Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
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Art Styles in 19th century
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Artists that Changed the World
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Visual History of the World
First Empires
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The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



The Soviet Union and its Successor

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
Russian Federation,
Ukraine,Belarus, Moldova,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan


After the Second World War, all of Eastern Europe came under the influence of Stalin's totalitarian system, which led the Soviet Union into the Cold War. The system was relaxed to a degree under his successors, who were increasingly bound to a "collective leadership." The party's claim to autocratic rule was not seriously questioned until Gorbachev. In the turbulent years of 1989-1991, the structure of the Eastern bloc crumbled, and then the Soviet Union itself collapsed, disintegrating into a federation of autonomous states. While the Central European countries sought bonds with Western Europe, autocratic presidential regimes established themselves in most of the former Soviet republics.


Khrushchev's Downfall and the Brezhnev Era

After Khrushchev's demise in 1964, Brezhnev became the new Soviet leader; his power, however, was kept in check by other party members more than that of previous leaders. Gradually, a detente with the Western world took place in foreign policy.


In 1959 Khrushchev's foreign policy course began to lead to a growing ideological alienation from China. The stationing of nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the world to the verge of a third world war in October 1962, though escalation was avoided when the Soviet Union backed down. Khrushchev had increasingly been showing a tendency to sudden and often (for the party) unpredictable decisions and changes in course since 1961. This led to his overthrow on October 14,1964, by the members of the Soviet presidium (Politburo).

The new strongman as general secretary of the Communist party was 2 Leonid Brezhnev, in tandem with Premier Aleksey Kosygin as chairman of the Council of Ministers and President Nikolay Podgorny as chairman of the presidium.

A one-man rule in the style of Khrushchev would not be tolerated in the future. The Brezhnev era is considered a time of "normalization" and "bureaucra-tization" of socialist everyday life.

From the mid-1970s onward, the Soviet leadership increasingly became à 1 political gerontocracy.

2 Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, who presided over detente, 1980

1 The elderly Soviet leadership wave to the crowds
during celebrations in Moscow on May 1, 1982;
from left to right: Chernenko, N.Tichonow, Brezhnev,
Grischin, and A. Kirilenko

The 23rd Communist party congress in 1966 cemented the dominance of 6 heavy industry in the economy and the goal of 5 arms parity with the United States.

6 Worker in a factory producing locomotives in Tblisi, Georgia, 1967

5 Military procession taking part in celebrations
marking the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution,
 Red Square, Moscow, November 7, 1967

The immense expenditure for nuclear missiles and submarines in the 1970s resulted in, among other things, massive supply shortages for the population. The increasingly strong suppression of artists, intellectuals, and dissidents (7 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and 7 Andrey Sakharov, among others) was countered mostly with repressive measures by the state—deportation to work camps and the use of "political psychiatry."

7 Soviet dissident and physicist Andrey Sakharov;
7 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

see also:

Soviet dissidents

After the Soviet leadership forcefully suppressed the "Prague Spring" in 1968, it greeted the 3 policy of detente begun in 1970 by West German Chancellor
Willy Brandt.

From 1970 on, a series of agreements were negotiated between the Soviet Union and Western countries.

These culminated in the 4 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I and II) in 1974 and 1979 with the United States and the 1975 Helsinki Accords on international security policy and arms control.

The process of detente suffered repeated setbacks, however, including the NATO decision to counterarm in 1977, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the West's boycott of the 8 Olympic Games in the city of-Moscowin 1980.

Some domestic reforms were successful, such as the improvement of public education and the establishment of greater political and cultural autonomy for the various nationalities that made up the Soviet republics. On the other hand, the burden of the arms race with the US increasingly undermined the performance of the economy, with resources concentrated on the military and heavy industry sectors at the expense of consumer goods. Corruption inevitably followed these supply shortages.

3 The policy of detente: The West German Chancellor Willy Brandt (right) and Brezhnev on a speedboat during a diplomatic visit to the Soviet Union, September 17, 1971

4 US President Jimmy Carter (left) and Leonid Brezhnev (right) sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II, 1979

8 Poster for the 22nd Olympic Summer
Games held in Moscow between July 19
and August 2, 1980


see also:
Prague Spring, 1968

Prague Spring, 1968



Soviet war in Afghanistan

The Soviet War in Afghanistan, also known as the Soviet–Afghan War, was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan at their own request, against the Islamist Mujahideen Resistance. The Afghan government was also supported by India, while the mujahideen found other support from a variety of sources including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other Muslim nations through the context of the Cold War and the regional India-Pakistan conflict.

