Iron Curtain

Iron Curtain

Overview
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 into two separate areas from the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1945 until the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 in 1989. On either side of the Iron Curtain, states developed their own international economic and military alliances:
  • The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
    Comecon
    The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

     and the military Warsaw Pact
    Warsaw Pact
    The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

     on the east side, with the Soviet Union
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

     as the most important member of each
  • The European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on the west and south.


Physically, the Iron Curtain took the shape of border defences between the countries of Western
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 and Eastern
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, most notably the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

, which served as a longtime symbol of the Curtain as a whole.

The events that demolished the Iron Curtain started in Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

, and continued in Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

.
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Encyclopedia
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 into two separate areas from the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1945 until the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 in 1989. On either side of the Iron Curtain, states developed their own international economic and military alliances:
  • The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
    Comecon
    The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

     and the military Warsaw Pact
    Warsaw Pact
    The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

     on the east side, with the Soviet Union
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

     as the most important member of each
  • The European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on the west and south.


Physically, the Iron Curtain took the shape of border defences between the countries of Western
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 and Eastern
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, most notably the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

, which served as a longtime symbol of the Curtain as a whole.

The events that demolished the Iron Curtain started in Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

, and continued in Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

. Romania was the only Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 country to violently overthrow its communist regime.

Analogous terms


Throughout the Cold War the term "curtain" would become a common euphemism for boundaries – physical or ideological – between communist and capitalist states.
  • An analogue of the Iron Curtain, the Bamboo Curtain
    Bamboo Curtain
    The Bamboo Curtain was a euphemism for the east Asian version of the Iron Curtain. As a physical boundary, it was marked by the borders around the Communist states of East Asia, in particular those of the People's Republic of China that were shared with non-Communist nations, during the Cold War...

    , surrounded the People's Republic of China
    People's Republic of China
    China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

    . As the standoff between the West and the countries of the Iron and Bamboo curtains eased with the end of the Cold War, the term fell out of any but historical usage.
  • The short distance between Russia and the U.S state of Alaska
    Alaska
    Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

     in the Bering Sea
    Bering Sea
    The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....

     became known as the "Ice Curtain" during the Cold War.
  • A field of cacti
    Cactus
    A cactus is a member of the plant family Cactaceae. Their distinctive appearance is a result of adaptations to conserve water in dry and/or hot environments. In most species, the stem has evolved to become photosynthetic and succulent, while the leaves have evolved into spines...

     surrounding the U.S. Naval
    United States Navy
    The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

     station at Guantanamo Bay
    Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
    Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is located on of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba which the United States leased for use as a coaling station following the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903. The base is located on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas...

     planted by Cuba
    Cuba
    The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

     was occasionally termed the "cactus curtain".

Pre–Cold War usage



There are various earlier usages of the term "iron curtain" pre-dating Churchill. The usage of the term goes back to the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sota 38b, which refers to a "mechitza shel barzel," an iron barrier or divider: "אפילו מחיצה של ברזל אינה מפסקת בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים" (Even an iron barrier cannot separate [the people of] Israel from their heavenly father). Some research suggests the term 'Iron Curtain' was first coined by Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians after World War I to describe the political situation between Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, in 1914.

The first recorded use of the term iron
Iron (metaphor)
Iron, when used metaphorically, refers to certain traits of the metal iron. Used as an adjective and sometimes as a noun, it refers to something stern, harsh, unyielding, inflexible, rigid, sturdy, strong, robust...

 curtain
Curtain
A curtain is a piece of cloth intended to block or obscure light, or drafts, or water in the case of a shower curtain. Curtains hung over a doorway are known as portières...

was derived from the safety curtain used in theatres and first applied to the border of communist Russia as "an impenetrable barrier" in 1920 by Ethel Snowden
Ethel Snowden
Ethel Snowden, Viscountess Snowden, born Ethel Annakin , was a British socialist and feminist politician. From a middle-class background, she became a Christian Socialist through a radical preacher and initially promoted temperance and teetotalism in the slums of Liverpool...

, in her book Through Bolshevik Russia.

The term also appears in the 1933 satirical novel England, Their England
England, Their England
England, Their England is an affectionately satirical comic novel of 1920s English urban and rural society by the Scottish writer A. G. Macdonell. It is particularly famed for its portrayal of village cricket.-Social satire:...

; used there to describe the way an artillery barrage protected the infantry from an enemy assault: "...the western sky was a blaze of yellow flame. The iron curtain was down." Sebastian Haffner
Sebastian Haffner
Sebastian Haffner was a German journalist and author. He wrote mainly about recent German history....

 used the metaphor in his book Germany: Jekyll & Hyde, published in London in 1940, in introducing his discussion of the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933. "Back then to March 1933. How, a moment before the iron curtain was wrung down on it, did the German political stage appear?"

An iron curtain, or eiserner Vorhang, was an obligatory precaution in all German theatres to prevent the possibility of fire spreading from the stage to the rest of the theatre. Such fires were rather common because the decor often was very flammable. In case of fire, a metal wall would separate the stage from the theatre, secluding the flames to be extinguished by firefighters. Douglas Reed
Douglas Reed
Douglas Reed was a British journalist, playwright, novelist and author of a number of books of political analysis. His book Insanity Fair was influential in publicizing the state of Europe and the megalomania of Adolf Hitler before the Second World War...

 used this metaphor in his book Disgrace Abounding (Jonathan Cape
Jonathan Cape
Jonathan Cape was a London-based publisher founded in 1919 as "Page & Co" by Herbert Jonathan Cape , formerly a manager at Duckworth who had worked his way up from a position of bookshop errand boy. Cape brought with him the rights to cheap editions of the popular author Elinor Glyn and sales of...

, 1939, page 129): "The bitter strife [in Yugoslavia between Serb unionists and Croat federalists] had only been hidden by the iron safety-curtain of the King's dictatorship."

A May 1943 article in Signal, a Nazi illustrated propaganda periodical published in many languages, was titled "Behind the Iron Curtain." It discussed "the iron curtain that more than ever before separates the world from the Soviet Union." The German Minister of Propaganda
Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda
The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was Nazi Germany's ministry that enforced Nazi Party ideology in Germany and regulated its culture and society. Founded on March 13, 1933, by Adolf Hitler's new National Socialist government, the Ministry was headed by Dr...

 Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 wrote in his weekly newspaper Das Reich
Das Reich (newspaper)
Das Reich was a weekly newspaper founded by Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of the Third Reich, in May 1940...

of a Soviet-formed "iron curtain" that would arise because of agreements made by Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 and Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 at the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

: "An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered." The first oral intentional mention of an Iron Curtain in the Soviet context was in a broadcast by Schwerin von Krosigk
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, born Johann Ludwig von Krosigk and known as Lutz von Krosigk was a German jurist and senior government official, who served during May of 1945 in the historically unique position of Leading Minister of the German Reich, the equivalent of a Chancellorship in...

 to the German people on 2 May 1945: "In the East the iron curtain behind which, unseen by the eyes of the world, the work of destruction goes on, is moving steadily forward."

The first recorded occasion on which Churchill used the term "iron curtain" was in a 12 May 1945 telegram he sent to U.S. President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 regarding his concern about Soviet actions, stating "[a]n iron curtain is drawn down upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind." He was further concerned about "another immense flight of the German population westward as this enormous Muscovite advance towards the center of Europe." Churchill concluded "then the curtain will descend again to a very large extent, if not entirely. Thus a broad land of many hundreds of miles of Russian-occupied territory will isolate us from Poland."

Churchill repeated the words in a further telegram to President Truman on 4 June 1945, in which he protested against such a U.S. retreat to what was earlier designated as, and ultimately became, the U.S. occupation zone, saying the military withdrawal would bring "Soviet power into the heart of Western Europe and the descent of an iron curtain between us and everything to the eastward."

At the Potsdam Conference
Potsdam Conference
The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern, in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 16 July to 2 August 1945. Participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States...

, Churchill complained to Stalin about an "iron fence" coming down upon the British Mission in Bucharest.

The first American print reference to the "Iron Curtain" occurred when C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times first used it in a dispatch published on 23 July 1945. He had heard the term used by Vladko Maček
Vladko Macek
Vladko Maček was a Croatian politician active within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the first half of the 20th century. He led the Croatian Peasant Party following the assassination of Stjepan Radić, and all through World War II.- Early life :Maček was born to a Slovene-Czech family in the village...

