Things continue to heat up between Russia and the West. While it’s not yet at Cold War era levels, the rhetoric and actions between the East and West are creating tensions that could quickly lead us there. The Cold War was a terrifying period of history. The prospect of nuclear annihilation lay just over the horizon. And, the amount of times that the world almost ended because of malfunctions, misunderstandings, and human error, is unthinkable. There are some great lessons to be learned from the history of the cold war, and, like Dan Carlin says, context is key to understanding. Here are some of my favorite places to learn some Cold War context, which will hopefully help you to be more informed about current events.
World War Two turned the United States into a global power. But, it also turned the USSR into a global power with nearly the same reach. Understanding why the USSR was able to gain so much territory and authority in post-WWII Europe takes an understanding of its role in World War Two. Dan Carlin, host of the podcasts Hardcore History and Common Sense, gives a great overview of the war that the Third Reich and USSR fought on the Eastern Front.
The USSR lost much in blood and treasure in the war, but it also gained a great deal in power and influence across the globe. Really, the ramifications of the Eastern Front are what made it possible for the USSR to face off against the United States for the next 50 years.
Carlin is also able to take a great deal of the context from this podcast (Russian fear of invasion from the West, erosion of the Warsaw Pact and rise of NATO, and dual militarization) and bring them up in his Common Sense podcast. Poking the Bear and In Search of Context, are two must-listens for anyone who wants to be truly knowledgeable about what is going on in Eastern Europe.
CNN isn’t usually a place that I go for news. But with Cold War, they created a mini-series that gives an informative and interesting overview of the Cold War from 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Originally aired in 1998, the 24 part mini-series was re-released earlier this year. The series has a great amount of interviews with people who lived through the era, both from the East and the West. Plus, it’s narrated by Sir Kenneth Branagh. How can you go wrong?
While there have been some questions about whether or not the series was biased in one form or another, I think it is important to make two points. First, if you are looking to CNN to get all of your information on one topic, you need to look at other news sources. Remember when they did a month straight of 24 hour reporting on Flight 370? CNN is not exactly known for their hard hitting, focus-from-all-sides reporting. And second, it’s a documentary with great footage and interviews. Documentaries can often be one sided or biased in some way (although, I really don’t personally think that this one was all that biased), and to be a truly informed viewer, you need to look at other sources of information to get the full story.
1961 gets far less interest than the Cuban Missile Crisis in the annals of US history, but it is just as–if not more–important. 1961 was the year that the Berlin Wall went up, encasing West Berlin inside of the Iron Curtain in a literal sense. From 1961 until 1989 the Berlin Wall stood, keeping East Germans from entering into West Germany and West Berlin at any cost (though, while prohibited with the consequence of death, many East Germans still made attempts—some successful–to enter into the West).
With 1961, author Frederick Kempe creates a book which paints a complete and thorough picture of the political and social reasonings for the creation of the Wall. Along with the background of why the Wall was built, the books paints the dark attitudes and fears that painted this period of time. It is incredible how close the world came to annihilation because of some miscommunications and increasingly threatening rhetoric from both sides. If you don’t know enough about the politics and people of the Cold War and want to learn more, 1961 is a book worth reading.
I’m a fan of history, mythology and absorber of all things news. I’m a writer of books and blogs, and an enjoyer of all things pop culture. There is more about me that I can’t currently think of. I will answer any questions via email (bearded bards at gmail.com) or in the comments below. If your question is: “Can I get your book for free?” My answer is yes, just send me an email. If you would rather pay for the book on Amazon, the link is below.
I don’t only muse about the total annihilation of humanity through nuclear war; I also think about the total annihilation of humanity by asteroid! As seen in my current Amazon.com offering: Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom.