Cold War

Cold War
Cold War

The cold war was the decade-long conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, especially characterized by its constant tensions, arms escalation, and lack of direct warfare. First coined by author George Orwell to describe a state of permanent and unresolvable war, cold war was applied to the U.S.-Soviet conflict in 1947 by Bernard Baruch, the U.S. representative to the UN Atomic Energy Commission and influential adviser to both Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Both sides often phrased the conflict as one between capitalism and communism, not simply between two states. Picking its endpoints requires some arbitrary choices, but it essentially lasted from shortly after World War II to the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Long before even the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, there were significant differences between Russia and the West—Russia was a latecomer to capitalism, abolishing serfdom only in 1861—and the transition was an awkward one that created enough ill will to make a radical revolution appealing.

Before the 20th century, Russia’s imperial designs threatened those of Great Britain—a maritime rival—and Spain, which encouraged settlement in California out of fear that Russian colonists would settle the west coast traveling south from Alaska.

In both cases the Western nations may have been exaggerating or misperceiving the extent of Russia’s expansionist interests—just as was likely the case with Western perceptions of the Soviet Union during the cold war.

In the 20th century, the old European empires had lost their power, and the most powerful countries were the ideologically opposed Soviet Union and the United States, with its close ally the United Kingdom.

These were the two world leaders that developing nations would be shaped by and recovering nations would have to ally themselves with. Given the size and power of the countries—with perhaps as an additional factor the youth of their governments, relative to those of old Europe—some historians consider the conflict inevitable.

World War II had broken the faith that the Soviet Union had in the rest of the world’s willingness to leave communist states alone, and so Stalin sought to spread communism to neighboring countries in eastern Europe—Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Poland—but remained uninvolved with communist interests in Finland, Greece, and Czechoslovakia, at least directly.

Winston Churchill was the first to refer to this band of communist countries as the “Iron Curtain,” referring not only to the fortified borders between the capitalist and communist nations of Europe but to the Soviet Union’s protective layer of communist states shielding it from capitalist Europe.

Meanwhile, communism grew in popularity in China, France, India, Italy, Japan, and Vietnam. Very quickly the West began to perceive communist victories as Soviet victories, and communist nations as Soviet satellites, officially or otherwise.

The United Kingdom could no longer afford to govern overseas and in the 1947 partition of India had granted independence to that holding, which led to the formation of the states of India and Pakistan. The United States began increasing its overseas influence as that of the British waned.

For the first few decades after World War II, the dominant focus of U.S. foreign policy was that of “containment”; the U.S. took pains to limit communist and Soviet influence to the states where it was already present and to prevent its “leaking out” to others.

Many believed that, so contained, communist governments would wither and die—in contrast, the domino theory proclaimed that if one capitalist government fell, its neighbors would be next, a proposition that motivated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which was proclaimed a war not just over Vietnam but over all of Southeast Asia, which notably included former British and French holdings.

When civil war broke out in China, the Soviet Union aided the Communists, and the United States armed and funded the Nationalists. The new People’s Republic of China, formed on October 1, 1949, became a valuable Soviet ally, while the Nationalists took control of the island of Taiwan, from where they retained their seat in the United Nations.

The Soviets boycotted the United Nations Security Council as a result, and so were unable to veto Truman’s request for UN aid in prosecuting an attack on the Soviet-supported North Korean forces invading U.S.-supported South Korea. The Korean War that followed lasted three years, ending in a stalemate; into the 21st century no peace treaty had been formed between the two Koreas.

As the lines between the two sides became more clearly drawn, 12 nations formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In response to this and the rearmament of West Germany, Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, formed a similar alliance of eastern European states called the Warsaw Pact: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union.

Eisenhower to Reagan

From President Eisenhower in the 1950s to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s the guiding light of military spending was deterrence theory, ensuring that retaliation would be swift and extraordinary. The specter of nuclear warfare dominated U.S. consciousness in these decades.

In the 1950s fallout shelters were built in many towns and private homes, and educational film shorts shown in schools included the famous “Duck and Cover,” in which a talking turtle advises children to seek shelter in the event of nuclear war. Many schools and town governments held duck-and-cover drills, which likely served no real purpose except to heighten fears.

Eisenhower openly worried about the inertia of the military-industrial complex as well as escalating military spending. Perhaps seeking to avoid future military conflicts, he was the first to use the CIA to overthrow governments in developing or less powerful nations that were unfriendly to U.S. policy, replacing them with nominally democratic ones.

Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America became more important to the cold war than Europe. In Latin America, the United States had been involved in national politics since the 19th century, but the cold war gave a new lift to foreign policy.

As the increasingly powerful lower classes in many Latin American countries gave rise to a strong left wing and socialist concerns, the United States targeted revolutions and instigated coups against left-leaning governments.

Fidel Castro led the communist revolution in Cuba, only miles from the U.S. coast. The United States responded by dispatching a group of CIA-trained Cuban expatriates to land at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs and attempt to oust Castro from power.

The invasion was a significant failure and provided the Soviets with a further excuse to install nuclear missiles in Cuba—balancing out those the United States had installed in Turkey and western Europe.

Only when President Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba and to remove missiles from Turkey—close to the USSR—did the Soviets back down. It is still considered the moment when the two nations came closest to direct warfare.

Berlin Wall

In 1961 the Berlin Wall was built and quickly became the most vivid symbol of the cold war: The 28 miles of wall, barbed wire, and minefields separated Soviet-controlled East Berlin from U.S.-supported West Berlin. Passage across the border was heavily restricted.

Families were divided, and some East Berliners were no longer able to commute to work. About 200 people died trying to cross into West Berlin; some 5,000 more succeeded. It would be nearly 30 years before the wall came down.

By the end of the 1960s the prevalence of deterrence theory had led to a state of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD), in which an attack by either side would result in the destruction of both sides. Theoretically such assurance prevents that first strike, which was the logic behind limiting antiballistic missiles.

Talks and, later, agreements on strategic nuclear arms (SALT I and SALT II) began in 1969. President Reagan’s SDI program in the early 1980s would be a significant step away from the MAD model toward the goal of a winnable nuclear war.

The word détente—“warming”—is often used to describe the improvements in Soviet-U.S. relations from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, a time when military parity between the two had all but been achieved. Both nations’ economies suffered—the United States from the expense of the Vietnam War, and the Soviets from that of catching up to the United States in the nuclear arms race. In order to encourage Soviet reforms, U.S. president Gerald Ford signed into law the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in 1975, which tied U.S.-Soviet trade relations to the conditions of Soviet human rights.

The Soviets had lost their alliance with China because they had failed to strongly support China during border disputes with India and the invasion of Tibet. The prospect of facing a Chinese-U.S. alliance—however unlikely it may have seemed to Americans—discouraged the Soviets as much as MAD did, and contributed to their willingness to participate in summits such as those that resulted in the Outer Space Treaty, banning the presence of nuclear weapons in space.

