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History 9067/3: International History, 1945-1991

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On 24 June 1948, Stalin of the Soviet Union, or USSR, blocked all ground and water access from West Germany to West Berlin. In response, the US brought supplies into West Berlin from the air. This, known as the Berlin airlift, lasted for almost a year. Then, on 12 May 1949, the blockade, considered ineffectual, was lifted. Indeed, this entire episode, which came to be recognized as the Berlin Crisis of 1848-49, though significant in itself, was in fact merely the final stage in the process of the division of Europe. This is to say that as an isolated event, the Berlin blockade is noteworthy: it highlights the main features of the Cold War, and marked the climax of incipient Cold War tensions. Yet when viewed from the larger picture, or the macro-perspective, one realizes that it was actually only one of a series of developments, or more specifically, the ultimate step in a concatenation of events, taking place over a duration of time that eventually divided Europe into what Andrei Zhdanov termed the ?two camps?. These ?two camps? refer to those who were pro-US and those who were pro-USSR, even hinting at the perceived new bipolar world order. However, one may not consider the blockade the ?final stage?, for there were other events after it that did consolidate the division, such as the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG or West Germany), the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany), and NATO. In analyzing the Berlin Crisis (and for that matter any event that played a part in dividing Europe in the early stages of the Cold War), it is hence necessary to grasp the significance of the event in isolation, as well as to understand the role it played in the complex chain of events that split Europe into two factions. I will limit my discussion to the time frame of 1945, which saw the end of the Second World War, to 1955 (the Warsaw Pact).

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