, a Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

n politician, a Yugoslav opposition leader who had fled his homeland for Paris in May 1945. Maček told Sulzberger, "During the four years while I was interned by the Germans in Croatia I saw how the Partisans were lowering an iron curtain over Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] so that nobody could know what went on behind it."

The term was first used in the British House of Commons by Churchill on 16 August 1945 when he stated "it is not impossible that tragedy on a prodigious scale is unfolding itself behind the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain."

Allen Dulles used the term in a speech on 3 December 1945, referring to only Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, following his conclusion that "in general the Russians are acting little better than thugs", had "wiped out all the liquid assets", and refused to issue food cards to emigrating Germans, leaving them "often more dead than alive." Dulles concluded that "[a]n iron curtain has descended over the fate of these people and very likely conditions are truly terrible. The promises at Yalta to the contrary, probably 8 to 10 million people are being enslaved."

Building antagonism


The antagonism between the Soviet Union and the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 that came to be described as the "iron curtain" had various origins.

The Allied Powers and the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 had backed the White movement
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

 against the Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s during the 1918–1920 Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

, and the Soviets had not forgotten the fact.

During the summer of 1939, after conducting negotiations both with a British-French group and with Germany regarding potential military and political agreements,
the Soviet Union and Germany signed the German–Soviet Commercial Agreement (which provided for the trade of certain German military and civilian equipment in exchange for Soviet raw materials) and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 (signed in late August 1939), named after the foreign secretaries of the two countries (Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 and Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

), which included a secret agreement to split Poland and Eastern Europe between the two states.

The Soviets thereafter occupied Eastern Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 (September 1939), Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 (June 1940), Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 (1940), northern Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 (Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

 and Northern Bukovina, late June, 1940), Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 (1940) and eastern Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 (March 1940). From August 1939, relations between the West and the Soviets deteriorated further when the Soviet Union and Germany engaged in an extensive economic relationship
Nazi–Soviet economic relations
After the Nazis rose to power in Germany in 1933, relations between Germany and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly, and trade between the two countries decreased. Following several years of high tension and rivalry, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union began to improve relations in 1939...

 by which the Soviet Union sent Germany vital oil, rubber, manganese and other materials in exchange for German weapons, manufacturing machinery and technology.
Nazi-Soviet trade ended in June 1941 when Germany broke the Pact and invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

.

In the course of World War II, Stalin determined to acquire a buffer area against Germany, with pro-Soviet states on its border in an Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

. Stalin's aims led to strained relations at the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

 (February 1945) and the subsequent Potsdam Conference
Potsdam Conference
The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern, in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 16 July to 2 August 1945. Participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States...

 (August 1945).
People in the West expressed opposition to Soviet domination over the buffer states, and the fear grew that the Soviets were building an empire that might be a threat to them and their interests.

Nonetheless, at the Potsdam Conference
Potsdam Conference
The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern, in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 16 July to 2 August 1945. Participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States...

, the Allies assigned parts of Poland, Finland, Romania, Germany, and the Balkans to Soviet control or influence. In return, Stalin promised the Western Allies that he would allow those territories the right to national self-determination
Self-determination
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

. Despite Soviet cooperation during the war, these concessions left many in the West uneasy. In particular, Churchill feared that the United States might return to its pre-war isolationism, leaving the exhausted European states unable to resist Soviet demands. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 had announced at Yalta that after the defeat of Germany, U.S. forces would withdraw from Europe within two years.)

Iron Curtain speech


Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

's "Sinews of Peace" address
of 5 March 1946, at Westminster College
Westminster College, Missouri
Westminster College is a private, selective, liberal arts institution in Fulton, Missouri, USA. It was founded by Presbyterians in 1849 as Fulton College and assumed the present name in 1851. The are located on the campus. The National Churchill Museum is a national historic site and includes...

, used the term "iron curtain" in the context of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an "iron curtain" has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.


Much of the Western public still regarded the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 as a close ally in the context of the recent defeat of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

, resulting in many seeing Churchill's speech as warmongering and unnecessary. In light of the subsequent opening of Soviet archives, some historians have revised their opinions.

