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The goal of defeating a common enemy had kept the Soviet Union and the USA as allies during the Second World War, but once the threat of Nazism had been removed, the traditional suspicion between the communist east and the capitalist west re-emerged.

The world split along the lines of support for the superpowers, and although an outright war was avoided, tension flared up in Berlin, Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

This cartoon about the Cold War also refers to another cartoon 'The plum pudding in danger', by James Gilray. In the original cartoon, William Pitt and Napoleon are seen dividing up the world, portrayed as a pudding. Illingworth has updated the cartoon to show Lyndon Johnson and Kosygin dividing the world up between them.


In the aftermath of the Second World War, Germany was split into four sectors, to be occupied by France, Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union. Berlin, although in the Soviet Sector, was itself similarly split. In June 1948, the Soviets cut off all land transportation links to the city, causing a shortage of food and goods. The West's answer to this was the Berlin Airlift, an operation to move goods and foodstuff to Berlin by air, thus bypassing the blockade. The operation continued until September 1949, four months after the Soviets had lifted the blockade, in order to replenish the city's reserves. The following cartoons date from the time when the airlift was underway.

Cartoons referring to the Berlin Airlift.


As part of the truce at the end of the Second World War, Korea was split into two zones, occupied by the Soviet Union and the USA, who set up governments in their respective zones. In June 1950, the north attacked the south, forcing a retreat. Many countries contributed forces to fight under the banner of the United Nations, which pushed back the northern advance, until China joined the war. By the summer of 1951, the front line between the warring parties was near to the pre-war border, and with no progress being made on either side, peace talks, lasting two years, commenced.

Cartoon referring to the strain in Anglo-US relations as a result of the Korean War.


Fidel Castro came to power as the leader of Cuba, following the toppling of dictator Batista in the 1959 revolution. After the attempt by Cuban exiles with American backing to overthrow him at the Bay of Pigs, Castro, fearing another invasion attempt, turned to the Soviet Union for help. In return for this help, he agreed to Soviet nuclear missiles being located on the island. President Kennedy angrily demanded their withdrawal, and after six days, Khrushchev gave in and ordered their removal, bringing the world back from the brink of nuclear war.

Cartoon referring to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Living Standards

In the pre-war Soviet Union, the population was poor, and although Stalin had initiated a series of five year plans to modernise the country, these had been predominantly focused on industry, rather than raising the standard of living of the population. During the 1950s, Khrushchev concentrated more on improving living standards, and claimed that the communist system could easily compete with living standards in the west.

Cartoon referring to the propaganda war over living standards between east and west.


Both sides during the Cold War attempted to persuade non-aligned countries to join their particular block by offering all manner of financial, industrial and military aid. Throughout the late 1940's the USA poured money into Western Europe in the form of the Marshall Plan, in order to prevent the spread of communism.

Cartoon referring to efforts by the Soviet Union and the United States to win friends during the Cold War.


Fear was a constant element of the Cold War. This cartoon refers to the fear in the west that the Soviet Union could attack at any moment, and also concern over the growing size of its population. When this cartoon was published, a census, showing that the population of the Soviet Union was numbered 209,000,000 had just been released.

An example of the propaganda which played on people's fears during the Cold War.

Mistrust & spying

Even though spying was an everyday part of the Cold War, international incidents sometimes blew up around covert operations. In May 1960 an American plane was shot down over Soviet airspace. The Soviets said that the plane was spying and demanded an apology, which the Americans refused to give and as a result, the summit meeting between the USA, Soviet Union, Britain and France that year broke up without agreement. This cartoon is based on the painting 'Father I cannot tell a lie, I cut the tree', which shows George Washington confessing to his father, with Eisenhower admitting his misdemeanour to Khrushchev.