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The Russian invasion of Ukraine is recasting the shape of international politics, threatening to drag the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. The post-war world, the period that began after the end of the Second World War in 1945, was defined by this struggle. It is important to understand why and how the Cold War began, why it lasted so long and why it came to a suddenly peaceful end between 1989 and 1991. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian leader who inadvertently destroyed the Communist system, figures prominently in this story as do the two men who came after him, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Although the politics of post war Europe take central stage, events in the rest of the world inevitably impact upon the history of this period and have come to wield an even more influential role in today’s world.
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