Elliot Fernandez

Timeline of Contemporary period (1945-2020)

The Timeline of Contemporary period corresponds to the most recent period in the history of humanity, between the years 1945-2020.
Elliot Fernandez
Elliot Fernandez
He has a degree in History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2009) and a Master's in World History from Pompeu Fabra University (2011).
Post on 2020-07-17 | Updated on 2022-10-07

The Timeline of Contemporary period comprises the historical period closest to our times. It begins with the end of the Second World War in 1945 and goes up to the present day. But historians have focused mainly on the study of the Cold War years.

The bipolar world of the Cold War

The new system of international relations that emerged from World War II was based on a bipolar world. The United States of America and the Soviet Union were the two powers. They each formed their own system of alliances to ensure hegemony within their respective blocs.

The Western capitalist bloc was led by the United States. The main institutions were:

April 1949, creation of NATO, a military organization of the capitalist bloc led by the United States of America
April 1949, creation of NATO, a military organization of the capitalist bloc led by the United States of America

On the other hand, the Soviet or communist bloc was led by the Soviet Union. The Soviets established their own institutions:

The whole period was marked by uncertainty and fear of a new conflict on a global scale. The military scale and the permanent threat of nuclear war were present throughout this time.

Construction of the Berlin Wall
Construction of the Berlin Wall Construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961

Although the much feared Third World War never took place, the two powers were involved in military conflicts. The wars were peripheral, but they complicated international stability. Decolonization and independence movements were another destabilizing factor. These movements were used as an escape valve for the two superpowers. Through them, they could intervene directly or indirectly without having to openly declare war.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
December 8, 1987, Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

In conclusion, the Cold War ended when the Soviet Union was unable to sustain the huge military expenditures. The economic crisis of the Soviet bloc became more acute in the 1970s and 1980s. The USSR, without money to keep the arms race open with the United States, collapsed. This happened in 1991.

The Timeline of Contemporary Period 1945-2000: Major Events

The Timeline of Contemporary Period presented below points out the most important events of this period.

Main historical facts of the period (1945-2000):

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and NagasakiWorld War II
6 and 9 August 1945
Hiroshima and NagasakiJapan
End of World War IIWorld War II2 September 1945
The Long TelegramCold War22 February 1946WashingtonUnited States of America
Churchill’s Fulton SpeechCold War5 March 1946FultonUnited States of America
Italian institutional referendumCold War2 - 3 June 1946RomaItaly
President Truman establishes the Truman DoctrineCold War12 March 1947WashingtonUnited States of America
Independence of India from the British EmpirDecolonization15 August 1947India
Zhdanov Doctrine and formation of the CominformCold War22 September 1947MoscowRussia
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fanaticDecolonization30 January 1948New DelhiIndia
Approval of the European Recovery Program (ERP), Marshall PlanCold War3 April 1948WashingtonUnited States of America
Adoption of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON)Cold War5 January 1949MoscowRussia
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)Cold War4 April 1949WashingtonUnited States of America
Foundation of the Federal Republic of GermanyCold War23 May 1949BonnGermany
Mao Zedong proclaims the creation of the People's Republic of China at the Tian'anmen GateCold War1 October 1949BeijingPeople's Republic of China (PRC)
Foundation of the German Democratic Republic, GDRCold War7 October 1949BerlinGermany
Korean WarCold War
25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953

