Iron Curtain

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Truman 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". 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 , in which he protested against such a U.

The first American print reference to the "Iron Curtain" occurred when C. The term was first used in the British House of Commons by Churchill on 16 August 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 , referring to only Germany, 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". The antagonism between the Soviet Union and the West that came to be described as the "iron curtain" had various origins.

During the summer of , after conducting negotiations both with a British-French group and with Nazi Germany regarding potential military and political agreements, [26] the Soviet Union and Nazi 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 [27] [28] and the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact signed in late August , named after the foreign secretaries of the two countries Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop , which included a secret agreement to split Poland and Eastern Europe between the two states.

From August , relations between the West and the Soviets deteriorated further when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany engaged in an extensive economic relationship by which the Soviet Union sent Germany vital oil, rubber, manganese and other materials in exchange for German weapons, manufacturing machinery and technology.

In the course of World War II, Stalin determined [ citation needed ] to acquire a buffer area against Germany, with pro-Soviet states on its border in an Eastern bloc. Stalin's aims led to strained relations at the Yalta Conference February and the subsequent Potsdam Conference August In return, Stalin promised the Western Allies that he would allow those territories the right to national self-determination.

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. Roosevelt had announced at Yalta that after the defeat of Germany, U. 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 as a close ally in the context of the recent defeat of Nazi Germany and of Japan. Although not well received at the time, the phrase iron curtain gained popularity as a shorthand reference to the division of Europe as the Cold War 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.

Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" address was to strongly criticise the Soviet Union's exclusive and secretive tension policies along with the Eastern Europe's state form, Police State Polizeistaat.

Truman, of a hard line anti-Soviet, anticommunist policy. After that the phrase became more widely used as anti-Soviet term in the West. In addition, Churchill mentioned in his speech that regions under the Soviet Union's control were expanding their leverage and power without any restriction. He asserted that in order to put a brake on this ongoing phenomenon, the commanding force of and strong unity between the UK and the US was necessary. Stalin took note of Churchill's speech and responded in Pravda soon afterward.

He accused Churchill of warmongering, and defended Soviet "friendship" with eastern European states as a necessary safeguard against another invasion. He further accused Churchill of hoping to install right-wing governments in eastern Europe with the goal of agitating those states against the Soviet Union. Hard as bourgeois politicians and writers may strive to conceal the truth of the achievements of the Soviet order and Soviet culture, hard as they may strive to erect an iron curtain to keep the truth about the Soviet Union from penetrating abroad, hard as they may strive to belittle the genuine growth and scope of Soviet culture, all their efforts are foredoomed to failure.

The Soviet Union annexed:. Germany effectively gave Moscow a free hand in much of these territories in the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact of , signed before Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Between and the Soviets converted the following areas into Soviet satellite states:.

Soviet-installed governments ruled the Eastern Bloc countries, with the exception of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , which retained its full independence. With the exception of a period of fascism in Spain until and Portugal until and a military dictatorship in Greece — , democratic governments ruled these countries.

Most of the nominally neutral states were economically closer to the United States than they were to the Warsaw Pact. After five and a half weeks of negotiations, Molotov refused the demands and the talks were adjourned. Stalin opposed the Marshall Plan. He had built up the Eastern Bloc protective belt of Soviet controlled nations on his Western border, [54] and wanted to maintain this buffer zone of states combined with a weakened Germany under Soviet control. Relations further deteriorated when, in January , the U.

State Department also published a collection of documents titled Nazi-Soviet Relations, — Documents from the Archives of The German Foreign Office , which contained documents recovered from the Foreign Office of Nazi Germany [58] [59] revealing Soviet conversations with Germany regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact , including its secret protocol dividing eastern Europe, [60] [61] the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement , [60] [62] and discussions of the Soviet Union potentially becoming the fourth Axis Power.

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 , the Soviet Union cut off surface road access to Berlin , initiating the Berlin Blockade , which cut off all non-Soviet food, water and other supplies for the citizens of the non-Soviet sectors of Berlin.

One of the conclusions of the Yalta Conference was that the western Allies would return all Soviet citizens who found themselves in their zones to the Soviet Union. Migration from east to west of the Iron Curtain, except under limited circumstances, was effectively halted after Before , 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.

The Iron Curtain took physical shape in the form of border defenses between the countries of western and eastern Europe. There 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 was built.

The installation of the Wall in brought an end to a decade during which the divided capital of divided Germany was one of the easiest places to move west across the Iron Curtain. 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.

Shooting incidents were not uncommon, and a total of 28 East German border guards and several hundred civilians were killed between — some may have been victims of " 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. 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. The area was very difficult to approach and heavily fortified.

The space between the two fences were laden with land mines. The minefield was later replaced with an electric signal fence about 1 kilometre 0. Regular patrols sought to prevent escape attempts. They included cars and mounted units. The wire fence nearest the actual border was irregularly displaced from the actual border, which was marked only by stones. 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 Soviet Union built a fence along the entire border to Norway and Finland. It is located one or a few kilometres from the border, and has automatic alarms detecting if someone climbs over it. Additionally, the Greek state used this area to encapsulate and monitor a non-Greek ethnic minority, the Pomaks , a Muslim and Bulgarian-speaking minority which was regarded as hostile to the interests of the Greek state during the Cold War because of its familiarity with their fellow Pomaks living on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

The Hungarian 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 , the foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary, Alois Mock and Gyula Horn , 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 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 nature preserve area along the Iron Curtain's former route. In fact, a long-distance cycling route along the length of the former border called the Iron Curtain Trail ICT exists as a project of the European Union and other associated nations.

The term "Iron Curtain" was only used for the fortified borders in Europe; it was not used for similar borders in Asia between communist and capitalist states these were, for a time, dubbed the Bamboo Curtain.

The border between North Korea and South Korea 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.

Following a period of economic and political stagnation under Brezhnev and his immediate successors, the Soviet Union decreased its intervention in Eastern Bloc politics. Mikhail Gorbachev General Secretary from decreased adherence to the Brezhnev Doctrine , [75] 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 ".

He also initiated the policies of glasnost openness and perestroika economic restructuring. A wave of Revolutions occurred throughout the Eastern Bloc in 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 16 to 20 October, the Hungarian parliament adopted legislation providing for multi-party parliamentary elections and a direct presidential election. The legislation transformed Hungary from a People's Republic 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 , following mass protests in East Germany and the relaxing of border restrictions in Czechoslovakia, tens of thousands of East Berliners flooded checkpoints along the Berlin Wall , crossing into West Berlin.

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 , 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 A few hundred meters of the original fence, and one of the guard towers, has remained installed.

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