History Dissertation Topics Cold War Timeline

This is a timeline of the main events of the Cold War, a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union, its allies in the Warsaw Pact and later the People's Republic of China).



  • February 8: The Yalta Conference in Crimea, Russia, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin, and their top aides. Main attention is deciding the post-war status of Germany. The Allies of World War II (the USA, the USSR, United Kingdom and also France) divide Germany into four occupation zones. The Allied nations agree that free elections are to be held in Poland and all countries occupied by Nazi Germany. In addition, the new United Nations are to replace the failed League of Nations.[1]
  • March–April: US and Britain outraged as Stalin excludes them from a role in Poland and turns Poland over to a Communist puppet government he controls.[2]
  • March–April: Stalin outraged at inaccurate reports about Operation Sunrise that American OSS in Switzerland is negotiating a surrender of German forces; he demands a Russian general be present at all negotiations. Roosevelt vehemently denies the allegation, but closes down the operation in Switzerland. A Russian general is present at the negotiations in Italy that lead to surrender.[3]
  • April 12: Roosevelt dies; Vice President Harry S. Truman takes over with little knowledge of current diplomatic efforts, no knowledge of the atomic bomb, and a bias against Russia.[4]
  • July 24: At the Potsdam Conference, Truman informs Stalin that the United States has nuclear weapons.[5]
  • August 6: Truman follows advice of Secretary of War Henry Stimson and gives permission for the world's first military use of an atomic weapon against the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
  • August 8: The USSR honors its agreement to declare war on Japan within three months of the victory in Europe, and invades Manchuria.
  • August 9: With no Japanese response to his ultimatums, Truman gives permission for the world's second and last military use of an atomic weapon against the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
  • September 2: The Japanese surrender unconditionally to the US. General Douglas MacArthur takes over occupation of Japan, and freezes out Russian and other allied representatives.[6]
  • September 5: Igor Gouzenko, a Russian working in the Soviet embassy in Canada, defects and provides proof to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of a Soviet spy ring operating in Canada and the U.S. The revelations helps change perceptions of the Soviet Union from an ally to a foe.[7]


  • January: Chinese Civil War resumed between Communist and Nationalist forces.
  • January 7: The Republic of Austria is reconstituted, with its 1937 borders, but divided into four zones of control: American, British, French, and Soviet.
  • January 11: Enver Hoxha declares the People's Republic of Albania, with himself as Prime Minister.
  • February 9: Joseph Stalin makes his Election Speech, in which he states that capitalism and imperialism make future wars inevitable.[8]
  • February 22: George F. Kennan writes his Long Telegram, describing his interpretation of the objectives and intentions of the Soviet leadership.[9]
  • March: The Greek Civil War reignites between the communists and the Kingdom of Greece.
  • March 2: British soldiers withdraw from their zone of occupation in southern Iran. Soviet soldiers remain in their northern sector.
  • March 6: Winston Churchill warns of the descent of an Iron Curtain across Europe.
  • April 5: Soviet forces evacuate Iran after a crisis.
  • July 4: The Philippines gains independence from the United States, and begins fighting communist Huk rebels (Hukbalahap Rebellion).
  • September 6: In a speech known as the Restatement of Policy on Germany in Stuttgart, James F. Byrnes, United States Secretary of State repudiates the Morgenthau Plan. He states the US intention to keep troops in Europe indefinitely and expresses US approval of the territorial annexation of 29% of pre-war Germany, but does not condone further claims.
  • September 8: In a referendum, Bulgaria votes for the establishment of a People's Republic, deposing King Simeon II. Western countries dismiss the vote as fundamentally flawed.[10]
  • September 24: Truman is presented with the Clifford-Elsey Report, a document which listed Soviet violations of agreements with the United States.
  • September 27: Nikolai Vasilevich Novikov writes a response to Kennan's Long Telegram, known as the 'Novikov Telegram', in which he states that the United States are "striving for world supremacy".[11]
  • December 19: French landings in Indochina begin the First Indochina War. They are resisted by the Viet Minh communists who want national independence.


