The Impact of World War II on Europe: The Emergence of Superpowers and the Beginning of the Cold War
The aftermath of World War II had a profound impact on Europe, from agricultural problems causing famine to the emergence of superpowers and the beginning of the Cold War. Stalin used ruthless tactics to maintain control over the struggling Soviet Union, while the fear of communism in the west led to the endorsement of conservative politics and a liberalized economy. Europe was eventually split into two halves, with Germany becoming the epicenter of the Cold War.
Table of Contents
- The Political Landscape in France and Germany Post-WWII
- The Communist Takeover in Eastern Europe
- The Soviet Union’s Rebuilding Efforts After the War
- The Emergence of Superpowers and the Beginning of the Cold War
The Political Landscape in France and Germany Post-WWII
Q: How did France’s government change after World War II?
A: The tripartite government coalition fell apart in 1947, leaving a coalition of smaller parties to form unstable governments.
Q: How did Germany’s political landscape change after the war?
A: The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) emerged as the party that stood above class and confession, embodying the spirit of Christian renewal to overcome the Nazi past and to combat the ‘godless forces of the world’. The CDU became more right-leaning under the leadership of Konrad Adenauer, while the Social Democrats (SPD) focused on national unity to garner support for starting the recovery.
The Communist Takeover in Eastern Europe
Q: How did the Soviets exert influence in eastern Europe after World War II?
A: The Soviets exerted pressure in favor of the Communist Party, taking over crucial administrative positions, nationalizing industry, redistributing expropriated land, and purging economic, administrative, and professional elites.
Q: Did the Communists have popular support in eastern Europe?
A: Despite their advantages, the Communists had far less support than the Social Democrats even after local elections, making it clear that they could not win a democratic majority through the polls.
Q: Which eastern European countries fell to Communist takeover?
A: Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria fell to Communist takeover, which was backed by the Soviet military and security forces.
Q: Was there any resistance to Soviet influence in eastern Europe?
A: The Czechoslovakia situation was different, where true democratic elections in May 1946 demonstrated that the Communists had only minority support, and their popularity waned as economic difficulties mounted. Nonetheless, a Communist coup managed to take complete control by May 1948. Only in Yugoslavia did attempts to extend Soviet influence fail.
The Soviet Union’s Rebuilding Efforts After the War
Q: What problems did the Soviet Union face after World War II?
A: The Soviet Union had to be rebuilt, but this required overcoming colossal material losses as well as concerns over turning Soviet collaborators into communist believers and incorporating large expanses of newly won territory.
Q: How were living standards affected in the Soviet Union during this time?
A: Progress in rebuilding was impressive, but the heavy price was a further decline in living standards, already woeful, with big strikes and demonstrations taking place in defence factories in the Urals and Siberia in the autumn of 1945.
The Emergence of Superpowers and the Beginning of the Cold War
Q: How did the division between the Soviet bloc and American-dominated western bloc become entrenched?
A: Stalin turned down American aid and insisted on eastern Europe being under Soviet domination while Communist parties were prevented from gaining power in western Europe.
Q: How did the fear of communism affect western politics?
A: The fear of communism in the west led to the endorsement of conservative politics and a liberalized economy.
Q: Why did Germany become the epicenter of the Cold War?
A: Stalin’s primary goal was safeguarding Soviet security, and Germany inevitably became the epicenter of the Cold War.
The aftermath of World War II had far-reaching effects on Europe, from the political landscape in France and Germany to the Communist takeover in eastern Europe. The emergence of superpowers and the beginning of the Cold War divided Europe into two halves, with Germany at the epicenter. While the Soviet Union worked to rebuild after the war, living standards suffered, and Stalin used ruthless tactics to maintain control. The division between the Soviet bloc and the American-dominated western bloc became firmly entrenched, leading to the endorsement of conservative politics and a liberalized economy in the west. Europe was forever changed by the aftermath of World War II, setting the stage for the global politics of the second half of the twentieth century.