iranian hostage crisis endedThe Iranian hostage crisis ended 444 days after it began
June 1982STARTDuring a summit in Geneva Reagan proposed Strategic Arms Reduction Talks
July 1984Olympic boycott by RussiaRussia and 13 allied countries boycotted the summer Olympics held in Los Angeles in retaliation for the US boycott of 1980.
March 11th 1985Govbachov leader of USSRMikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union
April 26th 1986Chernobyl DisasterAn explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine remains the worst nuclear disaster in history
June 1987Glasnost and PerestroikaMikhail 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 1989AfghanistanThe last Soviet troops left Afghanistan
June 4th 1989Tiananmen SquareAnti Communist protests in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China were crushed by the government. The death count is unknown.
August 1989PolandTadeusz Mazowiecki elected leader of the Polish government - the first eastern bloc country to become a democracy
October 23rd 1989HungaryHungary proclaimed itself a republic
November 9th 1989Fall of the Berlin WallThe Berlin wall was torn down
November 17th - December 29th 1989Velvet RevolutionThe 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 1989Malta SummitThis 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 1989Romanian RevolutionRiots broke out which culminated in the overthrow and execution of the leader Ceauşescu and his wife.
October 3rd 1990German reunificationEast and West Germany were reunited as one country.
1st July 1991End of Warsaw PactThe Warsaw Pact which allied Communist countries was ended
31st July 1991STARTThe Strategic Arms Reduction treaty was signed between Russia and the USA
25th December 1991Gorbachev resignedMikhail Gorbachev resigned. The hammer and sickle flag on the Kremlin was lowered
26th December 1991End of the Soviet UnionRussia 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.