  • January 1: The American and British zones of control in Germany are united to form the Bizone also known as Bizonia.
  • March 12: President Harry Truman announces the Truman Doctrine starting with the giving of aid to Greece and Turkey in order to prevent them from falling into the Soviet sphere.
  • April 16: Bernard Baruch, in a speech given during the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives, coins the term "Cold War" to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • May 22: US extends $400 million of military aid to Greece and Turkey, signalling its intent to contain communism in the Mediterranean.
  • June 5: Secretary of StateGeorge Marshall outlines plans for a comprehensive program of economic assistance for the war-ravaged countries of Western Europe. It would become known throughout the world as the Marshall Plan.
  • July 11: The US announces new occupation policies in Germany. The occupation directive JCS 1067, whose economic section had prohibited "steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany [or] designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy", is replaced by the new US occupation directive JCS 1779 which instead notes that "An orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany."
  • August 14: India and Pakistan gain independence from the United Kingdom.
  • September: The Soviet Union forms the Communist Information Bureau (COMINFORM) with which it dictates the actions of leaders and communist parties across its spheres of influence.
  • November 14: The United Nations passes a resolution calling for the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Korea, free elections in each of the two administrations, and the creation of a UN commission dedicated to the unification of the peninsula.
  • December 30: In Romania, King Michael I of Romania is forced to abdicate by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the monarchy is abolished and the Popular Republic of Romania is instituted instead. The Communist Party will rule the country until December 1989.


  • February 25: The Communist Party takes control in the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948.
  • March 10: Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk is reported having committed suicide.
  • April 3: Truman signs the Marshall Plan into effect. By the end of the programs, the United States has given $12.4 billion in economic assistance to Western European countries.
  • May 10: A parliamentary vote in southern Korea sees the confirmation of Syngman Rhee as President of the Republic of Korea, after a left-wing boycott.
  • June 18: A communist insurgency in Malaya begins against British and Commonwealth forces.
  • June 21: In Germany, the Bizone and the French zone launch a common currency, the Deutsche Mark.
  • June 24: Stalin orders the Berlin Blockade, closing all land routes from West Germany to Berlin, in an attempt to starve out the French, British, and American forces from the city. In response, the three Western powers launch the Berlin Airlift to supply the citizens of Berlin by air.
  • June 28: The Soviet Union expels Yugoslavia from the Communist Information Bureau (COMINFORM) for the latter's position on the Greek civil war.
  • June 28 to May 11, 1949: The Berlin Airlift defeats Russia's attempt to starve West Berlin.
  • September 9: The Soviet Union declares the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to be the legitimate government of all of Korea, with Kim Il-sung as Prime Minister.
  • November 20: The American consul and his staff in Mukden, China, are made virtual hostages by communist forces in China. The crisis did not end until a year later, by which time U.S. relations with the new communist government in China had been seriously damaged.


  • April 4: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is founded by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in order to resist Communist expansion.
  • May 11: The Soviet blockade of Berlin ends with the re-opening of access routes to Berlin. The airlift continues until September, in case the Soviets re-establish the blockade. Brune argues, "Moscow realized the blockade had nor been successful – it had drawn the Western powers closer together rather than dividing them. Finally, Western countermeasures had inflicted considerable damage on the economic life of East Germany and the other Soviet satellites."[12]
  • May 23: In Germany, the Bizone merges with the French zone of control to form the Federal Republic of Germany, with Bonn as its capital.
  • August 29: The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb. The test, known to Americans as Joe 1, succeeds, as the Soviet Union becomes the world's second nuclear power.[13]
  • September 13: The USSR vetoes the United Nations membership of Ceylon, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Jordan, and Portugal.
  • September 15: Konrad Adenauer becomes the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.[14]
  • October 1: Mao Zedong declares the foundation of the People's Republic of China - adding a quarter of the world's population to the communist camp.
  • October 7: The Soviets declare their zone of Germany to be the German Democratic Republic, with its capital at East Berlin.
  • October 16: Nikos Zachariadis, leader of the Communist Party of Greece, declares an end to the armed uprising. The declaration brings to a close the Greek Civil War, and the first successful containment of communism.
  • December 27: Sovereignty is handed over to United States of Indonesia from the Netherlands through the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference with Sukarno as the first president of the newly formed federation.[15]



