The Iron Curtain was the name for the non physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The term symbolizes the efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the West and its allied states. On the east side of the Iron Curtain were the countries that were connected to or influenced by the Soviet Union, while on the west side were the countries that were allied to the United States or nominally neutral. Separate international economic and military alliances were developed on each side of the Iron Curtain.
The nations caught behind the Iron Curtain were Poland, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and the USSR; however, East Germany and Czechoslovakia have since ceased to exist.
Countries that made up the USSR were Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Estonia, Moldava, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, and Kazakstan.
The events that demolished the Iron Curtain started in discontent in Poland, and continued in Hungary, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Romania became the only communist state in Europe to overthrow its government with violence.
The use of the term iron curtain as a metaphor for strict separation goes back at least as far as the early 19th century. It originally referred to fireproof curtains in theaters. Although its popularity as a Cold War symbol is attributed to its use in a speech Winston Churchill gave on the 5 March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri, Nazi German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels had already used the term in reference to the Soviet Union.
Various usages of the term "iron curtain" (Russian: Железный занавес Zheleznyj zanaves; German: Eiserner Vorhang; Georgian: რკინის ფარდა Rkinis pharda; Czech and Slovak: Železná opona; Hungarian: Vasfüggöny; Romanian: Cortina de fier; Italian: Cortina di ferro; Serbian: Гвоздена завеса Gvozdena zavesa; Estonian: Raudne eesriie; Bulgarian: Желязна завеса Zhelyazna zavesä) pre-date Churchill's use of the phrase. The concept goes back to the Babylonian Talmud of the 3rd to 5th centuries CE, where Tractate Sota 38b refers to a "mechitza shel barzel", an iron barrier or divider: "אפילו מחיצה של ברזל אינה מפסקת בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים" (Even an iron barrier cannot separate [the people of] Israel from their heavenly father).
The term "iron curtain" has since been used metaphorically in two rather different senses – firstly to denote the end of an era and secondly to denote a closed geopolitical border. The source of these metaphors can refer to either the safety curtain deployed in theatres (the first one was installed by the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1794) or to roller shutters used to secure commercial premises.
The first metaphorical usage of "iron curtain", in the sense of an end of an era, perhaps should be attributed to British author Arthur Machen (1863–1947), who used the term in his 1895 novel The Three Impostors: "...the door clanged behind me with the noise of thunder, and I felt that an iron curtain had fallen on the brief passage of my life". The English translation of a Russian text shown immediately below repeats the use of "clang" with reference to an "iron curtain", suggesting that the Russian writer, publishing 23 years after Machen, may have been familiar with the popular British author.
The first recorded application of the term to Communist Russia, again in the sense of the end of an era, comes in Vasily Rozanov's 1918 polemic The Apocalypse of Our Times, and it is possible that Churchill read it there following the publication of the book's English translation in 1920. The passage runs:
With clanging, creaking, and squeaking, an iron curtain is lowering over Russian History. "The performance is over." The audience got up. "Time to put on your fur coats and go home." We looked around, but the fur coats and homes were missing.
The first English-language use of the term iron curtain applied to the border of communist Russia in the sense of "an impenetrable barrier" was used in 1920 by Ethel Snowden, in her book Through Bolshevik Russia.
G.K. Chesterton used the phrase in a 1924 essay in The Illustrated London News. Chesterton, while defending Distributism, refers to "that iron curtain of industrialism that has cut us off not only from our neighbours' condition, but even from our own past".
The term also appears in England, Their England, an 1933 satirical novel by the Scottish writer A. G. Macdonell; it was used there to describe the way an artillery barrage protected the infantry from an enemy assault: "...the western sky was a blaze of yellow flame. The iron curtain was down". Sebastian Haffner used the metaphor in his book Germany: Jekyll & Hyde, published in London in 1940, in introducing his discussion of the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933: "Back then to March 1933. How, a moment before the iron curtain was wrung down on it, did the German political stage appear?"
All German theatres had to install an iron curtain (eiserner Vorhang) as an obligatory precaution to prevent the possibility of fire spreading from the stage to the rest of the theatre. Such fires were rather common because the decor often was flammable. In case of fire, a metal wall would separate the stage from the theatre, secluding the flames to be extinguished by firefighters. Douglas Reed used this metaphor in his book Disgrace Abounding: "The bitter strife [in Yugoslavia between Serb unionists and Croat federalists] had only been hidden by the iron safety-curtain of the King's dictatorship".
A May 1943 article in Signal, a Nazi illustrated propaganda periodical published in many languages, bore the title "Behind the Iron Curtain". It discussed "the iron curtain that more than ever before separates the world from the Soviet Union". The German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels wrote in his weekly newspaper Das Reich that if the Nazis should lose the war a Soviet-formed "iron curtain" would arise because of agreements made by Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the Yalta Conference: "An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered". The first recorded oral intentional mention of an Iron Curtain in the Soviet context occurred in a broadcast by Lutz von Krosigk to the German people on 2 May 1945: "In the East the iron curtain behind which, unseen by the eyes of the world, the work of destruction goes on, is moving steadily forward".
Churchill's first recorded use of the term "iron curtain" came in a 12 May 1945 telegram he sent to U.S. President Harry S. 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". He was further concerned about "another immense flight of the German population westward as this enormous Muscovite advance towards the centre of Europe". Churchill concluded "then the curtain will descend again to a very large extent, if not entirely. 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 1945, in which he protested against such a U.S. retreat to what was earlier designated as, and ultimately became, the U.S. occupation zone, saying the military withdrawal would bring "Soviet power into the heart of Western Europe and the descent of an iron curtain between us and everything to the eastward". At the Potsdam Conference, Churchill complained to Stalin about an "iron fence" coming down upon the British Mission in Bucharest.
The first American print reference to the "Iron Curtain" occurred when C. L. Sulzberger of The New York Times first used it in a dispatch published on 23 July 1945. He had heard the term used by Vladko Maček, a Croatian politician, a Yugoslav opposition leader who had fled his homeland for Paris in May 1945. Maček told Sulzberger, "During the four years while I was interned by the Germans in Croatia I saw how the Partisans were lowering an iron curtain over Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] so that nobody could know what went on behind it".
The term was first used in the British House of Commons by Churchill on 16 August 1945 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 1945, 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 1939, after conducting negotiations both with a British-French group and with Nazi Germany regarding potential military and political agreements, 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) and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (signed in late August 1939), 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.
The Soviets thereafter occupied Eastern Poland (September 1939), Latvia (June 1940), Lithuania (1940), northern Romania (Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, late June 1940), Estonia (1940) and eastern Finland (March 1940). From August 1939, 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. Nazi–Soviet trade ended in June 1941 when Germany broke the Pact and invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa.
In the course of World War II, Stalin determined 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 1945) and the subsequent Potsdam Conference (August 1945). People in the West expressed opposition to Soviet domination over the buffer states, and the fear grew that the Soviets were building an empire that might be a threat to them and their interests.
Nonetheless, at the Potsdam Conference, the Allies assigned parts of Poland, Finland, Romania, Germany, and the Balkans to Soviet control or influence. 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. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt had announced at Yalta that after the defeat of Germany, U.S. forces would withdraw from Europe within two years.)
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 Imperial 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). He expressed the Allied Nations' distrust of the Soviet Union after the World War II. In September that year, US-Soviet cooperation collapsed due to the US disavowal of the Soviet Union's opinion on the German problem in the Stuttgart Council, and then followed the announcement by US President, Harry S. Truman, of a hard line anti-Soviet, anticommunist policy. After that the phrase became more widely used as an 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. Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's chief propagandist, used the term against the West in an August 1946 speech:
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.
While the Iron Curtain remained in place, much of Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe (except West Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Austria) found themselves under the hegemony of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union annexed:
Other Soviet-annexed territories included:
Between 1945 and 1949 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.
To the west of the Iron Curtain, the countries of Western Europe, Northern Europe, and Southern Europe – along with Austria, West Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland – operated market economies. With the exception of a period of fascism in Spain (until 1975) and Portugal (until 1974) and a military dictatorship in Greece (1967–1974), democratic governments ruled these countries.
Most of the states of Europe to the west of the Iron Curtain – with the exception of neutral Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Malta and Republic of Ireland – allied themselves with the United States and Canada within NATO. Economically, the European Community and the European Free Trade Association represented Western counterparts to COMECON. Most of the nominally neutral states were economically closer to the United States than they were to the Warsaw Pact.
In January 1947 Harry Truman appointed General George Marshall as Secretary of State, scrapped Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) directive 1067 (which embodied the Morgenthau Plan) and supplanted it with JCS 1779, which decreed that an orderly and prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany." Administration officials met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and others to press for an economically self-sufficient Germany, including a detailed accounting of the industrial plants, goods and infrastructure already removed by the Soviets.
After five and a half weeks of negotiations, Molotov refused the demands and the talks were adjourned. Marshall was particularly discouraged after personally meeting with Stalin, who expressed little interest in a solution to German economic problems. The United States concluded that a solution could not wait any longer. In a 5 June 1947 speech, Marshall announced a comprehensive program of American assistance to all European countries wanting to participate, including the Soviet Union and those of Eastern Europe, called the Marshall Plan.
Stalin opposed the Marshall Plan. He had built up the Eastern Bloc protective belt of Soviet-controlled nations on his Western border, and wanted to maintain this buffer zone of states combined with a weakened Germany under Soviet control. Fearing American political, cultural and economic penetration, Stalin eventually forbade Soviet Eastern bloc countries of the newly formed Cominform from accepting Marshall Plan aid. In Czechoslovakia, that required a Soviet-backed Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948, the brutality of which shocked Western powers more than any event so far and set in a motion a brief scare that war would occur and swept away the last vestiges of opposition to the Marshall Plan in the United States Congress.
Relations further deteriorated when, in January 1948, the U.S. State Department also published a collection of documents titled Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939 – 1941: Documents from the Archives of The German Foreign Office, which contained documents recovered from the Foreign Office of Nazi Germany revealing Soviet conversations with Germany regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, including its secret protocol dividing eastern Europe, the 1939 German-Soviet Commercial Agreement, and discussions of the Soviet Union potentially becoming the fourth Axis Power. In response, one month later, the Soviet Union published Falsifiers of History, a Stalin-edited and partially re-written book attacking the West.
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 1948, 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. Because Berlin was located within the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany, the only available methods of supplying the city were three limited air corridors. A massive aerial supply campaign was initiated by the United States, Britain, France, and other countries, the success of which caused the Soviets to lift their blockade in May 1949.
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. This affected the liberated Soviet prisoners of war (branded as traitors), forced laborers, anti-Soviet collaborators with the Germans, and anti-communist refugees.
Migration from east to west of the Iron Curtain, except under limited circumstances, was effectively halted after 1950. Before 1950, 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. However, restrictions implemented during the Cold War stopped most East-West migration, with only 13.3 million migrations westward between 1950 and 1990. More than 75% of those emigrating from Eastern Bloc countries between 1950 and 1990 did so under bilateral agreements for "ethnic migration."
About 10% were refugees permitted to emigrate under the Geneva Convention of 1951. Most Soviets allowed to leave during this time period were ethnic Jews permitted to emigrate to Israel after a series of embarrassing defections in 1970 caused the Soviets to open very limited ethnic emigrations. The fall of the Iron Curtain was accompanied by a massive rise in European East-West migration.
The Iron Curtain took physical shape in the form of border defences 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 1961 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 several hundred civilians and 28 East German border guards were killed between 1948 – 1981 (some may have been victims of "friendly fire" by their own side).