As they recovered from World War II, western Europe and Japan became more relevant again to the international scene, as did Communist China. Especially from the 1970s on, the U.S.-Soviet domination of international affairs eroded. The United States began to come under more frequent and serious criticism for the choices it had made in its opposition to communism, especially for its support of dictatorial or oppressive right-wing governments.

Meanwhile, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, more and more developing nations adopted the policy of nonalignment. The Middle Eastern nations, their influence bolstered by oil and the increasing consumption thereof, became a particular factor, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which increased oil prices in 1973 by 400 percent, was a leading player in the West’s economic troubles. As more countries joined the United Nations, the Western majority was broken.

In 1979 the secular democratic regime of the shah in Iran—supported by the United States and restored in 1953 with the CIA’s help—fell to an alliance of liberal and religious rebels, who installed the religious leader the Ayatollah Khomeini as the new head of state. Outraged at the involvement of the United States in Iranian affairs, a group of Iranian students held 66 Americans hostage for 14 months, until 20 minutes after President Reagan’s inauguration.

Détente ended as the 1980s began, with the Iran hostage crisis and the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Hard-line right-wingers had been elected in both the United Kingdom (Margaret Thatcher) and the United States (Reagan in 1981), and many neoconservatives characterized the détente of the previous decade as too permissive, and too soft on communism.

Just as the United States had come under criticism for its support of certain governments, the Soviets lost a good deal of international respect not only over Afghanistan but also when they shot down a Korean commercial airliner (Korean Air Flight 007, in 1983) that passed into Soviet airspace. The first years of the 1980s saw an escalation in the arms race for the first time since the SALT talks began.

The Strategic Defense Initiative, proposed by the Reagan administration in 1983, was a space- and ground-based antimissile defense system that would have completely abandoned the MAD model. Significant work went into it, seeking a winnable nuclear war, unthinkable in previous decades.

Mikhail Gorbachev

In 1985 the Soviet Politburo elected reformist Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of a generation who had grown up not under Stalin but under the more reform-minded Khrushchev. Gorbachev was savvy, sharp, and politically aware in a way many Soviet politicians were not. The keystones of his reforms were glasnost and perestroika, policies almost encapsulated by catchphrases widely repeated both in the Soviet Union and in Western newspapers.

Glasnost, a policy instituted in 1985, simply meant “openness,” but referred not just to freedom of speech and the press but to making the mechanics of government visible and open to question by the public. Perestroika, which began in 1987, meant “restructuring.” Perestroika consisted of major economic reforms, significant shifts away from pure communism, allowing private ownership of businesses and much wider foreign trade.

Two years after the start of perestroika, eastern European communism began to collapse under protests and uprisings, culminating in reformist revolutions in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Several Soviet states sought independence from the Soviet Union, and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania declared independence. The period culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

After years of public pressure, East Germany finally agreed to lift the restrictions on border traffic for those with proper visas. East Germany had little choice but to abandon the wall. They did nothing to stop the Mauerspechte (“wall chippers”) who arrived with sledgehammers to demolish the wall and claim souvenirs from it, and began the rehabilitation of the roads that the wall’s construction had destroyed. By the end of the year free travel was allowed throughout the city, without need of visas or paperwork. A year later East and West Germany reunified.

In 1991 radical communists in the Soviet Union seized power for three days in August, while Gorbachev was on vacation. Boris Yeltsin, the president of Russia, denounced the coup loudly and visibly—standing on a tank and addressing the public with a megaphone.

The majority of the military quickly sided with him and the other opponents of the coup, which ended with little violence. But it was clear that the Soviet Union would not last—it was soon dissolved, becoming 15 independent states.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union the cold war was technically over, effective immediately, but a “cold war mentality” continued. The United States continued to involve itself in international affairs in similar ways, sometimes being accused of acting like a world policeman—a role the United Kingdom had enjoyed before the world wars.

The apparatus of espionage found new subjects, with the ECHELON system of signals intelligence—monitoring telephone and electronic communication—eventually repurposed for the war on terror following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Contrary to every expectation, the cold war ended without direct warfare and without the use of nuclear weapons.

La Violencia (1946 – 1966) in Colombia

La Violencia in Colombia
La Violencia in Colombia

Known simply as “The Violence” (La Violencia), the period of widespread political violence and civil war that wracked Colombia from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s (conventionally dated from 1946 to 1966, but also from 1948 to 1958, and 1948 to early 1970s) was rooted in conservative efforts to quell liberal challenges to continuing conservative political dominance, and liberal resistance to the Conservative campaign of persecution and terror. Upwards of 200,000 people were killed from 1948 to 1958, the bloodiest years of The Violence, and perhaps 300,000 people from 1946 to 1966.

The longer-term origins of La Violencia can be traced to Colombia’s long history of internecine political conflict, especially its “War of the Thousand Days” (1899–1902) between Liberals and Conservatives, the longest and bloodiest of Latin America’s 19th-century civil wars, in which some 100,000 people were killed, of a population of around 4 million.

In the shorter term, La Violencia originated in rising Liberalpopulist challenges to oligarchic liberal-conservative rule spearheaded by liberal dissident Jorge Eliécer Gaitán from the 1930s, and especially from 1946. In that year’s presidential election, the Liberal Party split between the left-leaning populist reformer Gaitán and official candidate Alberto Lleras Camargo, permitting a plurality victory by conservative Mariano Ospina Pérez.

In the context of rising popular support for a more open political system, democratic reforms, and more equitable sharing of the nation’s resources, the regime of Ospina Pérez stepped up the persecution of liberals and other moderate elements. Violence exploded after April 9, 1948, when Gaitán, widely considered the leading contender for the 1950 presidential elections, was assassinated in Bogotá.

The city exploded in violence against property, with days of pillaging, burning, and political protesting across the length and breadth of the city, in what has come to be known as The Bogotazo (loosely, “the Bogotá Smash”). Liberal insurrections soon spread across much of the country, including provincial capitals and rural areas.

Conservative elements responded by launching counterinsurgency actions, which by mid-1948 had crushed most overt resistance. Most Liberals withdrew from the government and refused to participate in the 1950 elections, which brought to power the ultraconservative Laureano Gómez (1950–53). Tensions ran high, as many Liberals continued organizing and mobilizing.

With the support of most large landowners, the army and police, the church, conservative peasants, and the United States, the Gómez regime unleashed a reign of terror in city and countryside. The spiraling violence reached into almost every city, town, village, community, and family, with political partisanship at fever pitch and often accompanied by gruesome tortures and murders.

Especially hard hit were Andean coffee-growing regions dominated by smallholding peasants—especially Boyacá, Antioquia, the Satanders, Valle del Cauca, and Cauca. Hit squads and assassins (pájaros, or “birds”) were paid handsomely for eliminating targeted enemies, protected by the authorities and dense networks of supporters. In response, guerrilla resistance armies emerged in many areas, often led by lower-class partisans.