  • January 5: The UK recognizes the People's Republic of China. The Republic of China severs diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.
  • January 19: China officially diplomatically recognizes Vietnam as independent from France.
  • January 21: The last Kuomintang soldiers surrender on continental China.
  • February 12: The Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China sign a pact of mutual defense.
  • March 11: Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek moves his capital to Taipei, Taiwan, establishing a stand-off with the People's Republic of China.
  • April 7: United States State DepartmentDirector of Policy PlanningPaul Nitze issues NSC 68, a classified report, arguing for the adoption of containment as the cornerstone of United States foreign policy. It would dictate US policy for the next twenty years.
  • May 11: Robert Schuman describes his ambition of a united Europe. Known as the Schuman Declaration, it marks the beginning of the creation of the European Community.
  • June 25: North Korea invades South Korea, beginning the Korean War. The Soviet Union cannot veto, as it is boycotting the Security Council over the admission of People's Republic of China.
  • July 4: United Nations forces engage North Korean forces for the first time, in Osan. They fail to halt the North Korean advance, and fall southwards, towards what would become the Pusan Perimeter.
  • September 30: United Nations forces land atInchon. Defeating the North Korean forces, they press inland and re-capture Seoul.
  • October 2: United Nations forces cross the 38th parallel, into North Korea.
  • October 5: Forces from the People's Republic of China mobilize along the Yalu River.
  • October 22: Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, falls to United Nations forces.
  • October 22: China intervenes in Korea with 300,000 soldiers, catching the United Nations by surprise. However, they withdraw after initial engagements.
  • November 15: United Nations forces approach the Yalu River. In response, China intervenes in Korea again, but with a 500,000 strong army. This offensive forces the United Nations back towards South Korea.


  • January 4: Chinese soldiers capture Seoul.
  • March 14: United Nations forces recapture Seoul during Operation Ripper. By the end of March, they have reached the 38th Parallel, and formed a defensive line across the Korean peninsula.
  • March 29: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets during and after World War II; they were executed on June 19, 1953.
  • April 11: US President Harry S. Truman fires Douglas MacArthur from command of US forces in Korea.
  • April 18: The European Coal and Steel Community is formed by the Treaty of Paris.
  • April 23: American journalist William N. Oatis is arrested in Czechoslovakia for alleged espionage.
  • September 1: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States sign the ANZUS Treaty. This compels the three countries to cooperate on matters of defense and security in the Pacific.
  • October 10: President Harry S. Truman signs the Mutual Security Act, announcing to the world, and its communist powers in particular, that the U.S. was prepared to provide military aid to "free peoples."
  • November 14: President Harry Truman asks Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia.
  • December 12: The International Authority for the Ruhr lifted part of the remaining restrictions on German industrial production and on production capacity.


  • April 28: the Treaty of San Francisco, signed by Japan on September 8, 1951, comes into effect, and Japan signs the Treaty of Taipei, formally ending its period of occupation and isolation, and becoming a sovereign state.
  • June: Strategic Air Command begins Reflex Alert deployments of Convair B-36 and B-47 Stratojet long-range nuclear bombers to overseas bases like purpose-built Nouasseur Air Base in French Morocco, placing them within unrefueled striking range of Moscow.
  • June 14: The United States lays the keel for the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus.
  • June 30: The Marshall Plan ends, with European industrial output now well above that of 1948.
  • July 23: Gamal Abdel Nasser heads a coup against King Farouk of Egypt.
  • October 2: The United Kingdom successfully tests its atomic bomb in Operation Hurricane. The test makes the UK the world's third nuclear power.
  • November 1: The United States tests their first thermonuclear bomb, Ivy Mike.



  • January 21: The United States launches the world's first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus. The nuclear submarine would become the ultimate nuclear deterrent.
  • May 7: The Viet Minh defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu. France withdraws from Indochina, leaving four independent states: Cambodia, Laos, and what became North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The Geneva Accords calls for free elections to unite Vietnam, but none of the major Western powers wish this to occur in the likely case that the Viet Minh (nationalist Communists) would win.
  • May: The Huk revolt in the Philippines is defeated.
  • June 2: Senator Joseph McCarthy claims that communists have infiltrated the CIA and the atomic weapons industry.
  • June 18: The elected leftist Guatemalan government is overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. An unstable rightist regime installs itself. Opposition leads to a guerrilla war with Marxist rebels in which major human rights abuses are committed on all sides. Nevertheless, the regime survives until the end of the Cold War.
  • July 8: Col. Carlos Castillo Armas is elected president of the junta that overthrew the administration of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
  • August 11: The Taiwan Strait Crisis begins with the Chinese Communist shelling of Taiwanese islands. The US backs Taiwan, and the crisis resolves itself as both sides decline to take action.
  • September 8: Foundation of the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) by Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Like NATO, it is founded to resist Communist expansion, this time in the Philippines and Indochina.


