The Iron Curtain is a term that received prominence after Winston Churchill’s speech in which he said that an “iron curtain has descended” across Europe. He was referring to the boundary line that divided Europe in two different political areas: Western Europe had political freedom, while Eastern Europe was under communist Soviet rule. The term also symbolized the way in which the Soviet Union blocked its territories from open contact with the West.

Military Alliances:

Two economic and international alliances existed on both sides of the Iron Curtain: On the Soviet Union’s side were the countries that made the Warsaw Pact and were members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and on the U.S. side were the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Community.

End of the Iron Curtain

Although it seemed as if the Iron Curtain’s restrictions were a bit relaxed after Stalin died in 1953, the Berlin Wall’s construction reinforced them in 1961. It was only in 1991 when the Cold War ended and the one party communist rule in Eastern Europe was abandoned that the Iron Curtain ceased to exist.

This article is part of our larger collection of resources on the Cold War. For a comprehensive outline of the origins, key events, and conclusion of the Cold War, click here.