In 1953 the Gómez regime was ousted in a coup led by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, who launched a pacification campaign based on amnesty and public works projects. By 1955 the pacification effort had largely failed, and the violence and atrocities continued.

In 1958 a national plebiscite brought to power the National Front, a Liberal-Conservative powersharing arrangement that stemmed much of the violence, which continued to simmer in many areas, often in the form of rural banditry. By 1966, with the regime of Liberal Carlos Lleras Restrepo (1966–70), most violence had dissipated.

Still, with the emergence of several left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitary organizations, and in the context of the ballooning marijuana and cocaine trade and skyrocketing U.S. military aid in the “war on drugs,” Colombia remained one of Latin America’s most violent countries into the 21st century.


The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) was established in January 1949 by the Soviet Union. It was an organization designed to economically unite all the communist states in the eastern bloc of Europe.

The founding member nations were the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. Albania joined in February 1949, the German Democratic Republic in 1950, Yugoslavia in 1956, and Mongolia in 1962.

Several other communist states—such as China, North Korea, and North Vietnam—were official Comecon observers. Other countries gained membership or observer status in the Comecon. Council sessions were held regularly, and the leaders of member states usually met at least once each year.

Economic policies for all member states were debated and determined at the council sessions. These policies were then implemented through Comecon directives. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Comecon was formally dissolved in June of that year.

The initial charter of the organization stated three main goals to provide broader economic cooperation: “exchanging economic experience,” rendering “technical assistance,” and providing “mutual aid” to all member countries.

The original goal of the Comecon was to establish stronger ties and greater cooperation between the command economies of the Soviet Union and the Eastern-bloc states. The Comecon provided Stalin with yet another way to strengthen his control over the eastern European allies by linking their economic vitality, production, and trade directly to the Soviet Union.

Comecon map
Comecon map

The early years of the organization provided only modest results, such as bilateral trade agreements and sharing of technology between member states. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev attempted to strengthen the organization by proposing that all member states join a centrally planned socialist commonwealth to be run from Moscow.

Smaller member states with less-developed economies and those relying more heavily on agriculture disagreed with this plan for a centralized commonwealth. However, upon his ouster from power in 1964, his attempted centralization of the Comecon and most of his other policies were abandoned.

Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet leadership in the 1960s and 1970s recognized the need for economic acceleration and further industrial and technological development in the Soviet Union and Comecon member countries. The economic and technological gaps between countries in western Europe and those in the Comecon were becoming more evident.

Therefore, the Comecon adopted a new plan in 1971 called the Comprehensive Programme for the Further Extension and Improvement of Cooperation and the Development of Socialist Economic Integration. The basic goal of this program was to emphasize long-term planning and investments in industrial development of all member states.

The Comecon dissolved in 1991. Throughout its four decades of existence, the organization encountered many problems. The dependence of all member states on the economy of the Soviet Union created an unstable and impractical system. The planned economies of the member states did not rely on normal market forces and prices; therefore, the mechanism created a false and inflated economic situation.

When the countries traded and dealt with other states outside of the Comecon, the weakness of their economies became evident. The Comecon never completely fulfilled its objectives because of the difficulties presented when attempting to integrate multiple states’ economies.

Commonwealth of Nations

Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
 The Commonwealth of Nations, formerly the British Commonwealth, is a loose cultural and political alliance of former British Empire territories. The idea of the commonwealth continually evolved after its origins in the mid- to late 19th century. The term referred to the settler colonies: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Newfoundland, and South Africa.

But in the 1920s the settler colonies and Britain began to meet in Imperial Conferences, which provided the structure for the later Commonwealth of Nations. The commonwealth shifted from a community of British-populated independent nations to a proposed economic bloc, and finally to a multicultural community of nations.

The concept of commonwealth described the unique constitutional relationship between Great Britain and the settler colonies; Parliament and the Foreign Office presided over foreign affairs that involved the colonies, but the colonial parliaments controlled their own internal affairs. In the 1926 Imperial Conference, the Balfour Declaration acknowledged that Britain and the settler dominions were “equal in status” to Britain.

After the Statute of Westminster in 1931—which gave the dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, South Africa, and Ireland legislative independence—the commonwealth officially became a political organization consisting of the United Kingdom along with its former colonies.

The British tried to make the commonwealth work as a large trading bloc, with trade preferences between the former colonies as well as the formal colonies. Britain’s imports and exports to and from the colonies never amounted to more than a third of Britain’s trade. Also, such countries as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada became more dependent upon the United States for trade, especially after World War II.

Commonwealth map
Commonwealth map

The sudden decolonization of the British colonies in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s created the foundations for the current commonwealth. India’s decision to stay in the commonwealth in 1949 provided a precedence for later nonsettler colonies to join the commonwealth after independence.

In order to keep its political sovereignty while still allowing for cultural ties, India accepted the king of England as the symbolic head of the commonwealth. In 1949, when India accepted the king as the symbolic head of the commonwealth, the British Commonwealth of Nations changed its name to the Commonwealth of Nations, so as not to imply that its peoples were all of British ethnicity.

As a number of newly independent countries applied to join the commonwealth after they gained independence, the composition of the commonwealth shifted from a meeting of predominantly white countries to a multicultural organization.

At the Heads of Governments Conferences in Singapore in 1971 and in Ottawa in 1973, the general consensus was that the commonwealth should be a loose political association of the former British Empire. The Commonwealth of Nations continued to uphold these principals into the 21st century.

As of 2006 Queen Elizabeth II, the queen of England, held the title head of commonwealth. The commonwealth heads of government decide who will be the next commonwealth secretary-general, the official who leads the Commonwealth Secretariat, the decision-making body of the Commonwealth of Nations. Every five years the heads of government elect a new secretary-general at the Commonwealth Secretariat meeting.

Members as of 2006 included Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Contra War (Nicaragua, 1980s)

Contra War (Nicaragua, 1980s)
Contra War (Nicaragua, 1980s)

Within a year of the July 1979 triumph of the Nicaraguan revolution, there emerged a counterrevolutionary (contra) movement against the Sandinista regime. From around 1982 the war expanded to include large parts of the country, especially in rural zones of the north and east, due in large part to U.S. funding, training, equipment, and organizing under the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Combining an internal civil war with an external war of aggression, the contra war was waged by several counterrevolutionary armies that were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Nicaraguans and millions of dollars of property damage.

By the mid-1980s the war compelled the Sandinista regime to devote around half of the national budget to national defense and to institute universal military conscription. By the late 1980s the latter measure proved widely unpopular among Nicaraguans, as did the economic and human cost of the conflict and the shortages of basic goods caused by the war and the May 1985 U.S. trade embargo.

Most observers agree that the contra war was a critical factor in causing the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in February 1990, effectively ending the Sandinista revolution. It was also central to the Iran-contra affair in the United States, which rocked the second Reagan administration (1984–88).

With the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas and an internationally supervised demobilization process, by the early 1990s the war effectively ended, though armed groups continued to destabilize many rural areas well into the 1990s. It is estimated that the war uprooted some 600,000 people (around 15 percent of the national population) and caused the deaths of 30,000 to 50,000 civilians and combatants.

Small-scale armed resistance to the Sandinista regime by autonomously organized militias began within a month of the FSLN’s takeover, principally in the region north of Jinotega. These earliest contras, calling themselves milpistas (combatants of the MILPAS, or Militias Populares Anti-Sandinistas, successor organizations to the pro-Sandinista Militias Populares Anti-Somocistas, and a play on an indigenous word for “cornfield”), launched their first armed assault against the Sandinistas in November 1979 in the mountains near Quilalí. The MILPAS were generally kinship-based, composed of fewer than 100 members each and rooted in rural dwellers’ long tradition of antipathy to state authority.

During this early period (1979–81), contra organizing also emerged in the borderland zones of Honduras and Costa Rica among exiled Somocistas and National Guardsmen. Like the MILPAS, these paramilitary groups were small in scale and organized principally around personal relationships. By late 1980 some of these exile groups began to receive covert funding from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Argentine military.

In April 1981 elements of the MILPAS and ex-Guardia—dominated exile groups in Honduras formed the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (Fuerza Democratica Nicaragüense, or FDN), under the command of exGuardia colonel Enrique Bermúdez, composed of some 500 troops.

Portraying the Sandinistas as clients of the Cubans and Soviets, in November 1981 Reagan signed a secret order (National Security Decision Directive 17) granting $19 million to the CIA to recruit and train contra forces. On December 1, 1981, he issued a presidential finding calling for U.S. support in conducting paramilitary operations against the Sandinista regime.

Around this time a second contra army was formed in the north, the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARN), under the political direction of the Nicaraguan Democratic Union (UDN), and led by exiled businessman José Francisco Cardenal.

Henceforth the contra war rapidly gained steam. In April 1982 a second front was opened in the south with the formation of the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE) and its military wing, the Sandino Revolutionary Front (FRS), based in Costa Rica and commanded by former Sandinista Edén Pastora.

Another largely autonomous armed rebel group formed in the Atlantic Coast region in late 1981, led by Brooklyn Rivera, among disaffected elements of the mass indigenous organization MISURASATA—an organization composed primarily of Miskitu Amerindians and represented in the FSLN’s newly created Council of State.

In the United States, congressional opposition to the Reagan administration’s funding of the contra forces mounted. In December 1982 the House passed an amendment sponsored by Edward Boland (D., Mass.) banning the use of federal funds to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The Reagan administration found legal ways to circumvent the ban.

By 1983 the contra forces had grown to some 13,000 to 15,000 troops, and by 1985 to some 20,000. By this time the contras had committed hundreds of atrocities against Nicaraguan civilians, as documented by the human rights organization Americas Watch and others.

In May 1984 Congress passed a second Boland amendment, requiring an end to all military aid to the contras by October 1. For the next two years, the Reagan administration illegally funneled covert aid to Iran in exchange for Iranian arms shipments to the contras.

By the late 1980s contra armies were active across much of the northern and central parts of the country. In 1988 and 1989 a series of peace accords (notably the Sapoá Accord of 1988) created a framework for contra demobilization.

With the Sandinista defeat in the February 1990 elections, the administration of President Violeta Chamorro negotiated with the leaders of the Nicaraguan Resistance (Resistencia Nicaragüense, or RN, successor to the FDN), culminating in the Disarmament Protocol of May 30, 1990.

Agencies of the United Nations and Organization of American States supervised the disarmament process, which by mid1990 had processed some 23,000 contras, from an estimated fighting force of 170,000, many of whom demobilized informally.

Through the early 1990s armed groups continued to destabilize large parts of the interior, consisting of both ex-contras (recontras) and former members of the Sandinista Army (recompas)—groups that sometimes merged to form groups of revueltos (a play on words meaning both “rebels” and “scrambled eggs”).

By 1992, with the contra war officially ended, as many as 23,000 armed insurgents continued to operate in rural areas, posing severe challenges to governance in the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Germany (post – World War II)

Germany (post – World War II)
Germany (post – World War II)

At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the leaders Winston Churchill of Great Britain, Franklin Roosevelt of the United States, and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union agreed that Germany would be divided into four zones of occupation following its military defeat.

The three countries and the French would each control one zone. In addition the capital city of Berlin, which lay within the Soviet zone, would also be divided into four sectors, one for each ally.

The political leaders did not anticipate that these occupation zones would lead to a formal division of Germany into two separate nations. But in the context of growing tensions between Western and Eastern Allies, which laid the basis for the cold war, Germany became the primary battleground in a new kind of war, one of ideology rather than direct conflict.

The division, formally made in 1949, lasted until reunification on October 3, 1990. The three western zones fused together as the Federal Republic of Germany, a nation reconstituted as a parliamentary democracy; the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic, with a communist-dominated government.

Initially, the Allies endeavored to administer their zones by developing interzonal policies, through the auspices of the Allied Control Council. As part of their reparations the Soviets began to strip their zone of foodstuffs, livestock, transportation networks, and even entire factories.

A major breaking point occurred in early 1948 as the three Western Allies—joined by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—called for the western zones of occupation to be eligible for Marshall Plan aid from the United States.

This paved the way for a proposal to fuse the three western zones together economically and to introduce a common currency, the deutschmark, in May 1948. The former Allies were now clearly on opposite sides of a new war, and former enemies, the Germans, had become the respective allies of the two hostile superpowers.

Legacy of the Third Reich

Each of these new German nations had to grapple with the legacy of the Third Reich as they wrote new constitutions, revised legal codes, rebuilt their devastated economies, and struggled to find a new identity. A first step in the process was for occupation authorities to allow the revival or creation of political parties.

Occupation authorities first encouraged politics to resume at the local and regional levels, while the question of national unity remained uncertain. By 1947 each of the regions, or Länder, in the western zones of occupation was led by a minister president, who was chosen by directly elected parliamentary assemblies. A similar process emerged in the Soviet zone, but with much less freedom of choice.

It was apparent that the four occupation zones would not be unified as one political entity. The Western powers began to take steps toward encouraging the fusing of their zones, politically as well as economically. They authorized the West Germans to hold a constitutional assembly, draft a constitution, and secure its ratification by the state parliaments.

This assembly convened in September 1948 and worked for nine months, compromising over issues such as the balance between state and federal powers. West Germany ratified its constitution in May 1949, held its first nationwide elections in August 1949, and narrowly chose Konrad Adenauer as its first chancellor.

In the Soviet zone, the process of encouraging German-style socialism was abandoned in the Soviet drive to secure compliance from its satellite states by 1947. In its stead, political parties on the Left called a People’s Congress into session at the end of 1947.

By October 1948 this congress of about 2,000 delegates had written and approved a constitution for what would become East Germany. On October 7, 1949, the Congress voted unanimously to form the German Democratic Republic.

Economic rebuilding in West Germany received an enormous boost from the United States through Marshall Plan aid. This led to the German Economic Miracle; by the mid-1950s the West German economy was robust. The volume of foreign trade tripled between 1954 and 1964, while unemployment dropped from between 8 and 9 percent in 1952 to less than 1 percent by 1961. In 1957 Germany joined with five other western European nations (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Italy) in the European Economic Community (EEC).

The EEC created a common market, which allowed for the free movement of goods and people, facilitated stronger economic growth in a collective sense, and eliminated taxes and tariffs among its members. Amid considerable internal controversy and over strong French protest, West Germany also rearmed itself and joined NATO in 1955.

East Germany’s economy was closely tied to that of the Soviet Union, as it instituted centralized economic planning, reduced private ownership of property, and seized and either collectivized or redistributed farmlands. In 1950 it joined Comecon, and in 1955, the Warsaw Pact.

Relations between the East Germans and the Soviets were strained during the first decade of West German existence, exacerbated by the Soviets’ stripping of the eastern zone in the immediate aftermath of the war; the brutal treatment of German civilians, particularly women, at the hands of the Soviet military; and the economic hardships created by the transition to state-centralized economic planning. It also led to a serious drain of workers; by 1952 more than 700,000 East Germans had fled to the West.

Tensions between West and East Germany increased again in the late 1950s, sparked by the steady stream of young, productive, educated workers from East Germany to West Germany. In the summer of 1961, by which time more than 3 million East Germans had fled to the west since 1949, Nikita Khrushchev, premier of the Soviet Union, spoke out against the infiltration of Western saboteurs and imperialists into the East and the necessity of “protecting” the people of East Germany from Western propaganda.

This war of words culminated on August 13, 1961, when the citizens of the divided city of Berlin awoke to the sounds of construction. East German soldiers began to build a wall, one that eventually stretched for more than 100 miles, completely encircling the city of West Berlin, with minimal access through military checkpoints. The wall cut across streets and through subway and train stations, and separated families, religious congregations, and friends, dividing them for 28 years and 4 months, until it fell on November 9, 1989.

The 1960s in West Germany were marked by generational conflict and the resurgence of the political left. Student movements in the 1960s in West Germany grew in response to a host of causes: nuclear disarmament, outdated curriculum and inadequate resources at universities, and Bonn’s support for U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In 1966 the West German economy, which had boomed for more than 15 years, suffered a depression, leading to increased unemployment and stagnation in industrial production.

In addition, the political dominance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) came to end, as the parties were forced to build a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to formulate policy in November 1966. This marked the first incursion of the SPD into the postwar West German cabinet

The power of the SPD continued to rise, culminating with its electoral victory in 1969, which gave it the majority of seats within the parliament and propelled Willy Brandt into the position of chancellor, which he held until May 1974.

Within East Germany, the economy stabilized. The government, under the control of Walter Ulbricht, ensured higher production of consumer goods, built limited flexibility into centralized economic planning, and achieved an average annual increase in industrial production of 7 percent by 1967. Greater choices among clothing, food, and leisure activities also grew. But by the late 1960s, the climate turned harsher; under a new constitution, basic freedoms, such as the rights to emigrate, were stripped away. Ulbricht resigned in 1971.

During the late 1960s the development of Ostpolitik, a thawing of relations between East and West, mediated the strict foreign policy of the Hallstein doctrine, established in 1955. This doctrine stated that the Federal Republic of Germany was the sole authoritative government of the German people and as such demanded that diplomatic recognition never be extended to East Germany.

Among the practical implications of this policy was the fact that West Germany did not extend diplomatic relations to any of the Soviet satellite states in eastern Europe. Given the economic downturn and the need for expansion of export markets, the new coalition government first extended trade relations, and then diplomatic relations, with states in eastern Europe.

Negotiations culminated in December 1972, when the governments of West and East Germany signed the Basic Treaty, which guaranteed respect for the borders, officially recognized each other’s independence, and promised to renounce the use of force.


German reunification
German reunification

Since October 3, 1990, Germany has been a unified country again. Germany was first unified and subsequently became a nation-state in 1871. The date October 3, 1990, marks the day West Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or BRD) integrated East Germany (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR) under one political system: the democracy (Rechtsstaat) of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Five new states were added to the existing 11, and the population grew by about 18 million, making Germany, with over 80 million inhabitants, the most populous country of the European Union. In 2000 Berlin again became the capital of Germany.

By 1989 the two states had established themselves firmly as separate players on the world stage, with West Germany never having given up on the possibility of reunification. In January of that year, however, Erich Honecker—the GDR head of state and general secretary of the communist SED Party—confidently declared that the Berlin Wall would still stand in 50 or 100 years.

Nonetheless, reform movements had begun to ripple through a few communist countries, beginning with the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s, and in September 1989 Hungary opened its borders to Austria, allowing thousands of East Germans to escape via Hungary and Austria to West Germany.

The festivities for the 40th anniversary of East Germany, on October 7, 1989, were accompanied by demonstrations demanding democracy and freedom of expression. Moreover, the vast majority of East Germans could monitor the wealth of West Germany via radio and television, and the contrast was too stark to be tolerated any longer.

Even the “big brother,” the Soviet Union, talked of reforms, and in 1989 its leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, famously admonished the East German government to engage in change. By mid- October Honecker, who had been in power since 1971, was forced to resign and Egon Krenz took over. October continued to be marked by numerous sizable demonstrations.

On November 7 the East German government resigned while the demonstrations continued. On the evening of November 9 the East German leadership suddenly opened the borders to West Germany and to West Berlin, permitting thousands of East Germans to visit the West for the first time in their lives.

The remaining months brought rapid change for East Germans and their country. On November 10 East German soldiers began to take down the wall, and Hans Modrow became the new head of state. In December the Brandenburg Gate opened up to two-way traffic. Early 1990 saw more demonstrations.

In February Helmut Kohl, chancellor of West Germany, met with Gorbachev, who granted Germany the right to unify and to do so at its own pace. In East Germany free elections were held in March for the first time, and in April, Lothar de Maizière became head of state; his coalition decided to unify East and West Germany according to Article 23 of West Germany’s constitution.

Negotiations began between East Berlin and Bonn and between the Allied forces, who still had soldiers in both Germanies. In June another symbol of the divided states, the border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie, was demolished. In July the West German mark was designated as the common currency for both Germanies.

