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General Information

  • Fourteen Points: Topic Page
    Formulation of a peace program, presented at the end of World War I by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in an address before both houses of Congress on Jan. 8, 1918.
  • League of Nations: Topic Page
    The League of Nations was created in the wake of World War I. It formally existed from 10 January 1920 until 1946, with its seat in Geneva (in neutral Switzerland). The league cannot be dissociated from the ravages of the Great War and the emergence of its conception as “the war to end all wars,” even though it totally failed in its goal of preventing the outbreak of another world war.
  • Maastricht Treaty: Topic Page
    Treaty establishing the European Union (EU). Agreed in 1991 and signed in 1992, the treaty took effect on 1 November 1993 following ratification by member states.
  • NATO: Topic Page
    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance of twenty-six countries from Europe and North America that is based on the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty. Its role is to ensure the freedom and security of its members by both political and military means.
  • Potsdam Conference: Topic Page
    meeting (July 17-Aug. 2, 1945) of the principal Allies in World War II (the United States, the USSR, and Great Britain) to clarify and implement agreements previously reached at the Yalta Conference.
  • Treaty of Versailles: Topic Page
    World War I ended in November 1918. At the beginning of 1919 the victorious allies met at the French Palace of Versailles, near Paris. Their aim was to decide how to treat the defeated enemy (Germany) and to redraw the map of Europe.
  • United Nations: Topic Page
    At the end of World War II in 1945, the United Nations was established with the aim of preventing further devastating wars. It is a member-based international organization open to all legitimate sovereign states in the international community. While it has a broad and expanding mandate that changes with the times, maintaining international peace and security remains a central aim.
  • World War I: Topic Page
    War between the Central European Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and allies) on one side and the Triple Entente (Britain and the British Empire, France, and Russia) and their allies, including the USA (which entered in 1917), on the other side.
  • World War II: Topic Page
    War between Germany, Italy, and Japan (the Axis powers) on one side, and Britain, the Commonwealth, France, the USA, the USSR, and China (the Allies) on the other.
  • Yalta Conference (1945): Topic Page
    Meeting (Feb. 4-11, 1945), at Yalta, Crimea, USSR, of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. The Yalta conferees confirmed the policy adopted at the Casablanca Conference of demanding Germany's unconditional surrender. Plans were made for dividing Germany into four zones of occupation (American, British, French, and Soviet) under a unified control commission in Berlin, for war crimes trials, and for a study of the reparations question.

End of Empire

  • Decolonization: Topic Page
    Gradual achievement of independence by former colonies of the European imperial powers, which began after World War I.
  • Partition of India
    From Chambers Dictionary of World History
    Under the Indian Independence Act of July 1947, the formerly British-ruled Indian sub-continent was partitioned on 14–15 Aug into two independent countries, a predominantly Hindu India and a predominantly Muslim Pakistan.
  • The Suez Crisis
    From Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History
    The Suez Crisis is the term given to the events beginning with Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal in July 1956 and ending with the withdrawal of British, French, and Israeli troops from Egyptian territory in 1957.

Wartime Europe

  • Battle of Britain
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    World War II air battle between German and British air forces over Britain from 10 July to 31 October 1940. Losses August–September were, for the RAF: 792 fighters totally destroyed; for the Luftwaffe: 668 fighters and some 700 bombers and other aircraft.
  • British Expeditionary Force
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    During World War I (1914-18) the term commonly referred to the British army serving in France and Flanders, although strictly speaking it referred only to the forces sent to France in 1914; during World War II it was also the army in Europe, which was evacuated from Dunkirk, France in 1940.
  • Concentration Camp: Topic Page
    A detention site outside the normal prison system created for military or political purposes to confine, terrorize, and, in some cases, kill civilians.
  • El Alamein
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    Two decisive battles of World War II in the western desert of northern Egypt. In the first (1-22 July 1942), the British 8th Army under Auchinleck held off the German and Italian forces under Rommel; in the second (23 October-4 November 1942), Montgomery defeated Rommel.
  • Gallipoli Campaign: Topic Page
    1915, Allied expedition in World War I for the purpose of gaining control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits, capturing Constantinople, and opening a Black Sea supply route to Russia.
  • London Blitz
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    German air raids against Britain September 1940-May 1941, following Germany's failure to establish air superiority in the Battle of Britain. It has been estimated that about 42,000 civilians were killed, 50,000 were injured, and more than two million homes were destroyed and damaged in the Blitz.
  • Vichy France: Topic Page
    The informal name of the French political regime between 1940 and 1945; officially l’Etat Français (‘the French State’).

