The term “Cold War” refers to the second half of the 20th century, usually from the end of the World War II until 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed. Since the 1940s and 1950s the scholars have disagreed on the topic of the origins of the Cold War. There are several groups of historians and their interpretations are very different, sometimes even contradictory. The three main schools are the orthodox, the revisionist and the realist. The classification is not completely accurate because we can find several differences in theories of scholars within the same group and often the authors reevaluated their ideas over time.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze each of the three main schools; to introduce their main ideas and show the differences of opinions within each of them and also between the groups as whole. To give some order to the individual ideas of each school, I’ve chosen four main points that will help me understand the approach of each school: 1) Who is, according to them, responsible for the start of the Cold War 2) Where do they see the start of the Cold War 3) How they view the U.S. foreign policy? 4) Dissenting opinions within each group. 5) The main authors and their ideas.
I will include only the Western perspective. To cover the opinions of historians from around the world would be really difficult in such small space as this short essay.
As I already mentioned, there are three main schools. However, I liked to briefly mention ideas and authors that don’t belong to any of these. Some writers are looking for the origins of the Cold War in events that happened long before World War II. Desmond Donnelly interprets the Cold War as an imperial struggle. He finds its inception in the British-Russian conflict across Central Asia in the nineteenth century. John F. O'Conor sees the Cold War as the result of Soviet expansionism. He traced the origins to the murder of the Romanov family in July, 1918. According to Frederick L. Schuman the Cold War started in 1918 with the Western invasion of Russia.
The Orthodox school, sometimes called the Traditional School, was first of the main interpretations of the origins of the Cold War. This school emerged in the early years of the Cold War. The basic ideas of this interpretation can be found in the famous speech of Winston Churchill in Fulton. During the first Cold War years, most scholars accepted the official interpretation created by Western politicians.
The historian’s belonging to this school see the Truman doctrine from 1947 as the point when the Cold War started. They put the responsibility for the Cold War on the Soviet Union and its expansionist policy. According to them, this is the reason, why Soviets broke promises from the negotiations during the World War II, especially the Yalta agreement. On the other hand, the U.S. politicians wanted to continue the cooperation between the Allies even after the defeat of the Axis. They put a lot...