In late August East German leaders decided that East Germany would join West Germany on October 3, 1990, and on September 12, 1990, the four Allied powers, the foreign minister of West Germany, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and de Maizière signed the reunification contract in Moscow.

Germany regained its sovereignty on October 1, and the four Allied powers suspended their rights. On October 3, 1990, Germany, after 45 years of separation, was once again one country. The date became an official holiday in Germany.

1991 to the Present

Following political reunification with the former German Democratic Republic on October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany grappled with how to merge its economic structures, legal codes, educational institutions, and most important, population into one unified nation; arguably the larger process is not yet complete. In addition, the stunningly quick reunification, not even one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, brought with it unintended and unforeseen consequences.

Germany struggled with an economic downturn, the pressure of larger political integration with the European Union, spikes in both anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and the growth of splinter political parties on the far Right and far Left, while still facing the fundamental question of whether or not the Germans truly stand as one people.

One of the first steps after signing the official treaty to reunify the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic under article 23 of the Basic Law was to make provisions for including the former East German lands in the parliamentary system.

In the first post-unification election, in December 1990, Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won the most seats in four of the five former eastern states; the only state where the CDU polled the second-largest number of votes was in Brandenburg, where the Social Democratic Party (SPD) won more votes.

The CDU continued to hold control of the government until the national elections of 1998 brought the SPD, under the leadership of Gerhard Schröder, into power. However, its inability to garner a clear majority of votes ushered in the so-called Red-Green coalition, building an alliance between the SPD and the Green Party.

The CDU regained control over the government in the elections of May 2005, resulting in the election of Germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is also the first chancellor of reunified Germany to have come from the former eastern lands.

In June 1991 the capital of Germany was transferred to Berlin. By 1994 a plan for moving the institutions of government had been drafted, and the process was complete by 1999. This vote had important implications, economic as well as symbolic.

Undertaking this massive transfer of labor, offices, and institutions from Bonn to Berlin was extremely expensive; some estimates of costs ranged as high as $70 billion. This was fiercely debated given the shaky economic ground of Germany in the early 1990s.

However, moving the capital to its historic place had another set of meanings. Placing the seat of government within former eastern lands indicated the state’s commitment to full integration of the two portions of Germany and shifted the orientation of the government further to the east.

As a unified state, Germany is the most populous in western and central Europe at more than 80 million inhabitants. It is the third-largest state in terms of land and also one of the most industrialized and prosperous nations in Europe. But despite these advantages in population and industrial capability, the economic recession of 1992 had devastating effects on the newly unified German nation.

The integration process proved to be ruinous for the eastern region; as demand for their products dropped off precipitously, hundreds of factories closed and millions of workers lost their jobs. Despite some optimistic projections, deindustrialization was the immediate effect, not economic growth. Between 1990 and 1991 the Gross National Product (GNP) of the East declined by 33.4 percent.

Industrial production fell by 67 percent in 1990–92, while the prices of goods increased by 12 percent. A total of 3 million jobs were lost, amounting to close to 50 percent of its total workforce. The agricultural sector was particularly hard hit, losing 800,000 jobs from a total of about 1 million.

Older workers were at a serious disadvantage, lacking the education and skills necessary in the transition economy. Of the workers aged 52 to 63 who were employed before the fall of the wall, 90 percent were unemployed following unification.

Economic development in the East would rebound slowly. Any waste was slashed at those entities that did manage to stay afloat. A complicating factor was that the “natural” market for their goods and services was floundering.

Another difficulty encountered in the process was dealing with the claims (more than 1.5 million) of those who had lost property under the establishment of the communist state in 1949. When the Treuhand concluded its operations in 1994, it was running a deficit of 300 billion marks, a debt that had to be assumed by the unified German government.

When the economic recession of 1992 hit, its impact was even more severe in the East. By 1993 more than 10 percent of the German workforce was unemployed, the highest level in the West in more than three decades, and an unheard-of phenomenon in the east, where chronic unemployment underneath communism did not exist. Although unemployment reached its nadir in late 1994, it continued at rates higher than before unification.

As of 1997 eastern unemployment stood at 18.3 percent, whereas in the West it was 9.7 percent. By the end of 2005 unemployment rates overall stood at just over 11 percent. The German government, under the leadership of Helmut Kohl, remedied this drain on economic resources in part through an increase in taxes.

This tension between “Wessis” and “Ossis” persists, with many in the East feeling as if their entire former way of life has been discredited and devalued, and many in the West blaming the East for difficult economic times. A common expression is that a wall remains in the heads of many, still separating West and East.

One of the most visible, public reactions against the economic downturn and the dislocations caused by reunification was the backlash against foreigners. With the fall of communism across eastern Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the regional conflict in the Balkans, the number of people seeking asylum in Germany jumped dramatically in the 1990s, at precisely the same time that the country was struggling to provide jobs, housing, and basic welfare to its own citizens.

One aspect of the fallout from this development was an increase in the membership of right-wing political parties that emphasize “Germany for the Germans. Although the public reaction against “foreigners” was even more negative in the former eastern lands than in the West, across Germany violence reached a height in 1992, with more than 2,600 violent acts taken against immigrants, their neighborhoods, and their businesses.

This led to stricter asylum legislation in 1993 as well as widespread public demonstrations against the acts and the attitudes that lay behind them. A more recent development was a strong immigration stream of Jews, particularly from the former Soviet Union, which led to some spikes in anti-Semitism.

One of the largest groups suffering dislocations following unification was working women. In West Germany, women were not encouraged to hold full-time jobs and develop careers; in East Germany women were an integral part of the workforce. In 1989 at the time of the fall of the wall, only 51 percent of women were working in West Germany while 91 percent were employed in the East.

After unification, as unemployment skyrocketed in the East, women were disproportionately represented among those who lost their jobs. Marriage and birth rates in the former eastern lands dropped drastically in the years immediately following unification, and divorce rates surged.

Germany’s position within Europe also shifted after unification, with important debates about the country’s role within larger institutions—such as NATO and the emerging European Union—garnering public attention both in Germany and in the larger international arena. Although the German government strongly supported moves toward greater integration and common action, the German population was less certain.

For example, when the European Union was trying to launch its common currency, the euro, in 1998, six out of 10 Germans did not want to give up the deutschmark in exchange for the euro. In 2005 an attempt to adopt a political constitution for the European Union was defeated in both Germany and France.

Although economic unification clearly had its benefits for the German economy, its people remained wary. However, the German public still strongly supported the military alliance, NATO, as a means of providing for security and coordinated international efforts to combat crime and terrorism.


flag of Ghana
flag of Ghana
Ghana celebrated its independence from Britain on March 7, 1957. Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, merged with a part of British Togoland, a former part of German West Africa ceded to Britain after World War I. Ghana was the first nation in Africa south of the Sahara to overthrow a colonial power; its independence was a momentous event for the people in the new nation and for people in the African diaspora everywhere.