The United Kingdom

  • Easter Uprising (1916)
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia
    In Irish history, a republican insurrection against the British government that began on Easter Monday, April 1916, in Dublin.
  • Home rule: Topic Page
    In Irish and English history, political slogan adopted by Irish nationalists in the 19th cent. to describe their objective of self-government for Ireland.
  • Irish Republican Army: Topic Page
    A militant organization of Irish nationalists founded with the aim of striving for a united independent Ireland by means of guerrilla warfare.
  • Thatcherism
    From A Glossary of UK Government and Politics
    Margaret Thatcher gave her name to a set of political attitudes and a style of leadership that became known as Thatcherism. Even before coming to power she was nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’ in Soviet media (because of her vocal opposition to communism), an appellation that stuck.

Notable People

  • Albert Einstein: Topic Page
    German-born US theoretical physicist who revolutionized our understanding of matter, space, and time with his two theories of relativity.
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Topic Page
    Russian writer widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential authors of the 20th century.
  • Ayn Rand: Topic Page
    Rand became the author of two unconventional but best-selling novels, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). In these, as in her other writings, she challenged prevalent philosophies of the time with her ‘objectivism’, a rationalist ethic of ‘heroic individualism’ repudiating all forms of altruism as ‘collectivist’ traps, incompatible with a free society.
  • Charles De Gaulle: Topic Page
    French general and statesman, first president (1959-69) of the Fifth Republic.
  • Coco Chanel: Topic Page
    Fashion icon and designer of the early 20th century.
  • Elizabeth II (1926 - ): Topic Page
    Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1952–), elder daughter and successor of George VI.
  • Ernest Shackleton (1874 - 1922): Topic Page
    Irish Antarctic explorer. In 1908-09, he commanded the British Antarctic expedition that reached 88° 23′ S latitude, located the magnetic South Pole, and climbed Mount Erebus. He was knighted in 1909.
  • Horatio Kitchener (1850 - 1916): Topic Page
    British field marshal and statesman. Trained at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (1868–70), he had a brief period of service in the French army before being commissioned (1871) in the Royal Engineers.
  • Ingrid Bergman: Topic Page
    Swedish actress of the 20th century.
  • Jean-Paul Satre: Topic Page
    French philosopher and writer, the leading advocate of existentialism during the years following World War II.
  • Luciano Berio: Topic Page
    Italian composer. His work, usually involving electronic sound, combines serial techniques with commedia dell'arte and antiphonal practices, as in Alleluiah II (1958) for five instrumental groups.
  • Margaret Thatcher (1925 - ): Topic Page
    Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minister, decisively changed the way in which British politics had worked since the end of World War II. The British prime minister between 1979 and 1990, Thatcher won three successive general elections as leader of the Conservative Party. An intensely controversial figure in Britain, she is renowned for her right-leaning reforms of United Kingdom (UK) economic and foreign policy.
  • Mother Teresa: Topic Page
    An Albanian nun who devoted her life to working among the sick and poor of Calcutta, Mother Teresa built up a worldwide order of more than 3,000 Missionaries of Charity in eighty-seven countries and was revered as a living “saint of the gutters”; her elevation to official sainthood now awaits the approval of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Pierre Bérégovoy: Topic Page
    French socialist politician, prime minister 1992–93.
  • Princess Diana (1961 - 1997): Topic Page
    Member of the UK royal family. Daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer, Diana married Prince Charles in St Paul's Cathedral, London, in 1981. She had two sons, William and Harry, before her separation from Charles in 1992.
  • Robert Scott (1868 - 1912): Topic Page
    British explorer who reached the South Pole (January 1912) only to find that Roald Amundsen had discovered the spot one month before.
  • Tony Blair (1953 - ): Topic Page
    British Labour politician, prime minister 1997-2007. He was leader of the Labour Party 1994-2007. On standing down as prime minister in 2007, he became a Middle East special envoy for the ‘Quartet’ - the USA, European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.
  • Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965): Topic Page
    British Conservative politician, prime minister 1940-45 and 1951-55. In Parliament from 1900, as a Liberal until 1924, he held a number of ministerial offices, including First Lord of the Admiralty 1911-15 and chancellor of the Exchequer 1924-29.