Korean Peninsula
Signing of the 1951 Treaty of Paris creating the European Coal and Steel CommunityCold War18 April 1951ParisFrance, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands
The UK explodes a nuclear deviceCold War1952
Death of Stalin, takes his place Nikita Khrushchev, the new head of the Soviet UnionCold War5 March 1953MoscowRussia
Cuban Revolution, with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara as protagonistsCold War26 July 1953 - 1 January 1959La HavanaCuba
Algerian War of IndependenceDecolonization1 November 1954 – 18 March 1962Algeria
Hallstein Doctrine (GFR)Cold War1955 - 1969BonnGermany
Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the government of the Hungarian People's Republic and its policies imposed from the Soviet UnionCold War23 October – 10 November 1956BudapestHungary
Formation of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (Warsaw Pact)Cold War14 May 1955WarsawPoland
Start of the Vietnam WarVietnam War / Cold War
1 November 1955 – 30 April 1975
South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand
The Soviet Union launches the first artificial satellite, SputnikCold War4 October 1957MoscowRussia
France explodes a nuclear deviceCold War13 February 1960Algerian SaharaFrance
John F. Kennedy is sworn in as President of the United States.Cold War20 January 1961WashingtonUnited States of America
The Soviet Union launches the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, aboard the Vostok-1 rocketCold War12 April 1961
The Bay of Pigs invasion was a military operation in which paramilitary troops of exiled Cubans and the United States government tried to invade Cuba without successCold War15 – 19 April 1961Bahía de CochinosCuba
Berlin Wall builtCold War13 August 1961BerlinGermany
French recognition of Algerian independenceDecolonization5 July 1962Algeria
The Cuban missile crisis, a diplomatic conflict between the United States, the Soviet Union and Cuba, generated as a result of the knowledge by the United States of the existence of medium-range nuclear missile bases of the Soviet army in CubaCold War14 - 28 October 1962Cuba
Assassination of United States President John F. KennedyCold War22 November 1963DallasUnited States of America
Nelson Mandela is imprisoned in South AfricaApartheid12 de June 1964 – 11 February 1990PaarlSouth Africa
Khrushchev resigns, Leonid Brezhnev becomes the new Secretary General of the Soviet UnionCold War14 October 1964MoscowRussia
China tests its first nuclear deviceCold War16 October 1964China
Cultural Revolution or Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a movement started by Mao Zedong, with the stated goal of preserving Chinese communism by eliminating the remnants of capitalist and traditional elements of Chinese societyCold War16 May 1966 – 6 October 1976China
Arrest and assassination of Che Guevara in BoliviaCold War6 October 1967La HigueraBolivia
Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. who was the most visible leader of the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968Cold War / fight for the civil rights of black people4 April 1968MemphisUnited States of America
The French May, the student protests, mainly university students, and later trade unions against capitalism, authoritarianism and imperialismCold WarMay - June 1968ParisFrance
Prague SpringCold WarMay - 21 August 1968PrahaChecz Republic
Socialism with a human faceCold WarApril 1968PrahaChecz Republic
Warsaw Pact invasion of CzechoslovakiaCold War20 - 21 August 1968PrahaChecz Republic
First crewed space flight to reach the Moon. The protagonists were the crew of the Apollo 11 spacecraft (Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin and Michael Collins)Cold War / Space race16 – 24 July 1969United States of America
The People's Republic of China replaced Taiwan (Republic of China) as China's representative to the United NationsCold War23 November 1971New YorkUnited States
Bloody SundayNorthern Ireland Conflict (The Troubles)30/1/1972DerryUnited Kingdom
US President Nixon Visits Communist ChinaCold WarFebruary 21 to 28 1972BeijingChina
An anti-ballistic missile treaty limiting the use of just two systems by each superpower - SALT ICold War26 May 1972MoscowRussia
Coup d'état by Augusto Pinochet against the democratic government of Chile that ends with the life of President Salvador AllendeCold War11 September 1973Santiago de ChileChile
Resignation of US President Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandalCold War9 August 1974WashingtonUnited States
The United States recognizes Communist China as representing China, rather than TaiwanCold War1974WashingtonUnited States
The Helsinki Final Act, also known as Helsinki Accords signedCold War
30 July – 1 August 1975
Mao Zedong, founder and top leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as well as founder and president of the People's Republic of China, diesCold War9 September 1976BeijingChina
New Soviet Union Constitution. According to it, Brezhnev is elected presidentCold War7 October 1977MoscowRussia
State visit by Deng Xiaoping to the United StatesCold WarJanuary - February 1979WashingtonUnited States
The SALT II agreement lowered the limits on nuclear weaponsCold War18 June 1979Hofburg Palace, in ViennaAustria
The Soviet Union starts the war against AfghanistanSoviet-Afghan war / Cold War24 December 1979Afghanistan
Start of the Iran-Iraq WarIran–Iraq War22 September 1980Iraq/Iran
START (strategic arms reduction talks), which succeeded SALT, first announced by US President Ronald ReaganCold War9 May 1982GenevaSwitzerland
Death of Leonid Brezhnev. Yuri Andropov succeeds him as General Secretary of the CPSU and President of the Soviet UnionCold War10 November 1982MoscowRussia
US President Ronald Reagan announces his decision to fund an anti-ballistic missile aerospace defensive system called "Star Wars"Cold WarMarch 1983WashingtonUnited States
Death of Yuri Andropov. Konstantin Chernenko is the new President of the Soviet UnionCold War9 February 1984MoscowRussia
Death of Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev is the new President of the Soviet UnionCold War10 March 1985MoscowRussia
Nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Power PlantCold War26 April 1986PrípiatUkraine
US-USSR Agreement to Abolish Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces TreatyCold War8 December 1987White House, WashingtonUnited Stated
The USSR begins withdrawing its troops from AfghanistanSoviet-Afghan war / Cold War15 May to 16 August 1988Afghanistan
End of the Iran-Iraq WarIran-Iraq War20 August 1988Iraq/Iran
Fall of the Berlin Wall. First major milestone of the end of the Cold War and the capitalism-socialism conflictCold War9 November 1989BerlinGermany
Velvet RevolutionCold War17 - 29 November 1989PrahaChecz Republic
Romanian Revolution of 1989Cold War16 – 27 December 1989BucarestRomania
Nelson Mandela is released from prison, where he spent 27 years without freedomApartheid11 February 1990Victor Verster Prision at PaarlSouth Africa
Dissolution of the Soviet UnionCold War11/3/1990 - 25/12/1991MoscowRussia
On the basis of the START agreement, the two superpowers agree to reduce, by 1998, the strategic arsenals of 6000 nuclear warheads in each countryCold War31 July 1991MoscowRussia
Dissolution Warsaw PactCold War1 July 1991MoscowRussia
Nelson Mandela becomes the first black President of the Republic of South Africa10 May 1994 – 16 June 1999Cape TownSouth Africa