Northern Eurasia 1949: NATO and the Two Germanys
On April 4, the United States and its European allies formed the NATO alliance to counter the Soviet Union. On May 12, the Soviets ended the Berlin blockade. Eleven days later, the western occupation zone of Germany became an independent republic. The Soviet-occupied east followed suit in October.
15 Aug 1948 First Republic of South Korea▲
The Republic of Korea was formally established in South Korea, succeeding the United States Army Military Government in Korea. Syngman Rhee—an independence activist who had won the South Korean presidential elections of July 1948—was inaugurated as the new country’s first president.
9 Sep 1948 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea▲
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed in Pyongyang, capital of Soviet-dominated North Korea. Kim Il-Sung—chairman of the Worker’s Party of North Korea and a former Korean Red Army officer—assumed the role of premier.
4 Apr 1949 North Atlantic Treaty▲
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington DC, creating a formal alliance—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO—between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the United States. The treaty, primarily directed against the Soviet Union, committed each member state to consider any armed attack against another member state, in Europe or North America, to be an attack against them all.
23 May 1949 German Federal Republic▲
On 1 June 1948 the Anglo-American Bizone was merged with France to become the Trizone, unifying Western Allied-occupied Germany. On 12 May 1949 the western Allies agreed to implement a constitution for the Trizone, establishing the German Federal Republic (West Germany) on 23 May, with Bonn as its provisional capital.
29 Aug 1949 RDS-1▲
In its first nuclear weapon test, the Soviet Union detonated RDS-1—code-named Joe-1 by the United States—on 29 August 1949 at 7:00 am at Semipalatinsk, Kazakh SSR. Radioactive fission products from the test were detected by the US Air Force, prompting US President Truman to notify the world of the situation the following month. The test surprised the Western powers, who had estimated that the Soviets would not be able to build an atomic bomb until 1953–54.
1 Oct 1949 People’s Republic of China▲
Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing. Beijing, formally Beiping, was declared the capital of the new republic. The Soviet Union recognized the PRC the next day, with most of the other Communist countries following suit that month. However it was not until 1971 that the United Nations would recognize the PRC as the representative of China.
7 Oct 1949 German Democratic Republic▲
In April 1946 the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) was formed in the Soviet Zone in Germany by merging the rival Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). In October 1949, in response to the establishment of German Federal Republic in the west, the SED established the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, with its capital in (East) Berlin. Retaining close ties with the Soviets, the SED continued on as the ruling party of East Germany until the state’s end in 1989.