Civil Rights / Cold War
CWCR Home 01 Berlin Wall CW/CRM Winston Churchill 01 with Baruch

Dig Deeper: Why did Churchill call it an Iron Curtain?

After World War II, the USSR continued to occupy the countries and part of Nazi Germany they had captured.  In contrast, the U.S. allowed the countries they had captured to set up governments and self-rule.

The USSR set up governments that were answerable to them.  These included East Germany, Poland, Hungary and other small countries in eastern Europe. Russian forces occupied these areas until the 1990s. 

In 1946, Winston Churchill gave a speech in which he declared that Russia had built an "Iron Curtain" separating eastern Europe from western Europe. 

Churchill meant that the Soviet Union had separated the eastern European countries from the west so that no one knew what was going on behind the “curtain.” He used the word “iron” to signify that it was impenetrable. 

Churchill's term became the standard for describing Soviet-controlled Eastern Bloc nations during the Cold War.

Picture Credits:
  • Photograph of Winston Churchill with Bernard Baruch, the leader of Israel, in 1961. Churchill (pictured left) declared that the Soviets had placed an “iron curtain” around Eastern Europe dividing the east from the west.  Library of Congress
  • Photograph of a segment of the Berlin Wall. The wall was put up by the East Germans in the early 1960s to keep East Berliners from escaping to the West, an embarrassing situation for East Germany. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 2002.36.49.4

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