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Iron Curtain

The Iron Curtain is a term used in the West to refer to the boundary line which divided Europe into two separate areas of political influence from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War. During this period, Eastern Europe was under the political control and/or influence of the Soviet Union, while Western Europe enjoyed political freedom (see Free World). The term comes from a long speech by Winston Churchill on March 5, 1946 in Fulton, Missouri:

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.

Although not well received at the time, as the Cold War strengthened the phrase gained popularity as a short-hand reference to the division of Europe. The Iron Curtain served to keep people in and information out, and the metaphor eventually enjoyed wide acceptance in the West. A variant, the Bamboo Curtain, was coined in reference to Communist China.

As the standoff between the Free World and the countries of the Iron and Bamboo curtains eased, with the West's victory in the Cold War, the term fell out of any but historical usage.



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