An iron curtain has descended across the Continent

We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. We welcome her flag upon the seas. Above all, we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.

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 many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone – Greece with its immortal glories – is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.

by Winston Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965)
from his speech – The Sinews of Peace (March 5, 1946)
given at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri
found in Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Fifty Years Later

What is an Iron Curtain?

An “iron curtain” is like an “iron fence” – an inflexible boundary. You could say, “Her parents were very strict. They were like an iron fence.” If they were like an “iron curtain,” the barrier would be both inflexible and more isolating – iron is not transparent.

After Churchill’s famous Sinews of Peace speech, the expression “iron curtain” came to refer to the division between Nato-sheltered Western Europe and the USSR-dominated Warsaw Pact to the East. A curtain of iron would be heavy and stiff and restrictive – how could a curtain of impenetrable iron be expected to open easily?

The iron curtain was dismantled during the late 1980’s, physically and through changes in political control. The Berlin Wall fell, piece by piece, starting in November of 1989. The Commonwealth of Independent States replaced the old USSR on December 21, 1991.

Acknowledging the Cold War

Winston Churchill’s Sinews of Peace is big time famous. This was a legendary figure’s assessment of what was coming next for Europe and the Allies, the speech that marked the beginning of the Cold War and gave the condition of Soviet-controlled nations a powerful euphemism – “behind the iron curtain.” It started out as a small college inviting a great man to give a speech in their gym, and I think that’s charming.

In 1946, Westminster College, a small liberal arts college (250 students) in Fulton, Missouri, decided to invite Winston Churchill, who was then planning a trip to the United States, to deliver a speech on campus. Doubtful that Churchill would accept, the president of the college, Franc L. McCluer, sought help from an alumnus, Major General Harry H. Vaughan, military aide to President Truman. Vaughan secured Truman’s support for the idea, and the President added a postscript to McCluer’s invitation: “This is a wonderful college in my home State. Hope you can do it. I will introduce you.” Churchill accepted the invitation, and his speech, entitled, “Sinews of Peace,” was given on March 5, 1946, at the Westminster College gymnasium before an audience of 2,800 people.

The speech turned out to be Churchill’s analysis of the postwar world. He spoke of the destruction caused by the War and pleaded for a strong United Nations–“a true temple of peace,” and, “not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel.” The United Nations, Churchill said, had to have a strong foundation, based on a binding Anglo- American alliance that would include the common study of potential dangers, the inter change of officers and cadets at technical colleges, and the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of both countries in all parts of the world. He firmly believed that the knowledge of the atomic bomb should be kept in Anglo- American hands and not entrusted to the still feeble United Nations.from Westminster Gymnasium’s National Register Nomination Form
according to Waymarking

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