Although not well received at the time, the phrase "iron curtain" gained popularity as a short-hand reference to the division of Europe as the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 strengthened. The Iron Curtain served to keep people in and information out, and people throughout the West eventually came to accept and use the metaphor.

Eastern Bloc



While the Iron Curtain remained in place, much of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 and part of Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 (except West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

) found themselves under the hegemony of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The Soviet Union annexed:
  • Estonia
    Estonia
    Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

    ,
  • Latvia
    Latvia
    Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

  • Lithuania
    Lithuania
    Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...


as Soviet Socialist Republics within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Germany effectively gave Moscow a free hand in much of these territories in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 of 1939, signed before Germany invaded the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 in 1941.

Other Soviet-annexed territories included:
  • Eastern Poland
    Kresy
    The Polish term Kresy refers to a land considered by Poles as historical eastern provinces of their country. Today, it makes western Ukraine, western Belarus, as well as eastern Lithuania, with such major cities, as Lviv, Vilnius, and Hrodna. This territory belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian...

     (incorporated into Ukrainian and Byelorussian SSRs),
  • Part of eastern Finland
    Finland
    Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

     (became part of the Karelo-Finnish SSR
    Karelo-Finnish SSR
    The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic was a short-lived republic that was a part of the former Soviet Union. The republic existed from 1940 until it was merged back into the Russian SFSR in 1956 ....

    )
  • Northern Romania
    Romania
    Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

     (part of which became the Moldavian SSR
    Moldavian SSR
    The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic , commonly abbreviated to Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union...

    ).


Between 1945 and 1949 the Soviets converted the following areas into Soviet satellite
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

 states:
  • The German Democratic Republic
  • The People's Republic of Bulgaria
  • The People's Republic of Poland
    People's Republic of Poland
    The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

  • The People's Republic of Hungary
    People's Republic of Hungary
    The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

  • The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
    Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
    The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

  • The People's Republic of Romania
  • The People's Republic of Albania (which re-aligned itself in the 1960s away from the Soviet Union and towards the People's Republic of China
    People's Republic of China
    China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

    )


Soviet-installed governments ruled the Eastern Bloc countries, with the exception of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...

, which retained its full independence.

The majority of European states to the east of the Iron Curtain developed their own international economic and military alliances, such as COMECON
Comecon
The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

 and the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

.

West of the Iron Curtain



To the west of the Iron Curtain, the countries of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

 and Southern Europe
Southern Europe
The term Southern Europe, at its most general definition, is used to mean "all countries in the south of Europe". However, the concept, at different times, has had different meanings, providing additional political, linguistic and cultural context to the definition in addition to the typical...

—along with Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

 and Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

—operated market economies
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

. With the exception of a period of fascism
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 (until the 1970s) and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 (until 1974) and military dictatorship in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 (1967–1974), democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 governments ruled these countries.

Most states to the west of the Iron Curtain—with the exception of neutral
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

 Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 and Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

—allied themselves with the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 within NATO. Economically, the European Community and the European Free Trade Association
European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union . EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to,...

 formed the Western counterparts to COMECON
Comecon
The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

. Most of the nominally neutral
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

 states were economically closer to the United States than they were to the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

.

Further division in the late 1940s


In January 1947 Truman appointed General George Marshall
George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense...

 as Secretary of State, scrapped Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) directive 1067 (which embodied the Morgenthau Plan
Morgenthau Plan
The Morgenthau Plan, proposed by United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., advocated that the Allied occupation of Germany following World War II include measures to eliminate Germany's ability to wage war.-Overview:...

) and supplanted it with JCS 1779, which decreed that an orderly and prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany." Administration officials met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 and others to press for an economically self-sufficient Germany, including a detailed accounting of the industrial plants, goods and infrastructure already removed by the Soviets.

After five and a half weeks of negotiations, Molotov refused the demands and the talks were adjourned. Marshall was particularly discouraged after personally meeting with Stalin, who expressed little interest in a solution to German economic problems. The United States concluded that a solution could not wait any longer. In a 5 June 1947 speech, Marshall announced a comprehensive program of American assistance to all European countries wanting to participate, including the Soviet Union and those of Eastern Europe, called the Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

.