  • February 24: The Baghdad Pact is founded by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. It is committed to resisting Communist expansion in the Middle East.
  • March: Soviet aid to Syria begins. The Syrians will remain allies of the Soviets until the end of the Cold War.
  • April: The Non-Aligned Movement is pioneered by Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. This movement was designed to be a bulwark against the 'dangerous polarization' of the world at that time and to restore balance of power with smaller nations. It was an international organization of states considering themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
  • May 5: Allies end military occupation of West Germany.
  • May 9: West Germany joins NATO and begins rearmament.
  • May 14: The Warsaw Pact is founded in Eastern Europe and includes East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union. It acts as the Communist military counterpart to NATO.
  • May 15: Austria is neutralized and allied occupation ends.
  • July 18: President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Eden of the United Kingdom, Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin of the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Edgar Faure of France, known as the 'Big Four', attend the Geneva Summit. Also in attendance was Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.


  • February 25 : Nikita Khrushchev delivers the speech "On the Personality Cult and its Consequences" at the closed session of the Twentieth Party Congress of the CPSU. The speech marks the beginning of the De-Stalinization.
  • June 28: in Poznań, Poland, anti-communist protests lead to violence.
  • July 26: Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal.
  • October 23: Hungarian Revolution of 1956: Hungarians revolt against the Soviet dominated government. They are crushed by the Soviet military, which reinstates a Communist government.
  • October 29: Suez Crisis: France, Israel, and the United Kingdom attack Egypt with the goal of removing Nasser from power. International diplomatic pressures force the attackers to withdraw. Canadian Lester B. Pearson encourages the United Nations to send a Peacekeeping force, the first of its kind, to the disputed territory. Lester B. Pearson wins a Nobel Peace Prize for his actions, and soon after becomes Canadian Prime Minister.
  • December: Communist insurgency begins in South Vietnam, sponsored by North Vietnam.


  • January 5: The Eisenhower doctrine commits the US to defending Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan from Communist influence.
  • January 22: Israeli forces withdraw from the Sinai, which they had occupied the previous year.
  • May 2: Senator Joseph McCarthy succumbs to illness exacerbated by alcoholism and dies.
  • October 1: The Strategic Air Command initiates 24/7 nuclear alert (continuous until termination in 1991) in anticipation of a Soviet ICBM surprise attack capability.
  • October 4: Sputnik satellite launched. The same day the Avro Arrow is revealed.
  • November 3: Sputnik 2 was launched, with the first living being on board, Laika.
  • November 7: The final report from a special committee called by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to review the nation's defense readiness indicates that the United States is falling far behind the Soviets in missile capabilities, and urges a vigorous campaign to build fallout shelters to protect American citizens.
  • November 15: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claims that the Soviet Union has missile superiority over the United States and challenges America to a missile "shooting match" to prove his assertion.


  • June: A C-118 transport, hauling freight from Turkey to Iran, is shot down. The nine crew members are released by the Russians little more than a week later.[19]
  • July 14: A coup in Iraq, the 14 July Revolution, removes the pro-British monarch. Iraq begins to receive support from the Soviets. Iraq will maintain close ties with the Soviets throughout the Cold War.
  • August: Thor IRBM deployed to the UK, within striking distance of Moscow.
  • August 23: Second Taiwan Strait Crisis begins when China begins to bomb Quemoy.
  • October 4: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA is formed.
  • November: Start of the second Berlin crisis, Nikita Khrushchev asks the West to leave Berlin.


