Website Review

A Visual Guide to the Cold War

Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A Visual Guide to the Cold War is a digital collection of primary source images centering on the Cold War. This website was created by the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was designed primarily for middle and high school students and teachers. The goal of the site is to facilitate discussion around key themes of the Cold War and provide insight into both American and Soviet perspectives. 

This site houses an impressive collection of visual sources ranging from post-World War II tensions to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The diverse types of images include political cartoons, photographs, posters, movies, and Soviet textbooks. In addition to boasting hundreds of images, the website is intuitive to navigate. Visitors can explore the collection by decade, theme, or media type, easily finding content for any part of the Cold War. Each section begins with a short paragraph to provide context for that specific sub-collection of images. Each image is accompanied by a brief explanation or contextualization, and most include a citation. The website also includes a “Working with Primary Sources” page to remind students of the appropriate practices for analyzing a primary source.  

Naturally, this website invites comparisons between the American and Soviet interpretations of the same event. A classroom activity could be to allow students to pick an event from the “Theme” dropdown, and then allow them to analyze and compare one American and one Soviet image of their choosing. An example of this would be comparing these American and Soviet political cartoons about the Korean War. Students could either work individually or in pairs and then share their findings with their classmates in small groups. This exercise would allow students to practice how to evaluate a primary source, contextualize it with what they have learned in class, and communicate their thoughts to their peers.  

The website’s biggest (yet expected) weakness is that a lot of the sources focus on the American perspective. This can be due to the site’s primarily American audience, the availability of American images, or simply the structure of the project. The Cold War, however, was a global ideological conflict that directly and indirectly affected many countries. To find explicitly global sources relating to the Cold War, filter by the themes “Vietnam War”, “The Korean War”, or “Berlin Wall”. Overall, this website is an engaging way for students to practice primary source analysis and learn about the Cold War.  

Reviewed by Savannah Scott, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"A Visual Guide to the Cold War," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/visual-guide-cold-war [accessed May 28, 2024]
Soviet Astronaut holding the red hammer and sickle for Soviet propaganda
“The goal of the site is to facilitate discussion around key themes of the Cold War and provide insight into both American and Soviet perspectives. ”