Stalin opposed the Marshall Plan. He had built up the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 protective belt of Soviet controlled nations on his Western border, and wanted to maintain this buffer zone of states combined with a weakened Germany under Soviet control. Fearing American political, cultural and economic penetration, Stalin eventually forbade Soviet Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 countries of the newly formed Cominform
Cominform
Founded in 1947, Cominform is the common name for what was officially referred to as the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties...

 from accepting Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

 aid. In Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, that required a Soviet-backed Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948
Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948
The Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948 – in Communist historiography known as "Victorious February" – was an event late that February in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumed undisputed control over the government of Czechoslovakia, ushering in over four decades...

, the brutality of which shocked Western powers more than any event so far and set in a motion a brief scare that war would occur and swept away the last vestiges of opposition to the Marshall Plan in the United States Congress.

Relations further deteriorated when, in January 1948, the U.S. State Department
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 also published a collection of documents titled Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939–1941: Documents from the Archives of The German Foreign Office, which contained documents recovered from the Foreign Office of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 revealing Soviet conversations with Germany regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact negotiations
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was an August 23, 1939 agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany colloquially named after Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The treaty renounced warfare between the two countries...

, including its secret protocol dividing eastern Europe, the 1939 German-Soviet Commercial Agreement, and discussions of the Soviet Union potentially becoming the fourth Axis Power
German–Soviet Axis talks
In October and November 1940, German–Soviet Axis talks occurred concerning the Soviet Union's potential entry as a fourth Axis Power. The negotiations included a two day Berlin conference between Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Adolf Hitler and German Foreign Minister Joachim von...

. In response, one month later, the Soviet Union published Falsifiers of History
Falsifiers of History
Falsifiers of History is a book published by the Soviet Information Bureau, edited and partially re-written by Joseph Stalin, in response to documents made public in January 1948 regarding German–Soviet relations before and after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.-Background on Nazi–Soviet Relations...

, a Stalin-edited and partially re-written book attacking the West.

After the Marshall Plan, the introduction of a new currency to Western Germany to replace the debased Reichsmark and massive electoral losses for communist parties, in June 1948, the Soviet Union cut off surface road access to Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, initiating the Berlin Blockade
Berlin Blockade
The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first resulting in casualties. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied...

, which cut off all non-Soviet food, water and other supplies for the citizens of the non-Soviet sectors of Berlin. Because Berlin was located within the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany, the only available methods of supplying the city were three limited air corridors. A massive aerial supply campaign was initiated by the United States, Britain, France and other countries, the success of which caused the Soviets to lift their blockade in May 1949.

Emigration restrictions


One of the conclusions of the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

 was that the western Allies would return all Soviet citizens
Operation Keelhaul
Operation Keelhaul was carried out in Northern Italy by British and American forces to repatriate Soviet Armed Forces POWs of the Nazis to the Soviet Union between August 14, 1946 and May 9, 1947...

 who found themselves in their zones to the Soviet Union. This affected the liberated Soviet prisoners of war (branded as traitors), forced laborers, anti-Soviet collaborators with the Germans, and anti-communist refugees.

Migration from east to west of the Iron Curtain, except under limited circumstances, was effectively halted after 1950. Before 1950, over 15 million people (mainly ethnic Germans) emigrated from Soviet-occupied eastern European countries to the west in the five years immediately following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. However, restrictions implemented during the Cold War stopped most East-West migration, with only 13.3 million migrations westward between 1950 and 1990. More than 75% of those emigrating from Eastern Bloc countries between 1950 and 1990 did so under bilateral agreements for "ethnic migration."

About 10% were refugees permitted to emigrate under the Geneva Convention of 1951. Most Soviets allowed to leave during this time period were ethnic Jews permitted to emigrate to Israel after a series of embarrassing defections in 1970 caused the Soviets to open very limited ethnic emigrations. The fall of the Iron Curtain was accompanied by a massive rise in European East-West migration.

As a physical entity


The Iron Curtain took physical shape in the form of border defenses between the countries of western and eastern Europe. These were some of the most heavily militarised areas in the world, particularly the so-called "inner German border"—commonly known as die Grenze in German — between East and West Germany. The inner German border was marked in rural areas by double fences made of steel mesh (expanded metal) with sharp edges, while near urban areas a high concrete barrier similar to the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 was built.