  • Berlin blockade: Topic Page
    The closing of entry to Berlin from the west by Soviet Forces from June 1948 to May 1949.
  • Berlin Wall: Topic Page
    On November 11, 1958, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev declared the 1944 London Protocol invalid.
  • ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’: Topic Page
    President John Kennedy visited West Berlin in 1963. There he cited the division of Berlin as a microcosm of the conflict between the communist and free worlds. Facing down the communists as they did, Kennedy proclaimed the Berliners an inspiration to all free men and women, and declared himself their compatriot with the famous phrase: "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner").

The USSR (Soviet Republic of Russia)

  • Soviet Union: Topic Page
    Former federal republic, successor to the Russian Empire and the world's first communist state. The Soviet Union formed on December 30, 1922 and, when dissolved on December 31, 1991, was the largest country in the world.
  • Communism: Topic Page
    Advocates public ownership and communal control of the major means of production, distribution, transportation, and communication. Although modern communism is associated with ideas advanced by German political philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and Russian Communist leader and theorist Vladimir I. Lenin, its intellectual roots are as old as Plato's republic in the fourth century BCE.
  • Chernobyl: Topic Page
    On April 26, 1986 the unit IV nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the Soviet Union caught fire and exploded. An estimated 100 million Ci (⇒ curies) of radioactivity were emitted with up to half deposited within 30 kilometres of the plant.
  • Cold War: Topic Page
    George Orwell first used the term cold war in a 1945 article entitled “ You and the Atom Bomb,” which described the United States, Russia, and China as postwar “superstates” whose nuclear arsenals would involve them in a “permanent state of cold war.” Orwell borrowed this phrase from the French la guerre froide (“ the cold war”), which he translated as a state of war that lacked the overt conditions of war.
  • Commonwealth of Independent States: Topic Page
    community of independent nations established by a treaty signed at Minsk, Belarus, on Dec. 8, 1991, by the heads of state of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, and were later joined by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. When Georgia joined in 1993 all of the former republics of the USSR except the Baltic states had become members of the CIS. Georgia withdrew in 2008 following a conflict with Russia. The headquarters of the CIS are in Minsk.
  • Five Year Plan: Topic Page
    Soviet economic practice of planning to augment agricultural and industrial output by designated quotas for a limited period of usually five years.
  • Gulag: Topic Page
    A system of forced-labor prison camps in the USSR, from the Russian acronym [GULag] for the Main Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps, a department of the Soviet secret police.
  • Joseph Stalin (1879–1953): Topic Page
    Soviet marshal and politician, born in Georgia; general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party 1922-53; premier of the Soviet Union 1941-53.
  • Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich: Topic Page
    Became leader of the Bolshevik branch of the Russian Social Democrats in the decade before the Russian Revolution. A dedicated revolutionary, an incisive writer, and a compelling speaker, he brought his considerable powers of logic and legal training to bear on organizing an elite core of radicals to lead a successful revolutionary movement. After the revolution, he headed the Soviet Communist Party and was head of the Soviet State until his death in 1924.
  • Leon Trotsky: Topic Page
    Russian Communist revolutionary, one of the principal leaders in the establishment of the USSR; his original name was Lev Davidovich Bronstein.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev: Topic Page
    Soviet political leader.
  • Putin, Vladimir (1952 - ): Topic Page
    Russian government official and political leader.
  • Red Army: Topic Page
    The army of the USSR until 1946; it later became known as the Soviet Army. Founded by the revolutionary Leon Trotsky, it developed from the Red Guards, volunteers who were in the vanguard of the Bolshevik revolution.
  • Warsaw Treaty (1955): Topic page
    Military defensive alliance 1955–91 between the USSR and East European communist states, originally established as a response to the admission of West Germany into NATO.
  • Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich, 1931-2007: Topic Page
    Russian politician, president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) 1990–91, and first president of the newly independent Russian Federation 1991–99. He directed the Federation's secession from the USSR and the formation of a new, decentralized confederation, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with himself as the most powerful leader.

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