Elsewhere along the border between West and East, the defence works resembled those on the intra-German border. During the Cold War, the border zone in Hungary started 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the border. 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 (9.3 mi) border-zone needed special permission to enter the area within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of the border. The area was very difficult to approach and heavily fortified. In the 1950s and 1960s, a double barbed-wire fence was installed 50 metres (160 ft) from the border. The space between the two fences were laden with land mines. The minefield was later replaced with an electric signal fence (about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the border) and a barbed wire fence, along with guard towers and a sand strip to track border violations.
Regular patrols sought to prevent escape attempts. They included cars and mounted units. Guards and dog patrol units watched the border 24/7 and were authorised to use their weapons to stop escapees. The wire fence nearest the actual border was irregularly displaced from the actual border, which was marked only by stones. Anyone attempting to escape would have to cross up to 400 metres (1,300 ft) before they could cross the actual border. 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.
In Greece, a highly militarised area called the "Επιτηρούμενη Ζώνη" ("Surveillance Area") was created by the Greek Army along the Greek-Bulgarian border, subject to significant security-related regulations and restrictions. Inhabitants within this 25 kilometres (16 mi) wide strip of land were forbidden to drive cars, own land bigger than 60 square metres (650 sq ft), and had to travel within the area with a special passport issued by Greek military authorities. 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 1989, 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 trail is 6,800 km (4,200 mi) long and spans from Finland to Greece.
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.
The Border checkpoint Helmstedt–Marienborn (German: Grenzübergang Helmstedt-Marienborn), named Grenzübergangsstelle Marienborn (GÜSt) (border crossing Marienborn) by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was the largest and most important border crossing on the Inner German border during the division of Germany. Due to its geographical location, allowing for the shortest land route between West Germany and West Berlin, most transit traffic to and from West Berlin used the Helmstedt-Marienborn crossing. Most travel routes from West Germany to East Germany and Poland also used this crossing. The border crossing existed from 1945 to 1990 and was situated near the East German village of Marienborn at the edge of the Lappwald. The crossing interrupted the Bundesautobahn 2 (A 2) between the junctions Helmstedt-Ost and Ostingersleben.
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 1985) decreased adherence to the Brezhnev Doctrine, 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 1989.
After receiving an informal clearance from Gorbachev (who said "there will not be a new 1956") on 3 March 1989, on 2 May of the same year the Hungarian government announced and started in Rajka (in the locality known as the "city of three borders", on the border with Austria and Czechoslovakia) the destruction of the Iron Curtain, whose last section will be demolished with an official ceremony, attended by the highest authorities of the Federal Republic of Austria, on 27 June 1989, which had the function of calling all European peoples still under the yoke of the national-communist regimes to freedom.
In April 1989 the People's Republic of Poland legalised the Solidarity organisation, which captured 99% of available parliamentary seats in June. These elections, in which anti-communist candidates won a striking victory, inaugurated a series of peaceful anti-communist revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe that eventually culminated in the fall of communism.
On 19 August 1989, more than 600 East Germans attending the "Pan-European Picnic" on the Hungarian border broke through the Iron Curtain and fled into Austria. 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 1989, 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.
In the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the day after the mass crossings across the Berlin Wall, leader Todor Zhivkov was ousted. In the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, following protests of an estimated half-million Czechoslovaks, the government permitted travel to the west and abolished provisions guaranteeing the ruling Communist party its leading role, preceding the Velvet Revolution.
In the Socialist Republic of Romania, on 22 December 1989, the Romanian military sided with protesters and turned on Communist ruler Nicolae Ceauşescu, who was executed after a brief trial three days later. In the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, a new package of regulations went into effect on 3 July 1990 entitling all Albanians over the age of 16 to own a passport for foreign travel. 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 1989, 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 1990. On 1 July 1990, the day East Germany adopted the West German currency, all border-controls ceased and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl convinced Gorbachev to drop Soviet objections to a reunited Germany within NATO in return for substantial German economic aid to the Soviet Union.