The barrier was always a short distance inside East German territory to avoid any intrusion into Western territory. The actual borderline was marked by posts and signs and was overlooked by numerous watchtowers set behind the barrier. The strip of land on the West German side of the barrier — between the actual borderline and the barrier — was readily accessible but only at considerable personal risk, because it was patrolled by both East and West German border guards.


Several villages, many historic, were destroyed as they lay too close to the border, for example Erlebach
Erlebach
Erlebach was a village in Germany, founded in 837 A D. It was destroyed by the East German authorities in 1986 as it stood too close to the Inner German border , the border between the post-war states of East and West Germany...

. Shooting incidents were not uncommon, and a total of 28 East German border guards and several hundred civilians were killed between 1948–1981 (some may have been victims of "friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

" by their own side).

Elsewhere along the border between West and East the defense works resembled those on the intra-German border. During the Cold War, the border zone in Hungary started 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the border. Citizens could only enter the area if they lived in the zone or had a passport valid for traveling out. Traffic control points and patrols enforced this regulation.

Those who lived within the 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) border-zone needed special permission to enter the area within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of the border. The area was very difficult to approach and heavily fortified. In the 1950s and 1960s, a double barbed-wire fence was installed 50 metres (164 ft) from the border. The space between the two fences were laden with land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s. The minefield was later replaced with an electric signal fence (about 1 kilometre (0.621372736649807 mi) from the border) and a barbed wire fence, along with guard towers and a sand strip to track border violations.

Regular patrols sought to prevent escape attempts. They included cars and mounted units. Guards and dog patrol units watched the border 24/7 and were authorised to use their weapons to stop escapees. The wire fence nearest the actual border was irregularly displaced from the actual border, which was marked only by stones. Anyone attempting to escape would have to cross up to 400 metres (1,312.3 ft) before they could cross the actual border. Several escape attempts failed when the escapees were stopped after crossing the outer fence.

In parts of Czechoslovakia, the border strip became hundreds of meters wide, and an area of increasing restrictions was defined as the border was approached. Only people with the appropriate government permissions were allowed to get close to the border.

The outer fence became the first part of the Iron Curtain to be dismantled. After the border fortifications were dismantled, a section was rebuilt for a formal ceremony. On 27 June 1989, the foreign minister
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

s of Austria and Hungary, Alois Mock
Alois Mock
Alois Mock is a politician and member of the Austrian People's Party . He was Vice Chancellor of Austria from 1987 to 1989. As foreign minister he helped take Austria into the European Union....

 and Gyula Horn
Gyula Horn
Gyula Horn is a Hungarian politician and the third Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary, from 1994–1998....

, ceremonially cut through the border defences separating their countries.

The creation of these highly militarised no-man's lands led to de facto nature reserves and created a wildlife corridor
Wildlife corridor
A wildlife corridor or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities . This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity that often occur within...

 across Europe; this helped the spread of several species to new territories. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, several initiatives are pursuing the creation of a European Green Belt
European Green Belt
The European Green Belt initiative is a grass-roots movement for nature conservation and sustainable development in the area of the former Iron Curtain. The term refers to both an environmental initiative as well as the area it concerns. The initiative is carried out under the patronage of the IUCN...

 nature preserve area along the Iron Curtain's former route.

The term "Iron Curtain" was only used for the fortified borders in central Europe; it was not used for similar borders in Asia between communist and capitalist states (these were, for a time, dubbed the Bamboo Curtain
Bamboo Curtain
The Bamboo Curtain was a euphemism for the east Asian version of the Iron Curtain. As a physical boundary, it was marked by the borders around the Communist states of East Asia, in particular those of the People's Republic of China that were shared with non-Communist nations, during the Cold War...

). The border between North Korea and South Korea
Korean Demilitarized Zone
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and...

 is very comparable to the former inner German border, particularly in its degree of militarisation, but it has never conventionally been considered part of any Iron Curtain.

Fall of the Iron Curtain





Following a period of economic and political stagnation
Brezhnev stagnation
The Era of Stagnation, also known as Brezhnev stagnation or the Stagnation Period, refers to a period of economic stagnation under the rules of Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in the history of the Soviet Union which started in the mid-1970s.-Terminology:Various authors...