The initial Soviet deployment of the 40th Army in Afghanistan began on December 24, 1979 under the leadership of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. The final troop withdrawal started on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989 under the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Due to the interminable nature of the war, the conflict in Afghanistan has often been referred to as the Soviets' Vietnam; in relation to the Vietnam War.

The Soviet Invasion


Soviet paratroopers aboard a BMD-1 in Kabul, December 24, 1979;
Mujahideen convene outside a Soviet garrison, preparing to launch a mortar attack.


War in Afghanistan


War in Afghanistan


War in Afghanistan


War in Afghanistan


A convoy of Soviet Army armoured personnel vehicles crossing a bridge at the Soviet-Afghan
border during the Soviets’ phased withdrawal from Afghanistan, May 1988;
Mujahideen leader Ismail Khan walks among his fighters.



1980 Summer Olympics boycott

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1980 Summer Olympics boycott of the Moscow Olympics was a part of a package of actions to protest the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Though the Games are intended to be an arena free of politics, the 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan spurred United States President Jimmy Carter to issue an ultimatum that the United States would boycott the Moscow Olympics if Soviet troops did not withdraw from the country by 12:01 A.M. Eastern Standard Time on 02/20/1980; the official announcement confirming the boycott was made on March 21.

The pros and cons of the boycott were further discussed in several interventions at the 1980 Bilderberg meeting held towards the end of April in Aachen. The debate partly surrounded the perception that the action could be perceived on the worldwide stage as a sentimental rather than a strategic reaction. An American representative at the event stated that a boycott would be an effective symbolic protest because of its dramatic visibility to the citizens of the Soviet Union, regardless of whether or not the action provoked a response.

The United States was joined in the boycott by some other populous countries - including Japan, West Germany, China, the Philippines and Canada. Some of these countries competed at the Olympic Boycott Games in Philadelphia. Notably, the United Kingdom, France, and Greece supported the boycott but allowed their athletes to participate if they wished (the U.S. did not). The United Kingdom and France sent a much smaller delegation of athletes than usual. Nevertheless, the delegation of the United Kingdom was the largest among Western Europe, with 170 athletes applying to compete. Spain, Italy, Sweden, Iceland and Finland were other principal nations representing western Europe, though Italian athletes belonging to military corps did not attend the Games, due to the government's support of the boycott, which severely affected many events. Some American-born athletes who were citizens of other countries, such as Italy and Australia, did compete in Moscow.

At the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, athletes from a number of countries, including Australia, Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Spain, and Switzerland, marched under the Olympic Flag, instead of their national flags, a fact that the Soviet TV coverage alternately ignored and criticized. Moreover, although the government of New Zealand officially supported the boycott, five athletes from that country competed independently and marched under their NOC's flag . Altogether, the athletes of 16 countries were not represented by their national flags, and the Olympic Anthem replaced their national anthems at medal ceremonies. As a result, there were a few ceremonies where three Olympic Flags were raised.

Because Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau was unable to travel to Moscow because of the boycott, Sandra Henderson and Stéphane Préfontaine, the opening cauldron lighters at the previous games, were sent in his stead to participate in the Antwerp Ceremony at the opening ceremony, and at the closing ceremony, the Los Angeles city flag — rather than the United States flag — was raised to symbolize the next host of the Olympic Games.

Even though only 80 nations participated, more world records were set in Moscow than in 1976 in Montreal.


Leonid Brezhnev


 Khrushchev and Brezhnev


Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker: Brother Kiss


Brezhnev was famously depicted passionately kissing GDR leader Erich Honecker in a satirical mural entitled
"Brotherhood Kiss" on the Berlin Wall, painted by artist Dmitri Vrubel.


Leonid Brezhnev


Richard Nixon and Brezhnev meeting at the White House, 19 June 1973


Gerald Ford and Brezhnev meeting in Vladivostok, November, 1974


Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kisses President Jimmy Carter in 1979,
after the two leaders signed the SALT II agreement in Vienna.

Between Khruschev and Gorbachov:
Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko
at a brunch sometimes in 1981


Brezhnev's funeral


Brezhnev's funeral: leading representatives of the Soviet party
and government carry his open coffin, November 15, 1982



Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev

president of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

born Dec. 19, 1906, Kamenskoye, Ukraine, Russian Empire [now Dniprodzerzhynsk, Ukraine]
died Nov. 10, 1982, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.

Soviet statesman and Communist Party official who was, in effect, the leader of the Soviet Union for 18 years.

