Cold War Timeline

Key Events From 1917 Through 1991

Grungy flags of Soviet Union and USA

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The Cold War was 'fought' in the aftermath of World War Two, from the collapse of the wartime alliance between the Anglo-American led Allies and the USSR to the collapse of the USSR itself, with the most common dates for these identified as 1945 to 1991. Of course, like most historical events, the seeds from which the war grew were planted much earlier, and this timeline starts with the creation of the world’s first Soviet nation in 1917.

Pre-World War Two


• October: Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.


• Unsuccessful Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War.


• March 15: Lenin creates the Communist International (Comintern) to promote international revolution.


• December 30: Creation of the USSR.


• United States begins diplomatic relations with USSR for the first time.

World War Two


• August 23: Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact (‘Non-Aggression Pact): Germany and Russia agree to divide Poland.

• September: Germany and Russia invade Poland.


• June 15 – 16: USSR occupies Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania citing security concerns.


• June 22: Operation Barbarossa begins: the German invasion of Russia.

• November: US begins lend-lease to USSR.

• December 7: Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor causing the US to enter the war.

• December 15 – 18: Diplomatic mission to Russia reveals Stalin hopes to recover gains made in the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.


• December 12: Soviet-Czech alliance agreed; Czechs agree to co-operate with the USSR after the war.


• February 1: Siege of Stalingrad by Germany ends with Soviet victory.

• April 27: USSR breaks off relations with Polish government-in-exile over arguments about the Katyn Massacre.

• May 15: Comintern is closed to appease Soviet allies.

• July: Battle of Kursk ends with Soviet victory, arguably the turning point of the war in Europe.

• November 28 – December 1: Tehran Conference: Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill meet.


• June 6: D-Day: Allied forces land successfully in France, opening a second front which liberates Western Europe before Russia needs to.

• July 21: Having ‘liberated’ east Poland, Russia sets up the Committee of National Liberation in Lublin to govern it.

• August 1 – October 2: Warsaw Uprising; Polish rebels attempt to overthrow Nazi rule in Warsaw; Red Army sits back and allows it to be crushed to destroy the rebels. • August 23: Romania signs armistice with Russia following their invasion; a coalition government is formed.

• September 9: Communist coup in Bulgaria.

• October 9 - 18: Moscow Conference. Churchill and Stalin agree percentage ‘spheres of influence’ in Eastern Europe.

• December 3: Conflict between British and pro-Communist Greek forces in Greece.


• January 1: USSR ‘recognises’ their communist puppet government in Poland as the provisional government; US and UK refuse to do so, preferring the exiles in London.

• February 4-12: Yalta summit between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin; promises are given to support democratically elected governments.

• April 21: Agreements signed between newly ‘liberated’ communist Eastern nations and USSR to work together.

• May 8: Germany surrenders; end of World War Two in Europe.

Late 1940s


• March: Communist-dominated coup in Romania.

• July-August: Potsdam Conference between US, UK, and USSR.

• July 5: US and UK recognize communist-dominated Polish government after it allows some members of the Government-in-exile to join.

• August 6: The US drops the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima.


• February 22: George Kennan sends the Long Telegram advocating Containment.

• March 5: Churchill gives his Iron Curtain Speech.

• April 21: Social Unity Party formed in Germany on Stalin’s orders.


• January 1: Anglo-American Bizone formed in Berlin, angers USSR.

• March 12: Truman Doctrine announced.

• June 5: Marshall Plan aid program Announced.

• October 5: Cominform Founded to organize international communism.

• December 15: London Foreign Ministers’ Conference breaks up without agreement.


• February 22: Communist Coup in Czechoslovakia.

• March 17: Brussels Pact Signed between UK, France, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg to organize a mutual defense.

• June 7: Six Power Conference recommends a West German Constituent Assembly.

• June 18: New currency introduced in the Western Zones of Germany.

• June 24: Berlin Blockade Begins.


• January 25: Comecon, Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, created to organize Eastern bloc economies.

• April 4: North Atlantic Treaty signed: NATO formed.

• May 12: Berlin Blockade lifted.

• May 23: ‘Basic Law’ approved for Federal Republic of Germany (FRG): Bizone merges with French zone to form a new state.

• May 30: People’s Congress approves German Democratic Republic Constitution in East Germany.

• August 29: USSR detonates the first atomic bomb.

• September 15: Adenauer becomes first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

• October: The Communist People’s Republic of China proclaimed.

• October 12: German Democratic Republic (GDR) formed in East Germany.



• April 7: NSC-68 finalized in the US: advocates a more active, military, policy of containment and causes a large increase in defense spending.

• June 25: Korean War begins.

• October 24: Pleven Plan approved by France: rearmed West German soldiers to be part of a European Defence Community (EDC).


• April 18: European Coal and Steel Community Treaty signed (The Schuman Plan).


• March 10: Stalin proposes a united, but neutral, Germany; rejected by the West.