, the Soviet Union decreased intervention in Eastern Bloc politics
Eastern Bloc politics
Eastern Bloc politics followed the Red Army's occupation of much of eastern Europe at the end of World War II and the Soviet Union's installation of Soviet-controlled communist governments in the Eastern Bloc through a process of bloc politics and repression...

. Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 decreased adherence to the Brezhnev Doctrine
Brezhnev Doctrine
The Brezhnev Doctrine was a Soviet Union foreign policy, first and most clearly outlined by S. Kovalev in a September 26, 1968 Pravda article, entitled “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries.” Leonid Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the...

, which held that if socialism were threatened in any state then other socialist governments had an obligation to intervene to preserve it, in favor of the "Sinatra Doctrine
Sinatra Doctrine
"Sinatra Doctrine" was the name that the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev used jokingly to describe its policy of allowing neighboring Warsaw Pact nations to determine their own internal affairs...

." He also initiated the policies of glasnost
Glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

(openness) and perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

(economic restructuring). A wave of Revolutions occurred throughout the Eastern Bloc
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

.

In April 1989, the Solidarity organization was legalized in the People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 and captured 99% of available parliamentary seats. These elections, in which anti-communist candidates won a striking victory, inaugurated a series of peaceful anti-communist revolutions
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

 in Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 that eventually culminated in the fall of communism.
On August 19, 1989, more than 600 East Germans attending the "Pan-European Picnic" on the Hungarian border broke through the Iron Curtain and fled into Austria. Hungarian border guards had threatened to shoot anyone crossing the border, but when the time came, they did not intervene and allowed the people to cross. In a historic session from October 16 to October 20, the Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 parliament adopted legislation providing for multi-party parliamentary elections and a direct presidential election. The legislation transformed Hungary from a People's Republic
People's Republic
People's Republic is a title that has often been used by Marxist-Leninist governments to describe their state. The motivation for using this term lies in the claim that Marxist-Leninists govern in accordance with the interests of the vast majority of the people, and, as such, a Marxist-Leninist...

 into the Republic of Hungary, guaranteed human and civil rights, and created an institutional structure that ensured separation of powers among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. In November 1989, following mass protests in East Germany and the relaxing of border restrictions in Czechoslovakia, tens of thousands of East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

ers flooded checkpoints along the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

, crossing into West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

.

In the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the day after the mass crossings across the Berlin Wall, leader Todor Zhivkov
Todor Zhivkov
Todor Khristov Zhivkov was a communist politician and leader of the People's Republic of Bulgaria from March 4, 1954 until November 10, 1989....

 was ousted. In the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

, following protests of an estimated half-million Czechs, the government permitted travel to the west and abolished provisions guaranteeing the ruling Communist party its leading role, preceding the Velvet Revolution
Velvet Revolution
The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place from November 17 – December 29, 1989...

.

In the Socialist Republic of Romania, on December 22, 1989, the Romanian military sided with protesters and turned on Communist ruler Nicolae Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

, who was executed after a brief trial three days later. In the People's Socialist Republic of Albania
People's Socialist Republic of Albania
The People's Republic of Albania was the official name of Albania during the communist rule between 1946 and 1976. The 1976 Constitution changed the name into People's Socialist Republic of Albania , which was the official name of the country from 1976 until 1991.-Consolidation of power and...

, a new package of regulations went into effect on 3 July 1990 entitling all Albanians over the age of 16 to own a passport for foreign travel. Meanwhile, hundreds of Albanian citizens gathered around foreign embassies to seek political asylum and flee the country.

The Berlin Wall officially remained guarded after 9 November 1989, although the inter-German border had become effectively meaningless. The official dismantling of the Wall by the East German military did not begin until June 1990. In July 1990, the day East Germany adopted the West German currency, all border controls ceased and West German
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl
Helmut Josef Michael Kohl is a German conservative politician and statesman. He was Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1973 to 1998...

 convinced Gorbachev to drop Soviet objections to a reunited Germany within NATO in return for substantial German economic aid to the Soviet Union.

