Churchill's speech was seen by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as “war mongering” and it heralded the beginning of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The term 'Iron Curtain' describes the "impenetrable barrier" or border between the states that became members of the Warsaw Pact (in Eastern Europe), and those that were not (then called The West).
What was the Iron Curtain? The Iron Curtain is a phrase used to describe the "impenetrable barrier" between the Soviet Bloc in the East and the countries of the West.
What does the Iron Curtain refer to? The Iron Curtain refers to the sphere of influence that the Soviet Union had among eight communist states of Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
What countries were behind the Iron Curtain? The Communist countries behind the Iron Curtain were the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Albania
Who first spoke of the Iron Curtain? The term 'Iron Curtain' was made popular in a speech by Winston Churchill but the term itself dates back to 1819 and was used by U.S. diplomat Allen W. Dulles at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on December 3, 1945.
Facts about Iron Curtain
The term "Iron Curtain" was used to describe the boundary that separated the free democratic countries of the West with the communist dominated countries of the East, as shown in the map. The boundary existed from 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991.
The Eastern Bloc was another name given to the countries of eastern and central Europe which were under Soviet domination from the end of WW2 until the collapse of the Soviet communist system in 1991.
The Iron Curtain descended between the East and the West due to agreements that were made by the United States, Great Britain and Russia in the Percentages Agreement, the Yalta Conference and the Potsdam Conference - many of these agreements were subsequently broken by Russia.
The Percentages Agreement was made between Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill during the Fourth Moscow Conference on October 1944, about how to divide various European countries into spheres of influence. Under the Percentages Agreement the UK and USSR agreed to divide Europe into spheres of influence, with one country having "predominance" in one sphere, and the other country would have "predominance" in another sphere.
The Yalta Conference (February 4, 1945 - February 11, 1945) was a meeting between Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin to discuss the end of WW2 and plan the occupation of Nazi Germany, the defeat of Japan and the ensuing peace in the postwar world. Within weeks of meeting at Yalta the Soviets had broken many of the agreements.
The Potsdam Conference (July 17, 1945 to 2 August 2, 1945) followed shortly after the Yalta Conference but in a matter of just a few weeks significant changes had occurred.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died on April 12, 1945 and Vice-President Harry Truman had assumed the presidency. Winston Churchill lost the election and was replaced by Clement Atlee as the British Prime Minister
The political situation had radically changed since the Yalta Conference at which time the Americans believed they needed the Soviets to help in the war against Japan. The strongly anti-communist Harry Truman was highly suspicious of Stalin and adopted a hard line against the Russians.
President Truman informed Stalin at the Potsdam Conference that the US had successfully tested the Atomic Bomb.
Truman forced Stalin to back down on his demands for heavy war reparations from Germany. Stalin was furious and refused to uphold the Declaration of Liberated Europe which agreed to free elections in the countries of eastern Europe.
The goodwill and relationships quickly deteriorated between the once Allied nations and Soviet-American wartime cooperation degenerated into what would become the Cold War
The Iron Curtain was set to descend separating the Communist countries of Eastern Europe under the influence of Russia from the democratic countries of the West.
Twenty million Russians had died during WW2 and Joseph Stalin was determined that Russia would never be invaded again. To safeguard Russia his plan was to establish a 'buffer zone' of friendly, Communist states around Russia.
Russian military forces, the Red Army, drove the German Nazis back and Russia occupied large areas of Eastern Europe that had once been claimed by Nazi Germany. There was therefore a huge presence of the Soviet Army in Eastern Europe.
In the countries "liberated" by the Soviet Red Army, communist-dominated governments took power. Although these countries were not ostensibly under direct Russian control they had to remain Communist and follow policies approved by the Soviets.
The Communist countries established behind the Iron Curtain were the Soviet Union, East Germany (1945), Bulgaria (1945), Czechoslovakia (1948), Hungary (1947), Poland (1947), Romania (1947) and Albania (1945).
The Communist countries behind the Iron Curtain came to be referred to as the 'Satellite Nations'.
Although Yugoslavia was Communist politically it was not considered to be behind the Iron Curtain. The president of Yugoslavia, Josip Tito, was able to maintain access with the west while leading a communist country
As Winston Churchill watched the Iron Curtain descend between the East and the West he was invited by President Truman to make a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He gave the famous "Sinews of Peace" speech on March 5, 1946 at in which he described the descent of the Iron Curtain and condemned the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe.
The policies in the Soviet Union prevented contact of the free world with the Iron Curtain countries, the 'Satellite Nations', and their people.
The Communists behind the Iron Curtain controlled the army and set up a secret police force. Opponents of Communism were beaten and many were arrested and executed.
After WW2 the country of Germany was divided into two separate countries - East Germany and West Germany. East Germany became a communist country under the control of the Soviet Union. West Germany was a democratic country and allied with Great Britain, France, and the United States.
Hundreds of thousands of people defected from the East to the West and defection was easier in the Berlin because it was controlled by all four major powers. On August 12, 1961 the Soviets and the East German leaders ordered the building of the Berlin Wall to prevent people from leaving. The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years until October 3, 1990 when Germany was officially reunified into a single country.
The Iron Curtain was lifted due to the collapse of communism. The Soviet Union fell in 1991 ending the Cold War.
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