Cold War Facts: The Significance Of The Iron Curtain

The Iron Curtain was a political boundary that divided Europe into two separate geographical areas from 1945 following the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War 46 years later. On the east side of the Iron Curtain were the Warsaw Pact countries which comprise Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the USSR, whereas on the west side are countries that are members of NATO, as well as those which are nominally neutral. The symbolic meaning of the term can be traced to the Soviet Union’s attempt to barricade itself, as well as its satellite states from open contact with the countries situated on the western side of the Curtain. Considering its history, it can be said then that the Iron Curtain has made a significant and lasting impact on Europe. Here are some examples.

From an Ideological to a Physical Frontier

“Build the Wall” might be a slogan often associated with the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. However, it would not be inaccurate to suggest that he might have gotten this idea from the Iron Curtain. Initially an ideologically frontier, it rapidly became a physical one as the Soviet Union and its satellite states began to erect various forms of barriers using barbed wire, concrete walls, and ditches to prevent their citizens from fleeing to the West. These separations were manned by alarms, mines, as well as soldiers on watchtowers, and anyone caught attempting to breach the barriers face potentially lethal consequences. The first section of this physical frontier, a 160-mile barbed wire fence, was erected by Hungary in 1949 along its border with Austria.

The Berlin Wall

Perhaps the most famous section of the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall became almost like a synonym for the Iron Curtain. In 1952, East Germany constructed a 39-feet-wide barbed-wire barrier that spanned across the entire length of its border with West Germany. This buffer was, however, unsuccessful in preventing more than three million East German citizens from fleeing to the West, and in 1961, the barrier was converted into a concrete wall, reinforced with wire mesh. The partitioning of Berlin caused widespread family separation for many German families, and twenty-eight painful years soon ensued before they could be reunited with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Long-lasting Socioeconomic Divide

The Iron Curtain might have fallen more than three decades ago, but the socioeconomic divide which it caused is still existent across Europe. In Germany itself, the areas which used to constitute East Germany are still lagging behind the former West Germany in many metrics. For instance, a research conducted in 2018 revealed that the average unemployment rate in the six states which made up the former East Germany was 6.9%, which is significantly higher than the 4.8% in the 10 states which constitute the former West Germany. For those who are employed, workers in the former East earn far less than their counterparts in the former West. The same pattern can also be noted in comparisons between the former Warsaw Pact countries and those situated on the west side of the Iron Curtain. To learn more about the Cold War, as well as other wars and conflicts which have happened throughout history, please visit our site

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