Government and Politics

Iron Curtain

Who coined the term “iron curtain”?

It was former British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965). In a March 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri, he remarked that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” The statesman, who had been instrumental in coordinating the Allied victory in World War II (1939–45), was commenting on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s (1879–1953) tactics in Eastern Europe, which indicated the Soviets were putting up barriers against the West—and building up Soviet domination behind those barriers.

Just as he had issued warnings of the threat posed by Nazi Germany prior to World War II, Churchill astutely observed the rapidly emerging situation in Eastern Europe: In 1946 the Soviets installed Communist governments in neighboring Romania and in nearby Bulgaria; in 1947 Hungary and Poland came under Communist control as well; and the following year, Communists took control of Czechoslovakia. These countries, along with Albania, Yugoslavia, and East Germany, soon formed a coalition of Communist allies—and the Eastern bloc was formed. The United States and its democratic allies formed the Western bloc. The stage was set for the Cold War (1947–89).


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