Ghana was deliberately named to highlight its historical political situation as the sixth African nation to receive independence from a major colonial power. Ghana’s leaders sought to link their nation to one of the great West African kingdoms of the past. This name represented both a political victory and a symbolic hope for black people everywhere. Held up as a symbol of black intelligence, self-determination, and power, Ghana’s independence led to many idealistic expectations.

Its new leader, Kwame Nkrumah, had spent time in prison in the struggle for independence, and he led a nation with many contradictory expectations. Fueled by the positive outcome of his many years fighting for independence and imbued with a Pan-Africanist ideology, a nationalist outlook, and mounting racial pride, Nkrumah liked neither the capitalism of the West nor the communism of the East.

He articulated a nationalist ideology that celebrated and encouraged traditional African culture and dress. In addition, he embraced the Pan-Africanism he had been exposed to as a student in the United States and London. He supported the development of racial identity and linked himself to the ideals of Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois.

What became known as “Nkrumahism” started out as a hybrid economic and social philosophy that combined the best practices from both systems. Nkrumah’s “African Socialism” became the model for organizing society in Tanzania under Julius Nyerere and in Kenya under Jomo Kenyatta.

Nkhrumah’s articulations of selfdetermination also influenced the doctrine of Pan-Arabism championed by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nkrumah demanded free education on all levels and the development of rural health care as well as the construction of bridges, roads, railroads, and waterways to build up Ghana’s economy.

Ghana’s independence had major consequences for global politics and the lessening of European hegemony. In the decades following Ghana’s independence, many linked the dissolution of the British Empire, the end of Portuguese colonial power in Africa, and the destruction of the apartheid system in South Africa to Ghanaian independence.

map of Ghana
map of Ghana

Nkrumah instituted many customary practices to help maintain order and restore stability. While utilizing the British model of government at the superstructure level, Nkrumah sought to empower local chiefs and elders by restoring respect for and interest in traditional structures of society.

Elders, healers, and local officials were all enlisted in his effort to make Ghana a stable nation. Although many blame Nkrumah for destroying the country with his socialist polities and making it ripe for coups, his vision led to Ghana’s independence and also defined the ethos of the new nation.

Many of Nkrumah’s policies failed. There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with his government in the years leading to his ouster in 1966. Sixteen years of instability followed his exile.

In 1981 Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings seized power in a countercoup. He suspended the constitution and banned political parties. In 1992 a new constitution was approved, free elections were held, and Rawlings was elected to two four-year terms.

Under the terms of the 1992 constitution, executive power was vested in the president, who was named head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Rawlings was reelected president in 1996. Legislative power was vested in a single parliamentary chamber consisting of between 160 and 200 members chosen through direct adult suffrage for renewable four-year terms.

Given that Rawlings could not be elected to a third term, John Kufuor, a rather unknown politician, was elected president in 2000. An effective leader, he was reelected in 2004. The politics of modern Ghana followed two trajectories: a doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism and the socialist-inspired revolutionary practices of Nkrumah.

Kufuor expanded and refined a third political tradition, introduced by Rawlings: He continued policies of universal rural development while simultaneously opening up the private sector to external development and foreign investment.

Much of the current economic and social optimism in Ghana is tied to an enlightened ruling class with close ties to the United States and Great Britain, and a successful diaspora of almost 2 million people who send almost half a billion dollars to Ghana every year. With a multilanguage, multiethnic, and diverse population, Ghana is a pluralistic society. Ghana has also been successful in attracting foreign investments from India, China, Lebanon, and other nations.

Ghana also has a highly educated population of about 20 million people. It operates a 12-year preuniversity educational system and has five public universities, private universities, eight polytechnics, and 22 technical institutions as well as many educational exchange programs around the globe.

Ghana has substantial economic potential. As a stable nation with a credible government, a working infrastructure, and a highly trained population, Ghana’s future seems bright. Although cacao is Ghana’s best-known crop, other major exports include bauxite, diamonds, gold, foodstuffs, handicrafts, and timber. As a popular tourist destination, Ghana is well known internationally.

Counterculture in the United States and Europe

Counterculture in the United States and Europe
Counterculture in the United States and Europe
Counterculture is a sociological term that describes the radical values and models of a group of people clashing with those of the majority, or cultural mainstream. The term entered common usage during the 1960s and 1970s when movements of youth rebellion against conservative social standards swept the United States and western Europe.

The countercultural movement represented a reaction against the conformist values embodied by 1950s society, the repressive principles of the cold war, and the U.S. intervention in Vietnam. Young people throughout the world advocated peace and fairer race relations.

They challenged conventional gender and sexual role—ideas spawned by the revival of feminism—and pushed legal boundaries to the limit by the recreational use of drugs such as marijuana and LSD. The political and social aspects of counterculture are inseparable from the unconventional postures and appearances of its members.

The 1960s counterculture originated on U.S. college campuses and later arrived in European universities. The University of California at Berkeley was a particularly important center, and its 1964 free speech movement became one of the first occasions of tension between youth and the authorities. To scholars of counterculture, the free speech movement was the point of departure for the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

The movement demanded that campus administrators suspend the ban on university political activities and recognize the students’ right to free speech and academic freedom. On October 1, 1964, former student Jack Weinberg refused to leave the table where he was campaigning for the civil rights association Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).

His arrest by the police led to a spontaneous demonstration by fellow students, who blocked the police car containing Weinberg for 36 hours. The following month the university decided to bring charges against those who organized the sit-in.

This led to imposing demonstrations and the arrest in early December of 800 students in front of Sproul Hall, the university’s administrative center. After more protest parades the University of California started reconsidering its rules on political activities on campus, permitting tables and discussions on the steps of Sproul Hall at certain times of the day.

The decade continued in the United States with the outbreak of more tensions, often along generational lines, concerning the Vietnam War, sexual behavior, the role of women in society, African-American civil rights, and drug experimentation. Vietnam became a specific target of criticism, which was also heightened by the imposition of a compulsory military draft.

A veritable revolution took place in sexual mores with the spread of contraception and the legalization of abortion in 1973 with the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. The Summer of Love drew thousands of people from around the world to San Francisco in 1967, particularly to the Haight-Ashbury district.

The end of the 1960s also witnessed the organization of gays and lesbians in groups to acquire visibility and to have their identities recognized. Drug taking stopped being a social phenomena linked to urban ghettos and became part of middle-class life. Feminist thinkers asked for comprehensive social change, pointing out that economic structures are at the base of women’s subordination.

The United States shifted from the family-oriented society of the 1950s to one that had individual rights at its core. It was in the 1960s that women started to challenge the cultural expectation that they would take primary responsibility for child rearing.

Most feminists demanded the alleviation of the social burdens of motherhood through paternal involvement in parenting, quality child care, flexible work arrangements, and a system of social and financial welfare that did not leave them to rely completely on their husbands.