There is an Iron Curtain monument in the southern part of the Czech Republic at approximately Czechoslovak border fortifications in defence against Adolf Hitler, and some towers were, or have become, hunting platforms.. A few hundred meters of the original fence, and one of the guard towers, has remained installed. There are interpretive signs in Czech and English that explain the history and significance of the Iron Curtain. This is the only surviving part of the fence in the Czech Republic, though several guard towers and bunkers can still be seen. Some of these are part of the Communist Era defences, some are from the never-used
Another monument is located in Fertőrákos, Hungary, at the site of the Pan-European Picnic. On the eastern hill of the stone quarry stands a metal sculpture by Gabriela von Habsburg. It is a column made of metal and barbed wire with the date of the Pan-European Picnic and the names of participants. On the ribbon under the board is the Latin text: In necessariis unitas – in dubiis libertas – in omnibus caritas ("Unity in unavoidable matters – freedom in doubtful matters – love in all things"). The memorial symbolises the Iron Curtain and recalls forever the memories of the border breakthrough in 1989.
There are several open-air museums in parts of the former inner German border, as for example in Berlin and in Mödlareuth, a village that has been divided for several hundred years. The memory of the division is being kept alive in many places along the Grenze.
Throughout the Cold War the term "curtain" would become a common euphemism for boundaries – physical or ideological – between communist and capitalist states.
Post Cold War:
1983 is a Polish Netflix original series created and written by Joshua Long, based on an original idea by Long and Maciej Musiał, set in an alternate timeline in which the fall of Polish communism never happened, and the Iron Curtain is still in place. It is Netflix's first Polish original series; eight episodes were produced by Netflix, and were released on 30 November 2018.Bamboo Curtain
The Bamboo Curtain was the Cold War political demarcation between the Communist states of East Asia, particularly the People's Republic of China, and the capitalist and non-Communist states of East, South and Southeast Asia. To the north/northwest lay Communist China, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and others. To the south and east lay capitalist/non-Communist India, Japan, Indonesia, and others. In particular, following the Korean War, the Korean Demilitarized Zone became an important symbol of this Asian division (though the term Bamboo Curtain itself is rarely used in that specific context).
The colorful term Bamboo Curtain was derived from Iron Curtain, a term used widely in Europe from the 1940s to the early '90s to refer to that region's Communist boundaries. It was used less often than Iron Curtain in part because while the latter remained relatively static for over 40 years, the Bamboo Curtain shifted frequently and was somewhat less precise. It was also a less accurate description of the political situation in Asia because of the lack of cohesion within the East Asian Communist Bloc, which resulted in the Sino-Soviet split. During the Cold War, Communist governments in Mongolia, Vietnam and later Laos were allies of the Soviet Union, though they sometimes cooperated with China, while Cambodia's Pol Pot regime was loyal to China. After the Korean War, North Korea avoided taking sides between the Soviets and China. (Since the end of a Communist bloc in Asia, North Korea remains on good terms with both Russia and China, although relations between the countries have been strained in modern times.)
During the Cultural Revolution in China, the Chinese authorities put sections of the curtain under a lock-down of sorts, forbidding entry into or passage out of the country without permission from the Chinese government. Many would-be refugees attempting to flee to capitalist countries were prevented from escaping. Occasional relaxations led to several waves of refugees into the then-British crown colony of Hong Kong.
Improved relations between China and the United States during the later years of the Cold War rendered the term more or less obsolete, except when it referred to the Korean Peninsula and the divide between allies of the US and allies of the USSR in Southeast Asia. Today, the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea is typically described as the DMZ. Bamboo Curtain is used most often to refer to the enclosed borders and economy of Burma (though this began to open in 2010). The Bamboo Curtain has since given way to the business model called the bamboo network.Behind the Iron Curtain (album)
Behind the Iron Curtain is a live album released by German singer Nico in 1986. It features a concert recorded at De Doelen Concertgebouw, Grote Zaal (Great Hall), in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 9 October 1985. The concert was held as part of the Pandora's Music Box music festival.
