Brief History of Europe/Contemporary period

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Contemporary period from circa 1945 (post World War II) to the present time.

See also: Wikipedia:Contemporary history

Cold War[edit]

Present-day Europe

The Cold War (1945–1991) was a period of simmering tension between the the USA with its allies (the Western Bloc), and the Soviet Union and its satellite states (the Eastern Bloc), after World War II. There were sporadic wars in various theaters which did not directly involve the major powers, but instead were wars by proxy. Eventually it would end with the Revolutions of 1989, and the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991).

The League of Nations replaced by United Nations in 1945. In 1947 the US proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, aimed at "containing" Soviet expansion. With the Marshall Plan, economic aid was offered to European nations that worked out a program for rehabilitation. USA, UK and France merged their German zones in 1947 and 1948. USSR blockaded the Allied sector of Berlin from mid-1948 to mid-1949. In 1948 Czechoslovak Communists seized control of the country.

Two major military treaties divided the Cold War factions:

  • The Western Bloc countries formed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 1949, with included most western European countries, the United States, and Canada.
  • The Eastern Bloc countries "behind the Iron Curtain" signed the Warsaw Pact (1955), a treaty establishing the mutual defense organization known as the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) of communist countries; these included the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary; but Yugoslavia was remained independent, and Albania withdrew in 1968.

There were Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. With the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the world came close to nuclear war. The "Second Cold War" of 1979–1985 included the Soviet–Afghan War.

Fall of communism and recent history[edit]

Fall of communism in Europe: Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, and brought policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). Dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact in 1991, following the 1989 revolutions. German reunification in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

15 states were formed from the former USSR: in Europe they consisted of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. Other states were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Yugoslavia : civil war (1991–1992) resulted in the new countries of Serbia; Montenegro; Croatia; Slovenia; North Macedonia; and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia includes the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, and the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija; but Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and this is currently recognized by about 100 UN states but not Serbia.

The 2014 Ukrainian revolution had armed conflict in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, after attempts to cede to the Russian Federation. A referendum held in Crimea led to its annexation to the Russian Federation as the Republic of Crimea, which is largely unrecognized.

Other aspects of the contemporary period[edit]

Decolonisation gained traction, with European colonial empires in Africa and Asia gone by 1975. In 1947, the British Empire had begun a process of voluntarily dismantling with the granting of independence to India and Pakistan.

Spain: democracy was restored in Spain in 1975, with a constitutional monarchy.

EEC and EU: Treaty of Rome (1957) founds the European Economic Community. The European Union formed in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty. The Euro adopted as a currency in 2002. Enlargement of the EU in 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007

Technology and industry: Western countries began de-industrialisation; globalization led to the emergence of new industrial centres, including Japan, Taiwan, China. The rise of science, technology, and computers led to the Information Age (1971–) and the widespread use of the Internet, creating profound changes. The Space Age was established in 1957.

The arts: popular music became prominent in the 20th Century. Postmodernism (c. 1930–) was an arts movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century; the avant-garde (from the French for "advance guard") was seen as the cutting edge of experimentation.

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