Having been a land surveyor in the 1920s, Brezhnev became a full member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1931 and studied at the metallurgical institute in Kamenskoye (now Dniprodzerzhynsk). After graduating (1935), he worked as an engineer and director of a technical school and also held a variety of local party posts; his career flourished under Joseph Stalin’s regime, and by 1939 he had become secretary of the regional party committee of Dnepropetrovsk (Dnipropetrovsk). During World War II Brezhnev served as a political commissar in the Red Army, advancing in rank until he became a major general (1943) and head of the political commissars on the Ukrainian front.

After the war he again held posts as chief of several regional party committees in Ukraine. In 1950 he was sent to Moldavia as first secretary of the Moldavian Communist Party with the task of sovietizing the Romanian population of that recently conquered territory. In 1952 he advanced to become a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU and a candidate member of the Politburo.

When Stalin died (March 1953), Brezhnev lost his posts on the Central Committee and in the Politburo and had to accept the position of deputy head of the political department of the Ministry of Defense with the rank of lieutenant general. But in 1954 Nikita Khrushchev, who had gained full power in Moscow, made Brezhnev second secretary of the Kazakhstan Communist Party (1954), in which capacity he vigorously implemented Khrushchev’s ambitious Virgin and Idle Lands Campaign in Kazakhstan. Brezhnev was soon promoted to first secretary of the Kazakhstan Communist Party (1955), and in 1956 he was reelected to his posts on the CPSU Central Committee and in the Politburo. A year later, after he had loyally worked against the “antiparty group” that attempted to remove Khrushchev, Brezhnev was made a full member of the Politburo, and in 1960 he became chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet—i.e., the titular head of the Soviet state. In July 1964 he resigned that post to become Khrushchev’s assistant as second secretary of the Central Committee, by which time he was considered Khrushchev’s heir apparent as party leader. Three months later, however, Brezhnev helped lead the coalition that forced Khrushchev from power, and, in the division of spoils that followed, Brezhnev became first secretary (after 1966, general secretary) of the CPSU (Oct. 15, 1964). Following a brief period of “collective leadership” with Premier Aleksey Kosygin, Brezhnev emerged clearly as the dominant figure.

As head of the party Brezhnev left many affairs of state—e.g., diplomatic relations with noncommunist states and internal economic development—to his colleagues Kosygin and Nikolay V. Podgorny, chairman of the Presidium. Brezhnev concentrated on foreign and military affairs. When Czechoslovakia under Alexander Dubček tried to liberalize its communist system in 1967–68, Brezhnev developed the concept, known in the West as the Brezhnev Doctrine, which asserted the right of Soviet intervention in cases where “the essential common interests of other socialist countries are threatened by one of their number.” This doctrine was used to justify the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies in 1968.

During the 1970s Brezhnev attempted to normalize relations between West Germany and the Warsaw Pact and to ease tensions with the United States through the policy known as détente. At the same time, he saw to it that the Soviet Union’s military-industrial complex was greatly expanded and modernized. Under his leadership, the Soviets achieved parity with the United States in strategic nuclear weapons, and their space program overtook the American one. A huge navy was fitted out and the army remained the largest in the world. The Soviet Union supported “wars of national liberation” in developing countries through the provision of military aid to left-wing movements and governments.

But Brezhnev’s unceasing buildup of his defense and aerospace industries left other sectors of the economy increasingly deprived of funds. Soviet agriculture, consumer-goods industries, and health-care services declined throughout the 1970s and early ’80s as a consequence, resulting in shortages and declining standards of living.

In 1976 Brezhnev was made marshal of the Soviet Union, thus becoming the only other party leader after Stalin to hold the highest military rank. The system of collective leadership ended with his dismissal of Podgorny as chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in May 1977 and Brezhnev’s election to that position the following month. He thus became the first person in Soviet history to hold both the leadership of the party and of the state. In 1979 Brezhnev reached agreement with U.S. President Jimmy Carter on a new bilateral strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II), but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty, and soon afterward the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (December 1979) in an effort to prop up a faltering communist government there. Brezhnev’s government also helped plan General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s suppression of Poland’s Solidarity union in December 1981. His efforts to neutralize internal dissent within the Soviet Union itself were similarly determined.

Brezhnev retained his hold on power to the end despite his frail health and growing feebleness. He gave the Soviet Union a formidable military-industrial base capable of supplying large numbers of the most modern weapons, but in so doing he impoverished the rest of the Soviet economy. After his death, he was criticized for a gradual slide in living standards, the spread of corruption and cronyism within the Soviet bureaucracy, and the generally stagnant and dispiriting character of Soviet life in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


see also: United Nations member states -
Russian Federation,
Ukraine,Belarus, Moldova,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan



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