  • January 1: Cuban Revolution. Fidel Castro becomes the dictator of Cuba. In the next several years Cuban-inspired guerrilla movements spring up across Latin America.[20]
  • March 24: New Republic government of Iraq leaves Central Treaty Organization
  • July 24: During the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow US Vice President Richard Nixon and Premier Khrushchev openly debate the capacities of each Superpower. This conversation is known as the Kitchen Debate.
  • August 7: Explorer 6 is launched into orbit to photograph the Earth.
  • September: Khrushchev visits U.S. for 13 days, and is denied access to Disneyland. Instead, he visits SeaWorld (then known as Marineland of the Pacific).[21]
  • December: Formation of the FNL (often called Viet Cong) by North Vietnam. It is a Communist insurgent movement that vows to overthrow the anti-communist South Vietnamese regime. It is supplied extensively by North Vietnam and the USSR eventually.




  • January 3: President Eisenhower severs diplomatic relations with Cuba.
  • January 20: John F. Kennedy becomes President of the United States.
  • February 4: Angolan nationalists, including communists, begin an insurgency against Portuguese rule.
  • April 12: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space and first to orbit the Earth when the Soviet Union successfully launches Vostok 1.
  • April 17–19: Bay of Pigs Invasion: A CIA-backed invasion of Cuba by counter-revolutionaries ends in failure.
  • May 25: John F. Kennedy announces the US intention to put a man on the moon - kickstarting Project Mercury, America's first manned spaceflight program
  • June 4: Kennedy meets with Khrushchev in Vienna.
  • June: Jupiter IRBM deployment to Turkey begins, joining the Jupiters deployed to Italy as well as the Thor IRBMs deployed to the UK as nuclear missiles placed within striking distance of Moscow.
  • August 13: The Berlin Wall is built by the Soviets following the breakdown in talks to decide the future of Germany.
  • August 17: Alliance for Progress aid to Latin America from the United States begins.
  • September 1: The Soviet Union resumed testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.
  • October 17: 22nd Soviet Party Congress held in USSR
  • October 27: Beginning of Checkpoint Charlie standoff between US and Soviet tanks
  • October 31: The Soviet Union detonates the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever tested, with an explosive yield of some 50 megatons.
  • December 2: Fidel Castro openly describes himself as a Marxist–Leninist.


  • February 10: American pilot Francis Gary Powers is exchanged for senior KGB spy Colonel Rudolf Abel.
  • July 20: Neutralization of Laos is established by international agreement, but North Vietnam refuses to withdraw its personnel.[22]
  • September 8: Himalayan War: Chinese forces attack India, making claims on numerous border areas.
  • October 16: Cuban Missile Crisis: The Soviets have secretly been installing military bases, including nuclear weapons, on Cuba, some 90 miles from the US mainland. Kennedy orders a "quarantine" (a naval blockade) of the island that intensifies the crisis and brings the US and the USSR to the brink of nuclear war. In the end, both sides reach a compromise. The Soviets back down and agree to withdraw their nuclear missiles from Cuba, in exchange for a secret agreement by Kennedy pledging to withdraw similar American missiles from Turkey and Italy, and guaranteeing that the US will not move against the Castro regime.
  • November 21: End of the Himalayan War. China occupies a small strip of Indian land.


  • June 20: The United States agrees to set up a hotline with the USSR, thus making direct communication possible.
  • June 21: France announces that it is withdrawing its navy from the North Atlantic fleet of NATO.
  • June 26: U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivers his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in Berlin.
  • August 5: The Partial Test Ban Treaty is signed by the US, UK and USSR, prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons anywhere except underground.
  • November 2: South Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated in coup. CIA involvement is suspected.
  • November 22: John F. Kennedy is shot and killed in Dallas. There has been some speculation over whether communist countries or even CIA were involved in the assassination, but those theories remain controversial. Kennedy's vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President of the United States.



  • March 10: France withdraws from NATO command structure.
  • May 8: Communist China detonates a third nuclear device
  • August 26: South African Border War begins



  • January 30: Tet Offensive in South Vietnam begins.
  • March 30: Johnson suspends bombings over North Vietnam and announces he is not running for reelection.
  • June 8: Tet Offensive ends; while an American military victory, it raises questions over America's military chances in Vietnam
  • June 17: The Second Malayan Emergency begins.
  • July 1: The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is opened for signature.
  • August 20: Prague Spring Reforms in Communist Czechoslovakia result in Warsaw Pact for Soviet Red Army to crush Czechoslovakian revolt
  • December 23: The captain and crew of the USS Pueblo are released by North Korea.


