Tensions with the Soviet Union

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

What were the Berlin Wall and the Berlin blockade?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was divided into four different zones that were occupied by different nations: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. The capital of Berlin was completely within Soviet territory, but it was also similarly divided into four sectors. Over time, tensions between the Soviets and Allied powers developed, both politically and ideologically.

One of the first major international crises of the Cold War was the Berlin Blockade, which lasted from June 1948 to May 1949. During this time, the Soviet Union blocked access to the sectors of Berlin, so the Western allies were unable to use railways, roads, or canals to access Berlin, even though Berlin was also under Western control. As a result of this blockade, the Western Allies organized a way to carry supplies to the people of Berlin through the air, where the Soviets were too afraid of repercussions to attack.

Over the next couple years, more and more people fled from Soviet-occupied East Germany westward. In an attempt to stop the citizens from leaving, the Communist government built a concrete barrier known as the Berlin Wall and said its intended purpose was to keep capitalism out of the communist part of the country. The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 and was ordered to be torn down in 1989. It included guard towers, anti-vehicle trenches, and other methods of defense.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Berlin blockade was initiated by the Soviets in June of 1948 response to the American decision to merge all of the Allied zones of Berlin and the western part of Germany into one, and to begin setting up a government along western lines for the new state. The Soviets responded by blockading all roads into West Berlin, which was actually located in East Germany. Faced with the possibility of war, the Allies rendered the blockade ineffective through a massive effort known as the Berlin Airlift, in which thousands of American and British planes dropped tons of supplies into the sealed-off city. The Soviets lifted the blockade in May of 1949.

The Berlin Wall was built much later, in response to the massive outflow of East German immigrants into West Berlin. It came as the culmination to a strategic move by Nikita Khrushchev to consolidate control of East Berlin, which had previously been disputed by the Americans, into the hands of East Germany. Embarrassed at the loss of literally hundreds of thousands of East German citizens, Khruschev ordered that the border be closed in the summer of 1961. Eventually the Berlin Wall was built, encircling the entire Western half of the city, separating it from East Berlin and East Germany in general. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial