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:
as "Soviet Socialist Republics within the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Germany effectively gave Moscow a free hand in much of these territories in the "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, signed before Germany "invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
Other Soviet-annexed territories included:
- "Eastern Poland (incorporated into "Ukrainian and Byelorussian SSRs),
- Part of eastern "Finland (became part of the "Karelo-Finnish SSR)
- Northern "Romania (part of which became the "Moldavian SSR).
- "Kaliningrad Oblast, the northern half of "East Prussia, taken in 1945.
Between 1945 and 1949 the Soviets converted the following areas into "Soviet satellite states:
- The "German Democratic Republic
- The "People's Republic of Bulgaria
- The "People's Republic of Poland
- The "People's Republic of Hungary
- The "Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
- The "People's Republic of Romania
- The "People's Republic of Albania (which re-aligned itself in the 1960s away from the Soviet Union and towards the People's Republic of China)
Soviet-installed governments ruled the Eastern Bloc countries, with the exception of the "Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which retained its full independence.
The majority of European states to the east of the Iron Curtain developed their own international economic and military alliances, such as "COMECON and the "Warsaw Pact.
West of the Iron Curtain
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.["citation needed]
Further division in the late 1940s
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.
As a physical entity
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The Iron Curtain took physical shape in the form of border defenses between the countries of western and eastern Europe. These 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 a total of 28 East German border guards and several hundred civilians 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 defense 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 km wide strip of land were forbidden to drive cars, own land bigger than 60 m2 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.
Fall of the Iron Curtain
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.
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. In 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. 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 "Czechoslovak border fortifications in defence against "Adolf Hitler, and some towers were, or have become, hunting platforms.
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.
Another monument is located in the village of "Devín, now part of "Bratislava, "Slovakia, at the confluence of the "Danube and "Morava rivers.
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 other 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.
- An analogue of the Iron Curtain, the "Bamboo Curtain, surrounded the People's Republic of China. As the standoff between the West and the countries of the Iron and Bamboo curtains eased with the end of the Cold War, the term fell out of any but historical usage.
- The short distance, 3.8 km (2.4 mi), between the Soviet Union ("Big Diomede) and the U.S. ("Little Diomede Island, state of "Alaska) in the "Bering Sea became known as the ""Ice Curtain" during the Cold War.
- A field of "cacti surrounding the "U.S. Naval station at "Guantanamo Bay planted by "Cuba was occasionally termed the ""Cactus Curtain".
- "Berlin Wall
- "Cold War
- "Danube River Conference of 1948
- "Eastern Bloc
- "Removal of Hungary's border fence
- "Revolutions of 1989
- "Telephone tapping in the Eastern Bloc
- "Western betrayal
- "Bamboo Curtain
Post Cold War:
- "European Green Belt, a body of conservationists preserving the former Iron Curtain security zone which has become a wildlife preserve
- "Iron Curtain Trail, a long-distance cycling route within the European Green Belt
- "Blue Banana at the west of the curtain
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- Freedom Without Walls: German Missions in the United States Looking Back at the Fall of the Berlin Wall – official homepage in English
- Information about the Iron Curtain with a detailed map and how to make it by bike
- "Peep under the Iron Curtain", a cartoon first published on 6 March 1946 in Daily Mail
- Field research along the northern sections of the former German-German border, with detailed maps, diagrams, and photos.
- The Lost Border: Photographs of the Iron Curtain
- S-175 "Gardina(The Curtain)" Main type of electronic security barrier on the Soviet borders or (in Russian).
- Remnants of the Iron Curtain along the Greek-Bulgarian border, the Iron Curtain's Southernmost part
- Iron Curtain
- Iron Curtain Information
- Historic film footage of Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech (from "Sinews of Peace" address) at Westminster College, 1946
- DIE NARBE DEUTSCHLAND is a 16-hour-long experimental single shot documentary showing the former Iron Curtain running through Germany in its entirety from above, 2008-2014