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Iron Curtain


Definition: 1. Description of the physical, ideological and military division of Europe between the western and southern capitalist states and the eastern, Soviet dominated communist nations during the Cold War, 1945 - 1991. The phrase, which refers to the harsh and 'impenetrable' nature of the divide, was popularised by Winston Churchill in his speech of March 5th 1946, when he stated:

"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."

Churchill had previously used the term in two telegrams to Truman. However, the term, which dates back to the nineteenth century, was probably first used in regard to Russia by Vassily Rozanov in 1918 when he wrote "an iron curtain is descending on Russian history". It was also used by Ethel Snowden in 1920 in a book called Through Bolshevik Russia and during WW2 by Joseph Goebbels and German politician Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk, both in propaganda. Many western commentators were initially hostile to the description as they still viewed Russia as a wartime ally, but the term became synonymous with the Cold War divisions in Europe.

2. Metal barrier in German theatres designed to stop the spread of fire from the stage to the rest of the building.

"The Iron Curtain did not reach the ground and under it flowed liquid manure from the West." Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1994.
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