5 March 1946
Churchill Gives "Iron Curtain" Speech
Although the term “Iron Curtain” was first used by Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels early in 1945, it was popularized by Winston Churchill during an address he made in the United States in March 1946. Speaking at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Churchill told his audience, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the Continent.” East of that curtain, he explained, lay the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence, increasingly cut off from the rest of the world. While he denied that the Soviets sought a war with the West, Churchill did claim that they desired “the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.”

The initial reaction to Churchill’s speech was hostile. Stalin made a personal response, in which he accused the former prime minister of being “a firebrand of war” and compared his words to those of Hitler. Even in the United States there was a loud chorus of voices who argued that Churchill was trying to enlist American power in protecting the British Empire. Nevertheless, the term “iron curtain” remained as a powerful metaphor for the division between East and West, and would be used throughout the Cold War.

Links:
- Winston Churchill, “Iron Curtain Speech,” March 5, 1946

- Joseph Stalin, Reply to Churchill, 1946