  • January 20: Richard Nixon becomes President of the United States.
  • March 2: Border clashes between the Soviet Union and China
  • March 17: The U.S. begins bombing Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia.
  • July 20: The U.S. accomplishes the first manned moon landing, Apollo 11. Manned by Neil Armstrong, "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
  • July 25: "Vietnamization" begins with U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam and the burden of combat being placed on the South Vietnamese.
  • September 1: Muammar al-Gaddafi overthrows the Libyan monarchy and expels British and American personnel. Libya aligns itself with the Soviet Union.






  • January 27: The Paris Peace Accords end American involvement in the Vietnam War. Congress cuts off funds for the continued bombing of Indochina.
  • September 11: Chilean coup d'état — The democratically-elected Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, is deposed and dies during a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.
  • October 6: Yom Kippur War — Israel is attacked by Egypt and Syria, the war ends with a ceasefire.
  • October 22: Egypt defects to the American camp by accepting a U.S. cease-fire proposal during the October 1973 war.
  • November 11: The Soviet Union announces that, because of its opposition to the recent overthrow of the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, it will not play a World Cup Soccer match against the Chilean team if the match is held in Santiago.



  • April 18: The communist Khmer Rouge take power in Cambodia; genocide ensues, later referred to as "The Killing Fields".
  • April 30: North Vietnam wins the war in South Vietnam. The South Vietnam regime falls with the surrender of Saigon and the two countries are united under a Communist government.
  • May 12: Mayagüez incident: The Khmer Rouge seize an American naval ship, prompting American intervention to recapture the ship and its crew. In the end, the crew is released from captivity.
  • June 25: Portugal withdraws from Angola and Mozambique, where Marxist governments are installed, the former with backing from Cuban troops. The Civil war engulfs both nations and involves Angolans, Mozambicans, South Africans, and Cubans, with the superpowers supporting their respective ideologies.
  • July: The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project takes place. It is the first joint flight of the US and Soviet space programs. The mission is seen as a symbol of détente and an end to the "space race".
  • August 1: Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe signed by the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union and Europe
  • November 29: Pathet Lao takes power in Laos.


  • January 8: Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai dies of cancer
  • March 24: Coup d'état in Argentina and launches military action against Argentine-based guerrillas.
  • July 20: U.S. Military personnel withdraw from Thailand.
  • September 1: Inception of Safari Club.
  • September 9: Death of Mao Zedong.


  • January 1: Charter 77 is signed by Czechoslovakian intellectuals, including Václav Havel.
  • January 20: Jimmy Carter becomes President of the United States.
  • June 6: U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance assures skeptics that the Carter administration will hold the Soviet Union accountable for its recent crackdowns on human rights activists.
  • July 23: The Ogaden War begins when Somalia attacks Ethiopia.



  • January 7: Vietnam deposes the Khmer Rouge and installs a pro-Vietnam, pro-Soviet government.
  • January 16: The Iranian Revolution ousts the pro-Western Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and installs a theocracy under Ayatollah Khomeini. CENTO dissolves as a result.
  • February 17: Sino-Vietnamese War, China launches a punitive attack on North Vietnam to punish it for invading Cambodia.
  • May 4: Margaret Thatcher is elected prime minister of the United Kingdom: becoming the first female to lead a major Western democracy.
  • May 9: War breaks out in El Salvador between Marxist-led insurgents and the U.S.-backed government.
  • June 2: Pope John Paul II begins his first pastoral visit to his native Poland.
  • June 18: U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, sign the SALT II agreement, outlining limitations and guidelines for nuclear weapons.
  • July 3: President Carter signs the first directive for financial aid to opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, Afghanistan.[23]
  • July 17: Marxist-led Sandinistarevolutionaries overthrow the U.S.-backed Somozadictatorship in Nicaragua. The Contra insurgency begins shortly thereafter.
  • September: Nur Mohammed Taraki, The Marxist president of Afghanistan, is deposed and murdered. The post of president is taken up by Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin.
  • November 4: Islamist Iranian students take over the American embassy in support of the Iranian Revolution. The Iran hostage crisis lasts until January 20, 1981.
  • December 12: NATO Double-Track Decision - NATO offers mutual limitation of ballistic missiles combined with the threat that in case of disagreement NATO would deploy more middle-range nuclear weapons in Western Europe.
  • December 24: The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan to oust Hafizullah Amin, resulting in the end of Détente.



  • March 21: The United States and its allies boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics (July 19-August 3) in Moscow.
  • May 4: Josip Broz Tito, communist leader of Yugoslavia since 1945, dies at the age of 88 in Ljubljana.
  • August 31: In Poland the Gdańsk Agreement is signed after a wave of strikes which began at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdańsk. The agreement allows greater civil rights, such as the establishment of a trade union independent of communist party control.


  • January 17: Martial law was lifted by Ferdinand Marcos in preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II.
  • January 20: Ronald Reagan inaugurated 40th President of the United States. Reagan is elected on a platform opposed to the concessions of détente.
  • January 20: Iran hostage crisis ends.
  • August 19: Gulf of Sidra Incident: Libyan planes attack U.S. jets in the Gulf of Sidra, which Libya has illegally annexed. Two Libyan jets are shot down; no American losses are suffered.
  • October 27: A Soviet submarine, the U137, runs aground not far from the Swedish naval base at Karlskrona.
  • November 23: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) begins to support anti-Sandinista Contras.
  • December 13: Communist Gen. Jaruzelski introduces martial law in Poland, which drastically restricts normal life, in an attempt to crush the Solidarity trade union and the political opposition against communist rule.


  • February 24: President Ronald Reagan announces the "Caribbean Basin Initiative" to prevent the overthrow of governments in the region by the forces of communism.

Timeline Assignment for World Politics: A History

Political Science 214& 324
Charles Lipson

University of Chicago

E-mail: clipson@uchicago.edu

Basic Timeline/Dictionary Assignment

Creating a timeline/dictionary is one of the two written course assignments.

The timeline is a chronology of approximately 15 significant events on one topic in one selected period.  The topic itself should be reflected in a clear title on the paper.

The dictionary is an annotated list of approximately 15 people, places, and events related to your chronology.

If you have questions about your timeline, please read the instructions below and then feel free to contact your TA.

All papers must have a title and must include your name, phone, and e-mail address. Please staple. No cover or cover page is needed.

Timeline Assignment Explained in Detail

Pick one issue or theme within the time period of the course and create (a) a timeline of major events related to that topic and (b) a dictionary of key people and events for that same topic, with brief descriptions. If possible, please put the exact day of any event you list. The timeline and dictionary may be done as small group projects, with friends in the class if you wish. This is a real opportunity for group learning.

Chronology (or timeline) of key events + dictionary of key persons, terms, and events in one historical period.

For Pol Sci. 214-00 (covering the period 1814-1914), topics might include

  • the Congress System;
  • the rise of free trade, or its decline;
  • the rise of the Gold Standard;
  • the Crimean War;
  • German or Italian Unification;
  • major features of the Meiji Restoration;
  • the evolution of European empires;
  • major changes in military technology;
  • or a number of other topics.

For Pol Sci. 216-00 (covering the period 1945-91), topics might include

  • rise of the Cold War in Europe, Asia, or worldwide;
  • evolution of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund),
  • decline of empires after World War II,
  • or a number of others.

Pick a period or theme that interests you. If you are uncertain what constitutes an appropriate time period, please consult Professor Lipson or your teaching assistant. The paper, dictionary, or timeline must concentrate on the time period of the course. The material can focus on any region of the world. It can focus on international diplomacy, economics, or military issues, or a variety of other international issues for that matter (such as environmental politics, international institutions, migration, or other topics). Some material from earlier or later periods may be included to complete a paper or timeline that concentrates on the time period of the course itself.

You may use reference works, scholarly books, and the web to help your research. However, you may not "cut and paste" or lift material directly from other works. That is plagiarism. You must reword and reinterpret the events and definitions.

What a timeline should do?A timeline should list the major events in proper sequence, with dates given for each. It should provide a few essential details to clarify the event; the dictionary entry should offer more detail. Please select carefully so that you include the key events and avoid extraneous material. You must give a clear title to the timeline/dictionary so that it clearly specifies and delimits the topic you are studying.  Here, for example, is the beginning of a timeline on early Soviet industrialization, done superbly by a student in PS21500 (covering world politics between 1914 and 1945). It is displayed with her permission.

