Cold War Political Figures Quiz


By: Staff

5 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

The Cold War was a period of military and political tension following World War II between Soviet Union allies and United States allies. While its leaders were often bitter rivals, we managed to get them all together for this quiz.

This U.S. president's 1954 "domino theory" speech helped set the stage for the country's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Eisenhower felt that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, the rest of southeast Asia would, too — just like a line of dominos.


This Soviet leader headed the country when it developed the nuclear bomb in 1949.

It was Stalin's quest for the bomb that really raised the stakes in the Cold War.


This Soviet leader is known for building the country's nuclear arsenal, including some particularly infamous nuclear missiles sent to Cuba in 1962.

Brezhnev sent the missiles to Cuba, leading to a 13-day standoff with the United States known as the Cuban missile crisis.


Which U.S. president stared down Brezhnev, forcing the Soviets to withdraw their missiles from Cuba?

Kennedy's bold decision to use a naval blockade to stop a Soviet delivery of nuclear missiles to Cuba is remembered by many historians as the closest the two countries ever came to nuclear war.


This German leader won a Nobel Prize for encouraging closer cooperation between West and East Germany.

Brandt's policy was known as "ostpolitik," because every Cold War political policy needs a catchy nickname.


This French president and former World War II general openly criticized U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

A veteran of both world wars, de Gaulle wasn't too thrilled about getting France involved in another conflict.


What Cuban leader sided with the Soviet Union, much to the annoyance of the United States, its neighbor just 90 miles (145 kilometers) to the north?

Castro was a thorn in the U.S.' side ever since he led the revolution to overthrow Cuba's American-backed dictator beginning in 1958.


Which was a famous Soviet spy arrested in the United States in 1957?

Abel was the spy arrested in 1957 but released in 1962 in exchange for American pilot Francis Gary Powers.


This former Burmese teacher served as United Nations secretary-general during the 1960s.

Secretary-General U Thant's mediation during the Cuban missile crisis is widely credited with averting conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.


This Polish activist helped bring an end to one-party Communist rule in his country.

Aside from having Poland's sweetest 'stache, Lech Walesa brought and end to Communist rule as the leader of the Polish solidarity movement. His efforts got him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and the Polish presidency in 1991.


This Soviet leader's policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) inadvertently lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

It was Gorbachev who created these policies (again with the catchy names), which led to his Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.


Which Soviet leader famously invited Samantha Smith, a 10-year-old from Maine, to visit the Soviet Union after she wrote him a letter in 1982?

Yuri Andropov invited Samantha to visit the Soviet Union after reading her letter asking about the possibility of peace between the two countries.


It was a short reign for this Soviet leader, who held office for just 13 months in the 1980s.

Chernenko was already experiencing health problems when he assumed office in 1984. A lifelong smoker, chronic emphysema and heart problems eventually caught up with him.


After World War II, this U.S. secretary of state implemented an economic aid package for western Europe that helped revitalize its economy and halt Communist expansion in the region.

It could only be Marshall, since the effort was named the Marshall Plan.


This U.S. president first promoted the policy of "containment," which meant the country would work to stop Soviet expansion.

Truman got the idea from American diplomat George Kennan, but the history books call it the Truman Doctrine.


Which Soviet leader pursued a policy of "detente" with the United States?

It was Brezhnev who signed a series of arms limitation treaties with the U.S., leading to detente, or an easing of tensions.


This U.S. secretary of state negotiated an end to the Vietnam War.

Kissinger was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for his work ending the war, but he proved to be a controversial pick.


Which U.S. president famously challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" (a reference to the Berlin Wall)?

Reagan gave the speech in Berlin in 1987, but the wall didn't come down until 1989.


Vietnam escalated to a full-scale war under what U.S. president?

It was under Johnson that troop levels in Vietnam surged from fewer than 20,000 in 1963 to over 500,000 in 1968.


This woman was arrested in 1950 for providing the Soviets with U.S. military secrets.

Ethel was arrested with her husband, Julius. They were convicted in 1951 and executed in 1953.


As security secretary for the German Socialist Party, this man was responsible for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

Not only did Honecker build the wall, but he also later became the leader of East Germany.


This Wisconsin senator gained a lot of attention when he claimed that the federal government was infiltrated by Communists.

That was good ol' McCarthy, who claimed in a 1950 speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, that he had a list of State Department employees who were members of the Communist Party.


The leader of Romania from 1965-89, this man ruled the country with an iron fist.

Ceausescu was the brutal dictator of Romania until a popular uprising led to his execution in 1989.


Who was the Communist revolutionary who became president of North Vietnam during much of the Vietnam War?

That would be Ho Chi Minh. After the North Vietnamese took over South Vietnam, they changed the name of the capital from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City.


After leading the Soviet Union through World War II, this man turned the country into a Cold War superpower.

Stalin turned his country into a superpower, but he killed a lot of people in the process.


He was the U.S. president during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The president was George Bush, who was able to use his considerable foreign policy experience to try to smooth things over with Gorbachev.


This man led the Communist Revolution in China and served as the country's leader until his death in 1976.

Chairman Mao led Communist China during much of the Cold War, though he didn't always see eye-to-eye with the Soviet Union.


The first prime minister of India, this man was a founding member of the nonaligned movement during the Cold War.

Nehru not only set a fashion trend for jackets, but he also pioneered the nonaligned movement, which was seen as an third alternative to siding with the U.S. or the Soviet Union.


A famous World War II general, this American also led United Nations forces in the Korean War.

MacArthur led the troops in the Korean War, but when he pushed for an all-out war with North Korea's ally, China, Harry Truman fired him.


In the 1980s this religious leader stepped into the political realm by supporting Poland's anti-Communist social movement, led by the trade union Solidarity.

Pope John Paul II really did a solid for his fellow Poles by supporting the solidarity movement.


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