Monuments



There is an Iron Curtain monument in the southern part of the Czech Republic at approximately 48°52′33"N 15°52′25"E. A few hundred meters of the original fence, and one of the guard towers, has remained installed. There are interpretive signs in Czech and English that explain the history and significance of the Iron Curtain. This is the only surviving part of the fence in the Czech Republic, though several guard towers and bunkers can still be seen. Some of these are part of the Communist Era defences, some are from the never-used Czechoslovak border fortifications
Czechoslovak border fortifications
The Czechoslovak government built a system of border fortifications from 1935 to 1938 as a defensive countermeasure against the rising threat of Nazi Germany that later materialized in the German offensive plan called Fall Grün...

 in defence against Hitler, and some towers were, or have become, hunting platforms.

Another monument is located in Fertőrákos, Hungary, at the site of the Pan-European picnic. On the eastern hill of the stone quarry stands a metal sculpture by Gabriela von Habsburg
Gabriela von Habsburg
Gabriela von Habsburg, , also known as Archduchess Gabriela of Austria, is the Ambassador of Georgia to Germany since 2009. She is best known as the granddaughter of Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria...

. It is a column made of metal and barbed wire with the date of the Pan-European Picnic and the names of participants. On the ribbon under the board you can read a Latin text:” In necessariis unitas - in dubiis libertas - in omnibus caritas.” (Unity in unavoidable matters — freedom in doubtful matters — love in all things.) The memorial symbolizes the iron curtain and recalls forever the memories of the border breakthrough in 1989.

Another monument is located in the village of Devín
Devín
Devín originally a separate town at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, is now a suburb of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It is an important archaeological site, famous for the ruins of Devín Castle...

, now part of Bratislava
Bratislava
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 431,000, also the country's largest city. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia on both banks of the Danube River. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two independent countries.Bratislava...

, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, at the confluence of the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 and Morava
Morava River (Central Europe)
The Morava is a river in Central Europe. It is the most important river of Moravia, which derives its name from it. The river originates on the Králický Sněžník mountain in the northeastern corner of Pardubice Region, near the border between the Czech Republic and Poland and has a vaguely southern...

 rivers.

There are several open air museums in parts of the former inner German border, as for example in Berlin and in Mödlareuth
Mödlareuth
Mödlareuth is a German village situated partly in Bavaria and partly in Thuringia. The northern part was in East Germany and the southern part in West Germany.The Thuringian part of the village belongs to Gefell while the Bavarian part belongs to Töpen....

, a village that has been divided for several hundred years. The memory of the division is being kept alive in many other places along the Grenze.

See also


  • Berlin Wall
    Berlin Wall
    The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

  • Blue Banana
    Blue Banana
    The Blue Banana is a discontinuous corridor of urbanisation in Western Europe, with a population of around 110 million. It stretches approximately from North West England in the north to Milan in the south...

     at the west of the curtain
  • Danube River Conference of 1948
    Danube River Conference of 1948
    The Danube River Conference of 1948 was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to develop a new international regime for the development and control of the Danube in the wake of World War II...

  • Eastern Bloc
    Eastern bloc
    The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

  • European Green Belt
    European Green Belt
    The European Green Belt initiative is a grass-roots movement for nature conservation and sustainable development in the area of the former Iron Curtain. The term refers to both an environmental initiative as well as the area it concerns. The initiative is carried out under the patronage of the IUCN...

    , a body of conservationists preserving the former Iron Curtain security zone which has become a wildlife preserve
  • Removal of Hungary's border fence
    Removal of Hungary's border fence
    The removal of Hungary's border fence with Austria in May 1989 was a historic event during the Cold War, directly prior to the revolutionary wave known as the "Autumn of Nations".-History:...

  • Revolutions of 1989
    Revolutions of 1989
    The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

  • Telephone tapping in the Eastern Bloc
    Telephone tapping in the Eastern Bloc
    Telephone tapping in the countries of the Eastern Bloc was a widespread method of the mass surveillance of the population by the secret police.-History:...

  • Western betrayal
    Western betrayal
    Western betrayal, also called Yalta betrayal, refers to a range of critical views concerning the foreign policies of several Western countries between approximately 1919 and 1968 regarding Eastern Europe and Central Europe...


External links