Although the release states it was "recorded live in Warsaw, Budapest and Prague between 29.9.85 and 31.10.85"—thus behind the Iron Curtain—it was in fact entirely recorded at the one concert in Rotterdam.The album was released on CD in 1987 excluding the material from side three.Behind the Iron Curtain (video)
Behind the Iron Curtain is a discontinued VHS/Beta/LaserDisc/VHD video by the English metal band Iron Maiden. The video features footage of the band on the road in Eastern Europe in 1984, performing concerts in Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia as part of the World Slavery Tour. The title refers to the fact that the band were touring inside the Iron Curtain (countries within the Eastern Bloc of the Soviet Union); unusual given the area's separation from the West due to the then-ongoing Cold War. Aside from two promotional videos from the album Powerslave, the video also contains two live tracks and interviews with band members.
The video has no MPAA rating and has a running length of 30 minutes. An expanded 58 minute version of the documentary is included on disc 2 of the Live After Death DVD. This expanded version was broadcast by MTV in 1984 and was, until the release of the Live After Death DVD, only available on several bootleg recordings. Analysis of the tracks revealed that the audio of the tracks on the original video differ from the audio of the expanded documentary on the DVD version.
The video was produced and directed by Kenneth Feuerman and edited by Norman H. Strassner.Biennial of Graphic Arts (Ljubljana)
The Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, founded in 1955, is the world's oldest existing biennial exhibition of contemporary graphic arts. It was published by Zoran Kržišnik on the idea and endeavours of Božidar Jakac. It served from its beginnings as an international artistic event bringing together artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain despite the Cold War. The Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts also recognized and included new art trends and changes in style. At the local level, the Biennial introduced new contemporary art currents to the group of Slovenian graphic artists that became known internationally as the Ljubljana Graphic School. Since 1986, the venue of the Biennal has been the International Center of Graphic Arts Ljubljana.Blown for Good
Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology is a memoir written by Marc Headley, a former Scientologist and Sea Org member, about his life and experiences in the Church of Scientology. It was self-published in the United States on November 5, 2009.EV13 The Iron Curtain Trail
The Iron Curtain Trail (ICT), also known as EuroVelo 13 (EV13), is a partially complete long-distance cycling route which will run along the entire length of the former Iron Curtain. During the period of the Cold War (c. 1947-1991), the Iron Curtain delineated the border between the Communist East and the capitalist West, with the East being the Warsaw Pact countries of the Soviet bloc and the West being the countries of NATO.The ICT can also, of course, be walked as a long-distance trail.Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consensus on the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region". A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct".
One definition describes Eastern Europe as a cultural entity: the region lying in Europe with the main characteristics consisting of Greek, Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox, Russian, and some Ottoman culture influences. Another definition was created during the Cold War and used more or less synonymously with the term Eastern Bloc. A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. The majority of historians and social scientists view such definitions as outdated or relegated, but they are still sometimes used for statistical purposes.Encyclopedia Lituanica
Encyclopedia Lituanica (likely named after Encyclopædia Britannica or Encyclopedia Americana) is a six-volume (about 3600-page) English language encyclopedia about Lithuania and Lithuania-related topics. It was published between 1970 and 1978 in Boston, Massachusetts by Lithuanian emigrants who had escaped Soviet occupation at the end of World War II. To this day, it remains the only such comprehensive work on Lithuania in the English language.
The encyclopedia was published by the same emigrants who had published Lietuvių enciklopedija, a 35-volume general encyclopedia in the Lithuanian language, in 1953-1966. Later, two volumes of additions and supplements were added and the 37th and last volume was published in 1985. The undertaking was made extremely complicated by the fact that most sources and resources were behind the iron curtain in the Soviet Union. Some of the entries in Encyclopedia Lituanica come from this earlier work, which had about two-fifths of its content devoted to Lithuania-related topics. Thus a majority of entries were first written in Lithuanian and later translated into English. However, observers note a good quality of translations.The encyclopedia was published by Lithuanian Encyclopedia Press, founded and owned by Juozas Kapočius. He was awarded the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas in 1995. It was edited by Simas Sužiedėlis, and at the end of the last volume it lists 197 contributors; only a handful of them are non-Lithuanians.EuroVelo
EuroVelo is a network of long-distance cycling routes (currently 14) criss-crossing Europe, in various stages of completion. As of May 2013 more than 45,000 km (27,962 mi) were in place. The network is scheduled for substantial completion by 2020 and when finished, the EuroVelo network's total length will exceed 70,000 km (43,496 mi). EuroVelo is a project of the European Cyclists' Federation (ECF).
EuroVelo routes can be used for bicycle touring across the continent, as well as by local people making short journeys. The routes are made of both existing national bike routes — such as the Dutch LF-Routes, the German D-Routes, and the British National Cycle Network — and existing general purpose roads, together with new stretches of cycle routes to connect them.European Green Belt
The European Green Belt initiative is a grassroots movement for nature conservation and sustainable development along the corridor of the former Iron Curtain. The term refers to both an environmental initiative as well as the area it concerns. The initiative is carried out under the patronage of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Mikhail Gorbachev. It is the aim of the initiative to create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents to the Black and Adriatic Seas.
The European Green Belt as an area follows the route of the former Iron Curtain and connects National Parks, Nature Parks, Biosphere Reserves and transboundary protected areas as well as non-protected valuable habitats along or across the (former) borders.Fulton, Missouri
Fulton is the largest city in and the county seat of Callaway County, Missouri, United States. Approximately 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Jefferson City and the Missouri River and 20 miles (32 km) east of Columbia, the city is part of the Jefferson City, Missouri Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 12,790 in the 2010 census. The city is home to two universities, Westminster College and William Woods University, the Missouri School for the Deaf, the Fulton State Hospital, and Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center (state prison).
The city and Westminster College are perhaps best known as the venue where British statesman Winston Churchill introduced the phrase "Iron Curtain" in a 1946 speech.Iron Curtain (countermeasure)
Iron Curtain is an active protection system (APS) designed by Artis, an American technology development and manufacturing firm. The system is designed to protect military vehicles and other assets by intercepting threats such as rocket-propelled grenades and other shoulder-launched missiles and rendering them inert.
The system was part of an accelerated acquisition effort by the U.S. Army to characterize and field active protection systems as quickly as possible. It was evaluated on the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle, with two systems undergoing tests by the U.S. Army: one at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and the other at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.Iron Curtain (football)
The Iron Curtain was the defensive line of Rangers F.C. during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The normal line-up in the early 1950s consisted of goalkeeper Bobby Brown, full backs George Young and Jock Shaw, centre half Willie Woodburn and wing halves Ian McColl and Sammy Cox. These positions refer to the old 3-2-5 formation, where the three defenders would mark the two opposing wingers and centre forward, while the wing-halves dealt with the opposing inside forwards. These direct match-ups meant that Rangers' Iron Curtain had several great confrontations with Hibs' Famous Five forward line of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond.The lineup in the mid-1940s of Jerry Dawson, Dougie Gray, Shaw, Scot Symon, Young and Cox was also commonly referred to as the Iron Curtain. This was done to the extent that most young people in Scotland would associate the term with Rangers, rather than the geopolitical situation.Johann Sebastian Bach Institute
The Johann Sebastian Bach Institute (German: Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut) was an institute dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach in Göttingen, Germany. It was founded in 1951 as one of two institutes preparing the New Bach Edition, the second complete edition of the composer's works. The partner organisation was the Leipzig Bach Archive in what was then East Germany on the other side of the Iron Curtain from Göttingen. The new edition met rigorous scientific requirements and at the same time served musical practice.
