From Enemy to Ally to Enemy

Origins and the First Cold War, 1917-1945

Comparing British policy in and regarding Cyprus and Hong Kong supports the expansion of defining not only who fought the Cold War and how but also when and why it was fought. British colonization of these two islands was interconnected with the expansionist ambitions of Tsarist Russia, which, once married with communism after 1917, defined the frontlines of the subsequent Cold War contest. In what some have called the First Cold War, from Britain’s intervention in the Russian Civil War in 1918 to its uneasy alliance with the Soviet Union against the Axis powers in 1941, British distrust of the revolutionary and regicidal Bolsheviks resulted in domestic, foreign, and colonial policies aimed at resisting the spread of communism.1 This conflict after 1945 took on new battlefields, new weapons, new players, and a greater intensity, but it was still fundamentally a conflict against Soviet imperialism (real and imagined). And Hong Kong and Cyprus, as we will see, were central to its origins and development.

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