Sample Timeline: Rapid Industrialization in the Soviet Union in the Interwar Period

1917Bolshevik Revolution results in overthrow of the Provisional Government; Communist seize control of government under V. Y. Lenin; Decree on Land Passed
1918Russia withdraws from World War I; State seized all proper and land of Russian Orthodox Church, businesses, and banks
1921Soviet industry lagging behind: iron production is at 1/5 of the 1913 level, coal runs at 3% of the prewar level, railways have less than half the locomotives they had at the beginning of the war. Lenin initiates NEP (New Economic Policy).
1922Union Treaty joins Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcausasus (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) into the Soviet Union.
1924USSR Constitution, which in part provides for public ownership of land and means of production, is ratified. Soviet Union establishes official relations with the major European powers. Lenin dies in January
1924-29J. V. Stalin consolidates his control by forcing majority of leading Bolsheviks out of power.
1927NEP results in revival of the economy: agricultural and industrial production returns to its prewar levels. Trotsky expelled from the Party. Stalin initiates "revolution from above."
Entries continue up to 1940

Dictionary Assignment Explained in Detail

Related to the timeline, you should produce a brief dictionary covering 15 or more key events, terms, and people during the same period covered by the chronology. Dictionary entries should range between 10 and 50 words, providing brief definitions and discussions for each entry. Dictionary entries should provide key dates and briefly explain the significance of major events, people, and places. Again, you may draw on reference works but the entries should be entirely in your own words.

Sample Dictionary: Rapid Industrialization in the Soviet Union in the Interwar Period

People (lists several) for example:

Vladimir Ilyich

Founder of the Communist Party, the mastermind and the main leader of the 1917 Revolution, founder of the Comintern, (1917-1924) Lenin serves as the first head of the Soviet State and its virtual dictator


Terms (lists several) for example:

A policy adopted by Stalin and most aggressively pursued between 1929 and 1933, meant to transform traditional agriculture in and to eliminate the kulaks; a brutal campaign that annihilated the peasantry and resulted in deaths of more than 5,000,000 in southern Russia and Ukraine from starvation.


Events (lists several) for example:
NEPNew Economic Policy, initiated by Lenin in 1921; a mixture of socialism and capitalism that allowed the state to keep control of heavy industry, banking and transport, while allowing a free internal market, i.e. private shops, restaurants, and small scale agriculture; a step to subdue massive peasant revolts that began to threaten Bolshevik power. Lenin called NEP "a step backward in order to go forward."

What should dictionary lists include? Let me give some examples. A list covering the early Cold War would certainly include the "Truman Doctrine," "Berlin Blockade," "NATO," "European Recovery Program," and "NSC-68," among others. Some entries, like the formation of NATO, might be longer and should list the initial members of the alliance. On the other hand, it is a dictionary entry, not a monograph, so be concise. When individuals are mentioned, the entry should include their full name, years of birth and death, and years in high office, e.g., George C. Marshall (1880-1959), General of the U.S. Army and its chief of staff during World War II (1939-45), Secretary of State (1947-49) and Secretary of Defense (1950-51).

You can, if you wish, produce a chronology and dictionary covering a theme, rather than a time period. For example, you might cover "major issues in international trade" (listing the biggest treaties, disputes, etc.) or "developments in applied military technology" or "the rise of European integration."

Purpose of Timeline + Dictionary

This assignment should familiarize you with a major historical topic that you have chosen and give you a solid basis to evaluate different historians writing on that topic. That is, it should prepare you to work on the longer historiographic essay dealing with the same topic as the timeline/dictionary.

The chronology and dictionary may be either "group projects" or "individual projects."

That is, 2-5 students may organize themselves to produce the timeline and dictionary as group projects. This is an excellent opportunity for group learning, not just on the written projects but on the assigned readings as well. By the same token, students are free to do the projects individually if they choose. If some students do decide to work as a group, then their dictionaries and timelines should be somewhat more extensive than individual assignments. The group should not only divide the work, they should review each other's efforts and produce a genuine joint product. Each group project will receive a single grade, which will apply equally to all participants.

The grades for the timeline and dictionary will constitute about 25 percent of your grade for the course. The remaining 75% comes from the historiographic essay or research paper, which you must write individually.
For discussion of the longer paper, click here

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