• May 27: European Defence Community (EDC) treaty signed by Western nations.


• March 5: Stalin dies.

• June 16-18: Unrest in the GDR, suppressed by Soviet troops.

• July: Korean War ends.


• August 31: France rejects the EDC.


• May 5: FRG becomes a sovereign state; joins NATO.

• May 14: Eastern Communist nations sign the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance.

• May 15: State Treaty between forces occupying Austria: they withdraw and make it a neutral state.

• September 20: GDR recognized as a sovereign state by USSR. FRG announces the Hallstein Doctrine in response.


• February 25: Khrushchev begins De-Stalinization by attacking Stalin in a speech at 20th Party Congress.

• June: Unrest in Poland.

• October 23 – November 4: Hungarian Uprising crushed.


• March 25: Treaty of Rome signed, creating the European Economic Community with the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.


• November 10: Start of Second Berlin crisis: Khrushchev calls for a peace treaty with the two German states to settle borders and for Western nations to leave Berlin.

• November 27: The Berlin Ultimatum issued by Khrushchev: Russia gives West six months to solve Berlin situation and withdraw their troops or it will hand East Berlin over to East Germany.


• January: Communist government under Fidel Castro set up in Cuba.



• May 1: USSR shoots down US U-2 spy plane over Russian territory.

• May 16-17: Paris Summit closes after Russia pulls out over U-2 affair.


• August 12/13: Berlin Wall built as east-west borders closed in Berlin and GDR.


• October – November: The Cuban Missile Crisis brings the world to the brink of nuclear war.


• August 5: Test Ban treaty between UK, USSR, and US limits nuclear testing. France and China reject it and develop their own weapons.


• October 15: Khrushchev removed from power.


• February 15: The US begins bombing of Vietnam; by 1966 400,000 US troops are in the country.


• August 21-27: Crushing of Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia.

• July 1: Non-Proliferation Treaty signed by UK, USSR, and US: agree not to assist non-signatories in gaining nuclear weapons. This treaty is the first evidence of détente-era cooperation during the Cold War

• November: Brezhnev Doctrine Outlined.


• September 28: Brandt becomes Chancellor of FRG, continues the policy of Ostpolitik developed from his position as Foreign Minister.



• Start of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between US and USSR.

• August 12: USSR-FRG Moscow Treaty: both recognize each other's territories and agree to only peaceful methods of border change.

• December 7: Warsaw Treaty between FRG and Poland: both recognize each other's territories, agree to only peaceful methods of border change and increased trade.


• September 3: Four Power Treaty on Berlin between US, UK, France and USSR over access from West Berlin to FRG and relation of West Berlin to FRG.


• May 1: SALT I treaty signed (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks).

• December 21: Basic Treaty between FRG and GDR: FRG gives up Hallstein Doctrine, recognizes GDR as a sovereign state, both to have seats at UN.


• June: Prague Treaty between FRG and Czechoslovakia.


• July: SALT II negotiations begin.


• August 1: Helsinki Agreement/Accord/’Final Act’ signed between US, Canada and 33 European States including Russia: states the ‘inviolability’ of frontiers, gives principles for state peaceful interaction, co-operation in economics and science as well as humanitarian issues.


• Soviet SS-20 medium-range missiles stationed in Eastern Europe.


• June: SALT II treaty signed; never ratified by the US Senate.

• December 27: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.



• December 13: Martial law in Poland to crush the Solidarity movement.


• January 20: Ronald Reagan becomes US President.


• June: Start of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) in Geneva.


• Pershing and Cruise missiles placed in West Europe.

• March 23: Announcement of the US ‘Strategic Defense Initiative’ or ‘Star Wars’.


• March 12: Gorbachev becomes the leader of USSR.


• October 2: USSR-USA summit at Reykjavik.


• December: USSR-US summit as Washington: US and USSR agree to remove medium-range missiles from Europe.


• February: Soviet troops begin to pull out of Afghanistan.

• July 6: In a speech to the UN, Gorbachev repudiates the Brezhnev Doctrine, encourages free elections and ends the Arms Race, in practice ending the Cold War; democracies emerge across Eastern Europe.

• December 8: INF Treaty, includes removal of medium-range missiles from Europe.


• March: Multi-candidate elections in the USSR.

• June: Elections in Poland.

• September: Hungary allows GDR ‘holidaymakers’ through the border with West.

• November 9: Berlin Wall falls.



• August 12: GDR announces a desire to merge with FRG.

• September 12: Two Plus Four treaty signed by FRG, GDR. US, UK, Russia, and France cancels remaining rights of former occupying powers in FRG.

• October 3: German Reunification.


• July 1: START Treaty signed by US and USSR reducing nuclear weapons.

• December 26: USSR dissolved.

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Your Citation
Wilde, Robert. "Cold War Timeline." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Wilde, Robert. (2020, August 27). Cold War Timeline. Retrieved from Wilde, Robert. "Cold War Timeline." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).