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The main events that marked the end of the Cold War were the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Berlin Wall had been the main symbol of the Cold War. It had kept people from Eastern Europe, which was communist, from escaping to the West. When the Wall came down (along with other border barriers) it meant that people in the East could now leave. This pretty much meant the communist system was dead.
The death was confirmed in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell apart. This made the remainder of the country (mostly what is now Russia) much weaker. It also marked the end of communist rule.
U.S. and Soviet relations improved in the middle 1980s. At a dramatic summit meeting in Iceland, President Gorbechev proposed a 50 per cent reduction in nuclear arsenals on both sides. While this summit was a failure, on December 8, 1987, The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed. This treaty eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. Then, in the next few years, much of the Soviet Block began to crumble as free elections were held and Communist regimes were ousted. When the Hungarian government removed the barbed wire which separated it from Austria, nothing happened.
With pressure from President Ronald Reagan--"Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall!"-- Gorbechev ordered the destruction of the wall which separated East Berlin from West Berlin. After November 10, 1989, leaders of every Eastern European nation except Bulgaria were ousted by popular uprisings.
The previous thoughts are quite valid. I would only add that an argument could be made to suggest that it was not merely specific events towards the end of the 1980s and early 1990s that marked the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev's naming as Premier in 1985 helped set the wheels in motion to bring about the end to the Cold War. His reforms as well as the paradigms that he brought into office helped to bring about the natural end to the Cold War, steeped in monist thought and simplistic reduction. Gorbachev, himself, and what he represented might be one of the most compelling events to bring about the end of the Cold War. The breakup of the Soviet Union and the ending of its hold and position in the Cold War setting was brought about by Gorbachev's presence and what he represented.
Well, I remember this very well. I skipped two weeks of college in November of 1989, sold my Chevy Nova, and traveled with a friend to West Berlin. We actually got to participate in chipping away at the 48 year old icon of the Cold War, right next to two West Germans who didn't know any English, and we didn't speak German. I still have a chunk of the wall I liberated on that trip. I also seem to remember that there was a lot of champagne and beer marking the end of the Cold War in Berlin that week.
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