The institute ended its activities in 2006 and the final volume of the New Bach Edition set appeared the following year. However, the Bach Archive Leipzig remains active and has issued revisions of some single volumes.Pankrti
Pankrti (The Bastards in Slovene) are a punk rock band from Ljubljana, Slovenia, active in the late 1970s and 1980s. They were known for provocative and political songs. They billed themselves as The First Punk Band Behind The Iron Curtain (one of their songs was titled, Behind the iron curtain old broads pull red beet). They are one of the most important former Yugoslav punk groups and one of the first punk rock bands ever formed in a communist country.Removal of Hungary's border fence with Austria
The removal of Hungary's border fence with Austria occurred in 1989 during the collapse of communism in Hungary, which was part of a broad wave of revolutions in various communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The dismantling of the electric fence along Hungary's 240 kilometres (149 mi) long border with Austria was the first fissure in the "Iron Curtain" that had divided Europe for more than 40 years, since the end of World War II, and caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Berlin Wall.Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 formed part of a revolutionary wave in the late 1980s and early 1990s that resulted in the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. The period is sometimes called the Fall of Nations or the Autumn of Nations, a play on the term Spring of Nations that is sometimes used to describe the Revolutions of 1848.
The events of the full-blown revolution first began in Poland in 1989 and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania. One feature common to most of these developments was the extensive use of campaigns of civil resistance, demonstrating popular opposition to the continuation of one-party rule and contributing to the pressure for change. Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country whose citizens overthrew its Communist regime violently. Protests in Tiananmen Square (April–June 1989) failed to stimulate major political changes in China, but influential images of courageous defiance during that protest helped to precipitate events in other parts of the globe. On 4 June 1989, the trade union Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in a partially free election in Poland, leading to the peaceful fall of Communism in that country in the summer of 1989. Also in June 1989, Hungary began dismantling its section of the physical Iron Curtain, leading to an exodus of East Germans through Hungary, which destabilised East Germany. This led to mass demonstrations in cities such as Leipzig and subsequently to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, which served as the symbolic gateway to German reunification in 1990.
The Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, resulting in eleven new countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan), which had declared their independence from the Soviet Union in the course of the year, while the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) regained their independence in September 1991. The rest of the Soviet Union, which constituted the bulk of the area, became the Russian Federation in December 1991. Albania and Yugoslavia abandoned Communism between 1990 and 1992. By 1992, Yugoslavia had split into five successor states, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was later renamed Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 and eventually split in 2006 into two states, Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia was then further split with the breakaway of the partially recognised state of Kosovo in 2008. Czechoslovakia dissolved three years after the end of Communist rule, splitting peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992. The impact of these events was felt in many Socialist countries. Communism was abandoned in countries such as Cambodia (1991), Ethiopia (1990), Mongolia (which in 1990 democratically re-elected a Communist government that ran the country until 1996) and South Yemen (1990).
During the adoption of varying forms of market economy, there was a general decline in living standards for many former Communist countries. Political reforms were varied, but in only four countries were Communist parties able to retain a monopoly on power, namely China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam (North Korea went through a constitutional change in 2009 that made it nominally no longer Communist, but still de facto organised on Stalinist lines). Many communist and socialist organisations in the West turned their guiding principles over to social democracy and democratic socialism. Communist parties in Italy and San Marino suffered and the reformation of the Italian political class took place in the early 1990s. In South America, the Pink tide began with Venezuela in 1999 and swept through the early 2000s. The European political landscape changed drastically, with several former Eastern Bloc countries joining NATO and the European Union, resulting in stronger economic and social integration with Western Europe and the United States.The Iron Curtain (film)
The Iron Curtain is a 1948 black-and-white thriller film starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, directed by William Wellman. The film was based on the memoirs of Igor Gouzenko. Principal photography was done on location in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Charles G. Clarke. The film was later re-released as Behind the Iron Curtain.
In Shostakovich v. Twentieth Century-Fox, Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich unsuccessfully sued the film's distributor, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, in New York court, for using musical works of his that had fallen into the public domain.
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