Program Details

The Cold War

Stephen Berk
Video Catch-up

Course Description

It shaped our lives in a plethora of ways. At home and abroad, the Cold War intruded. A ferocious arms race and great fear were some of its most salient consequences. On at least two occasions, the two superpowers came to the brink of war, and then suddenly, it was over. We had won.


  1. One war ended, and a new one began. As Churchill put it, an iron curtain descended upon Europe. The United States became the architect of an anti-Soviet alliance through the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO.
  2. China went for Mao, and a hot war began in Korea. Behind the iron curtain in Poland, East Germany and Hungary revolts against Soviet imperialism and domestic tyranny erupted.
  3. The Cold War changed our lives at home as a terrible fear permeated the United States. Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Hollywood Blacklist, the Hiss-Chambers trial, the Prague Spring, and the Rosenberg trial were important events of the '50s and '60s.
  4. Nails were planted in the coffin of communism both in the Soviet Union and the satellite states. March 1985 saw the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev, and once again, the world witnessed the role of personality in history.

About the Instructor

  • Stephen Berk, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he holds the Henry and Sally Schaffer Chair in Holocaust and Jewish Studies. He is the author of "Year of Crisis, Year of Hope: Russian Jewry and the Pogroms of 1881-1882". Berk has written articles on Russian and Jewish history, anti-Semitism, and the Middle East. In 2010, he was designated an Israel Hero for his defense and advocacy of the State of Israel by JERNY, the Jewish Educational Resources of New York. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Citizen Laureate Award from the University of Albany Foundation.