At the beginning of the 1960s few Americans were aware of the struggle of African Americans for civil rights. The Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in public schools dates back to 1954, but progress in the implementation of integration had been slow.

The 1960s witnessed renewed activism of young African Americans, who refused to leave lunch counters when they were denied service or to travel on segregated buses. In 1962 the admission of African American James Meredith to the state university in Mississippi caused a sensation and an outburst of violence from white supremacists.

Martin Luther King, Jr., became the leader of the Civil Rights movement, and in August 1963 he managed to draw together hundreds of thousands of African Americans and white Americans in his March on Washington to call attention to the fact that a century after emancipation many African Americans were still unable to exercise basic citizens’ rights.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were important achievements of the Civil Rights movement. The acts outlawed segregation in public facilities and authorized federal examiners to register black voters, thus ending disenfranchisement.

The counterculture soon arrived in European capitals, with devastating effects for the established power. As in the United States, the young people taking part in the countercultural movements were well educated, often at the university level. As riots became widespread throughout European streets, this provoked heated debates within the left.

Who were the true proletarians? The students or the policemen who had to battle with them in the streets? Left-wing groups independent from the communist and socialist parties were formed in Italy, France, and Germany. These groups—such as Potere Operaio and Lotta Continua in Italy—did not have parliamentary representation, but still became the avant-garde of the movement because of their capacity to attract young people.

Cultural Forms

During the 1960s and 1970s new cultural forms emerged in all artistic fields from cinema to music, from fashion to media. The music of the Beatles came to embody the need for change and the experimentation of younger generations. The Old Hollywood of dated melodramas controlled by studio moguls was replaced by the New Hollywood.

Young directors such as Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, Mike Nichols, Arthur Penn, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese reflected in their movies the rise of the counterculture and expressed the longing for freedom shared by thousands of young Americans. In Europe the French and British New Waves and the New German Cinema rejected the classic norms of filmmaking, experimenting with photography and editing.

They also focused their films on the ordinary lives of the working classes and on those outside of the social mainstream. Underground newspapers spread throughout the United States and Europe, constituting a network of resistance to the establishment.

One of the most visible icons of the counterculture movements was the figure of the hippie, who often expressed the distaste for social conventions by renouncing consumerism and living in communes guided by forms of spiritualism outside the Christian tradition.

The figure of the hippie encapsulates a major contradiction in the countercultural movement. The communal thrust of the movement is countered by an equally strong emphasis on individual choices, which tends to prevent any form of cooperation.

The more fascinating and controversial aspects of the counterculture should not overshadow the contributions of the movement outside the arts. The counterculture influence reached less spectacular and more stable fields such as economics, business, and law. Many of today’s nongovernmental organizations, for example, have their roots in the 1960s search for a fairer and more environmentally minded development.

In general, as the counterculture evolved in the 1970s and its icons began to lead more moderate lives, the movement started to be absorbed to a certain degree within the mainstream. As such it left its mark on various fields like philosophy, morality, music, art, lifestyle, and fashion.

Yet, especially in the European context, there were those who refused to be absorbed, and pushed their refusal to dangerous extremes. The late 1970s and the 1980s were characterized by the rise of terrorist groups such as the Red Brigades in Italy, Action Directe in France, and the Red Army in Germany.

The most apparent features of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture were unconventional appearance, music, drugs, communitarian experiments, and sexual liberation—mostly practiced by white, middle-class young Americans and Europeans.

To some the counterculture represented the longing of young people for free speech, equality, and a more inclusive and less exploitative world. Others denounced the counterculture as hedonistic, meaninglessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and destructive of the Western world’s moral order.

Cuban Migration to the United States

Cuban Migration to the United States
Cuban Migration to the United States

Movements of people from Cuba to the United States comprise a longstanding feature of both countries’ histories. The panic of 1857 prompted numerous Cuban cigar manufacturers to move their operations to Key West, Tampa, and elsewhere along the Florida coast.

During and after the Ten Years’ War (1868–78), several thousand Cubans formed exile communities along the U.S. eastern seaboard—especially in Key West, Tampa, Ocala, and Jacksonville, Florida, and further north in New York City. The 1850 U.S. census shows 969 persons of Cuban birth living in the United States, with most (275) in Louisiana and 23 in Florida.

By 1860 there were 2,056, with 55 in Florida. That number more than tripled by 1870, reaching 6,515, with about half (3,014) in New York and less than a fifth (1,147) in Florida. By 1880 the figure rose slightly to 7,004, with Florida (2,625) surpassing New York (2,253), followed by Louisiana (652) and Pennsylvania (359, with 309 in Philadelphia).

In 1900, in the aftermath of the Cuban War of Independence and the U.S. military intervention and occupation of the island, 11,243 Cuban-born persons were listed, including 6,645 in Florida (3,378 in Tampa, 3,015 in Key West) and 2,251 in New York. In 1910 the number rose to 15,725, remaining stagnant to 1920 (15,822). All of the above figures likely undercounted the actual number.

A much larger movement of Cubans to the United States began with the Cuban revolution, which came to power in January 1959. From 1960 to 1962 an estimated 195,000 Cubans immigrated to the United States, mostly professionals and members of the middle class, with most settling in Miami, Florida; Union City, New Jersey; and New York City.

The exodus continued in several waves through the 1960s and into the 1970s, becoming integral to cold war politics, welcomed by the U.S. government and materially harming the Cuban economy, even as the exoduses proved politically useful to the Castro regime.

The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) allowed undocumented Cuban immigrants to stay in the country and gain permanent residence after one year, rights not extended to any other immigrant group. In 1980 some 125,000 Cubans, the so-called Marielitos, emigrated to the United States in the Mariel boatlift. In the summer of 1994 at Castro’s invitation, an estimated 33,000 Cubans made the journey.

The exodus prompted the U.S. government to negotiate an agreement with Cuba, in September 1994, in which the United States agreed to admit a minimum of 20,000 Cubans annually, and emigrants intercepted at sea would no longer be permitted to enter the United States.

In 1995 the 1966 CAA was revised to incorporate the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which stipulated that undocumented Cuban immigrants who reached U.S. soil (“dry feet”) would be permitted to apply for permanent residence status in one year, while those intercepted at sea (“wet feet”) would be sent back to Cuba or to a third country.

The 2000 U.S. census enumerated 1,241,685 persons of Cuban ancestry in the United States, comprising 3.5 percent of U.S. Hispanics and 0.4 percent of the U.S. population of 281.4 million. Most lived in Miami– Dade County, Florida, with 525,841 Cuban-born, the single largest national group among large influxes of Haitians, Dominicans, Central Americans, and others from the 1980s especially.

As a result of these demographic changes, the politics and culture of south Florida have undergone profound shifts, with relatively affluent, politically conservative, and vehemently anti-Castro Cuban Americans increasingly shaping the region’s economy, politics, and culture.