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The Cold War was the period of conflict, tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies from September 2, 1945 until December 26, 1991. Throughout the period, the rivalry between the two superpowers was played out in multiple arenas: military coalitions; ideology, psychology, and espionage; military, industrial, and technological developments, including the space race; costly defense spending; a massive conventional and nuclear arms race; and many proxy wars. The term "cold war" was popularized in a 1947 writing of journalist Walter Lippmann.

The Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s following Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's summit conferences with United States President Ronald Reagan, as well as Gorbachev's launching of reform programs of Perestroika and Glasnost. The Soviet Union consequently ceded power over Eastern Europe and was dissolved in 1991.

Literary comment[]

The above description pertains to the Cold War as it unfolded in OTL, as well as all Harry Turtledove timelines with a Point of Divergence after 1991 (and written after that date). Works written prior to 1991 may have the Cold War persist for longer than OTL. Works with a POD after 1945 but before 1991 have a Cold War that may unfold differently from OTL, including becoming "Hot" i.e. escalating to a direct military confrontation between the US and the USSR. Works with a POD prior to 1945 may or may not have a Cold War and if they do, the participants may differ from OTL. Many of the timelines listed below do not actually use the name Cold War but are included here for convenience.

Cold War in "Black Tulip"[]

The Cold War provided a backdrop for the Soviet war in Afghanistan, as the Soviet Union attempted to keep Afghanistan within its sphere of influence.

Cold War in Crosstime Traffic[]

Crosstime Traffic was aware of several alternates where the USA and USSR were still fighting the Cold War at the close of the 21st century. There were several other alternates where an atomic war took place in the 20th century. Explorers from the home timeline found that in some of these alternates the USSR had started the war whereas in others, the US had fired the first shots.[1] Some of these were in the process of getting back on their feet. Others were completely devoid of human life.

Cold War in The Gladiator[]

In one alternate infiltrated by Crosstime Traffic, the Soviet Union and its allies won the Cold War after the United States backed down during the Cuban Missile Crisis and withdrew troops from the Vietnam War in 1968. Concurrently, leftists in Western Europe, perceiving the United States' weakness, initiated popular fronts, which gradually ate away at the capitalist institutions while supporting the USSR. Europe as a whole soon fell under the rule of communism. The US followed suit. By the end of the 20th century, the Soviet Union was the superpower.[2]

The Crosstime Traffic employee Eduardo Caruso considered this alternate to be only slightly better than ones in which Fascism had come to dominate the world.[3]

Cold War in The Valley-Westside War[]

In one alternate studied by Crosstime Traffic, the Cold War went hot in 1967, resulting in a world devastated by nuclear war.[4]

The exact cause of the war was lost in the nuclear fire, although Crosstime researchers learned that Vyacheslav Molotov was a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency as late as just before the war, a divergence from the home timeline.[5]

Cold War in The Hot War[]

The Cold War ended abruptly in 1951, when the Korean War erupted into World War III.[6]

Cold War in Joe Steele[]

Before World War II, U.S. President Joe Steele was openly hostile to the Soviet Union under Leon Trotsky.[7] It was only the outbreak of war that brought the two countries in an alliance.[8] After the war, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. divided up Europe and Japan between them, creating spheres of influence and flashpoints for hostility.[9] In 1948, North Japan, at the prodding of the Soviet Union, attacked the U.S. vassal state South Japan.[10] A year long war followed, in which both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. fought each other by proxy. The war ended with the tit-for-tat exchange of atomic bombs.[11] Soviet-American political hostility continued until Steele's death in 1953.[12] While several U.S. officials expressed concern that Trotsky might seek to interfere in the world stage with Steele gone, Trotsky did no such thing, even as the U.S. government nearly fell to chaos.[13]

Cold War in The Man With the Iron Heart[]

During the occupation of Germany following World War II, the bond between the Allied Forces fell apart. They began to view each other with varying degrees of suspicion and hostility, with the Soviet Union being seen as the least trustworthy. Although the erstwhile Allies grudgingly cooperated to locate and kill German Freedom Front leader Reinhard Heydrich, this did not restore closer ties. The USSR drifted further away from its old partners, and many visionaries on all sides foresaw an exacerbated conflict in the coming years.

Cold War in "Ready for the Fatherland"[]

After the German-Soviet armistice of 1943, Germany's repulse of the Allies from its territory in the west, and the Russo-American conquest of Japan, World War II ended in a stalemate with three superpowers left in the world: the Anglo-American nations, Germany, and the USSR. In 1953, tensions between the Soviets and Americans in East Asia led to the first (and as of 1979, only) use of sunbombs. Further escalation was halted when the Germans negotiated a settlement between the two belligerents, with the result of status quo ante bellum. This three-way balance of power persisted as of 1979, when the British had a choice of Germans or Soviets as potential suppliers of oil, and chose to throw in with the Germans for the time being.

Cold War in A World of Difference[]

A factor exacerbating the Cold War and making more difficult the achievement of detente was the existence of a habitable world in the orbit next outwards from Earth, Minerva, known since the 1970s to harbor intelligent life of its own. This knowledge greatly added to the many Earth-bound reasons for competition between the United States and Soviet Union. Both super-powers were determined not to let the other one be the first to land there and reap the potential benefits from an alliance with its non-human inhabitants, on whose capacities little was known but much speculated.

The "Race for Minerva" led both powers to greater assertiveness and aggressiveness on issues not directly connected - for example, in the Middle East, where the super-powers' direct involvement in the conflict between their respective local clients led to the Third Beirut Crisis and brought them to the brink of all-out global war.

In 1985, reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. He died within months of his ascension of an apparent brain hemorrhage. Conspiracy theories held that Gorbachev was in fact secretly assassinated by the KGB. Many speculated that certain quarters within the USSR were afraid that Gorbachev's reforms would be too extensive, and that he would prove "a weak leader" and let the Americans get to Minerva first.

The Cold War was thus the impetus for the respective US and Soviet space missions to Minerva in 1989. Consequently, the Skarmer-Omalo War became essentially a proxy war, as the Soviets supported the Skarmer domain, and the US supported the Omalo.


  1. The Valley-Westside War, pg. 258
  2. The Gladiator, pgs 18-22, HC.
  3. Ibid., page 262.
  4. The Valley-Westside War, pg. 11, hc.
  5. Ibid., pg. 260.
  6. Bombs Away, generally.
  7. Joe Steele, pg. 203, HC.
  8. Ibid. pgs. 276-283.
  9. Ibid., see, e.g., pg. 328-329.
  10. Ibid., pgs. 349-354.
  11. Ibid. pgs. 354-372.
  12. Ibid., pgs. 376-415.
  13. Ibid., pgs. 424-435.