Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
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.



Southeast Asia

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Maldives
Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam


After 1945, most of Southeast Asia was preoccupied with the struggle for liberation from colonial rule. Many of the region's countries including Malaysia and Singapore—and in particular Indonesia, with the largest Muslim population in the world—faced the problem of maintaining cohesion among various ethnic groups. The Cold War struggle was also played out in the Pacific arena, most notably in the Vietnam War. Since 1989, the region has tended more toward stability, and democratic systems have begun to emerge in most of the states.



The Cambodian king Sihanouk established socialist rule in 1955. The communism propagated by the Khmer Rouge between 1976 and 1979 was accompanied by terror and genocide.


On March 12,1945, 3 King Norodom Sihanouk declared Cambodia (also known as Kampuchea) independent, but the French, colonial rulers of Cambodia since 1863, fought an increasingly vicious war with Communist insurgents before finally recognizing Cambodian independence at the end of the In-dochinese War in 1954.

Sihanouk abdicated in 1955 in favor of his father and, after a landslide election victory, became prime minister. As a socialist, he aligned with
China, causing the Western powers to support the right-wing Khmer Serai. When the US Air Force began bombing border villages in 1965, intending to stamp out Vietcong bases and supply routes, the situation deteriorated.

A pro-Western group led by Prime Minister 5 Lon Nol seized power in 1970, and the leftist factions went underground and formed the Communist 1 Khmer Rouge.

Together with the followers of Sihanouk, who had fled to China, they waged a violent civil war against the government of Lon Nol. Following the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge advanced rapidly, and in April 1975 took the capital Phnom Penh.

3 Sihanouk, king of Cambodia, during a speech in 1966

5 The pro-American prime minister Nol (left) at a champagne reception with important military leaders, 1975

1 Guerrilla units of the Khmer Rouge in 1980

The leader of the Khmer Rouge, 2 Pol Pot, together with the nominal president, Khieu Samphan, came to power in April 1976.

They subjected the country to a radical social reform process that was aimed at creating a purely agrarian-based Communist society. The city-dwellers were deported to the countryside, where they were combined with the local population and subjected to forced labor.

About two million Cambodians died in 4 waves of murder, torture, and starvation, aimed particularly at the educated and intellectual elite.

2 Cambodian dictator
Pol Pot

4 Skeletons of some 2000 victims, in the northwest of Cambodia,
are reminders of the terror carried out by Pol Pot on the
Cambodian population

Whole sections of the population were systematically wiped out. The terror gradually ended with the capture of Phnom Penh by invading Vietnamese troops in 1979, but the Khmer Rouge continued to fight on as guerrillas. Prince Sihanouk, in alliance with the Khmer Rouge, formed a government-in-exile against the Vietnamese occupation in 1982. In April 1989, a new constitution declared Cambodia to be an ideologically neutral state with Buddhism as the state religion, and a constitutional monarch where the executive power, however, is invested in the Prime Minister. In 1991 Sihanouk once again became head of state. The leader of the leftist People's party, Hun Sen, staged a coup in 1997 and became prime minister following parliamentary elections in 1998.



Pol Pot

Pol Pot ("The Organizer") was born Saloth Sar. little is known about his personal life. He studied electrical engineering in Paris, France in 1949-1953 and then worked as a teacher in Phnom Penh.

There he began his steady rise through the ranks of the Communist party. Between 1975 and 1979 he gave orders for the deaths of millions of Cambodians in an extraordinarily oppressive social experiment aimed at creating a totally communist society.

He was convicted of genocide and condemned to death in absentia. After his arrest in 1997, a "people's court" changed the sentence to life imprisonment. Following an escape effort into the Cambodian forest, Pol Pot died on March 15, 1998 and was cremated with only close associates in attendance.

One of the major criminals of the 20th century: Pol Pot




Vietnam War

War for the unity and independence of Vietnam was waged from 1946 to 1976. Through the military intervention of the United States in 1964, it became one of the bloodiest conflicts of the post-World War II period


One year after the Communists proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi in 1945, the Indochinese War (1946-1954) broke out.

Although France had granted the state under the presidency of 9 Ho Chi Minh the status of a Vietnamese "free state" within the French Union in 1946, it tried to restore its colonial rule over the country from out of Saigon in southern Vietnam.

9 Ho Chi Mm, Vietnamese Revolutionary

With that, France instigated a military conflict with the Communist rulers in the north, who put up bitter resistance against the foreign troops, primarily through the guerrilla troops of the Viet Minh. Through international mediation, a cease-fire was concluded in 1954 that included a division of the country in the Geneva Accords: the Communists controlled North Vietnam, and a pro-Western Republic of Vietnam was established in the South under the Catholic leader Ngo Dinh Diem. After the withdrawal of the French from Indochina, South Vietnam received financial and military support from the United States. Corruption and oppression in the Diem regime empowered the primarily Communist opposition National Liberation Front in South Vietnam, and its military wing, the Vietcong, began a guerrilla war in 1956. With the goal of preventing the further spread of communism in Asia, direct US military intervention began in 1964.

Following the claim that two US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin had been attacked on August 2,1964, the Vietnam War began. North Vietnamese cities and supply channels were systematically bombed by US aircraft beginning in February 1965.

In the South, continuous bombardments were intended to destroy the communist's' morale, and 6, 7  napalm and chemical 8 defoliants were used to deprive the Vietcong troops of cover.

6 Soldiers and terrified children flee a village following a Napalm attack by US military planes

7 The South Vietnamese head of police Nguyen Ngoc Loan shoots an officer of the Vietcong troops in Saigon on the February 1, 1966

8 American bombers spray
defoliants over the countryside

Despite their military superiority, US forces were unable to defeat their opponents.

The fighting that often involved civilians and incidents of excessive 10 violence by the US troops—most infamously the My Lai massacre of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese women and children civilians—incited international and US domestic protests against America's conduct in the war.

Following the communist's' Tet Offensive against Saigon in January 1968, the United States gradually began to withdraw from the war, shifting control of military operations to the South Vietnamese. A cease-fire was first agreed upon in January 1973, but North Vietnamese troops marched into Saigon in April 1975; on July 2,1976, Vietnam was reunited as a socialist republic.

After Vietnam's involvement in Cambodia in 1978, violent border disputes with China followed until 1984. In 1986 the Communist regime began introducing economic reforms aimed at creating a capitalist-orientated market economy, without loosening the power monopoly of the communists. Vietnam and the US resumed diplomatic relations in 1995.

10 US soldiers destroy a Vietcong camp


see also: United Nations member states -
Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Maldives
Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam



Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy