The Cold War in ‘Yuri’s Day’, some background to the book.

At the time of writing it is 21 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that marked the end of the Cold War, and the beginning of the collapse of the Russian-based empire of communist states known as the Soviet Union.

Already the language of that time and place, a lost land with its own very different culture, institutions and manners, is beginning to fade.

This is one of a series of posts that will look at words and ideas that were once part of everyday talk, but which are now beginning to fade into history. Of course, you could always use Google or Wikipedia, but in each of these posts I try to show how the subject relates to Yuri’s story.

The ‘Cold War’.
When the shooting stopped at the end of World War Two, the two great coalitions of allies who had crushed Hitler between them in a global vice, found themselves boot-toe to boot-toe along a line that divided Europe into East and West. The dividing line ran through the heart of Berlin, and soon hardened into the concrete and barbed wire of the Berlin Wall, together with miles and miles of carefully patrolled frontier. Yuri’s first military posting to Nikel on the frontier between the USSR and Finland, made him a border guard on this great divide.

A tense stand-off ensued between the American backed West, and the Soviet Russian backed East; for these two ‘blocs’, although allies against Hitler, had political ideas that were completely incompatible. Each saw the other as a potential enemy. For several tense decades, as the two sides competed in a terrifying arms race, the world came closer and closer to nuclear armageddon.

This period, from the 1950s to the 1980s, was a war of spies and spying, threat and counter threat, bluff and counter-bluff, and of economic competition. The Space Race was just one part of this contest. Although it often threatened to, it did not in the end break out into violence, except in some limited theatres of war such as Korea and Vietnam. For that reason it came to be known as the ‘Cold War’.

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