Winston Churchill, Prime Minster of Britain delivered his famous "Sinews of Peace" address, widely known as the "Iron Curtain" speech, only seven months after the end of WWII. In this speech, Churchill outlines the potential threat the Soviet Union posed in it's desire for influence in an ever-growing Soviet Bloc. It's during this speech that the term "Iron Curtain" becomes familiar to the public and becomes the accepted term to refer to the division between eastern and western Europe; used to refer to the barrier, often a physical one, between "free" states and communist states. Churchill portrays the European continent as one divided by force, by iron.
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...
While reading the speech it is important to consider Churchill's potential aims. At one point he states that, for the Soviets, there was "nothing which they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for military weakness." 1 If Churchill is speaking to the American public, of what might he want to convince them? What actions by the U.S. Government would Churchill recommend the American people support?
Primary Source Document - Excerpt from the “Iron Curtain Speech” delivered by Winston Churchill, March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri.
"It is my duty, however, 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 some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.
In a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist center.
I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power
But what we have to consider here today while time remains, is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries. "
Document Analysis Questions
- Consider the mindset of United States citizens in 1946 in regards to war. What might Churchill be trying to accomplish with this speech? What evidence supports your argument?
- What imagery and tone does the phrase "Iron Curtain" invoke? Consider the purpose of a curtain as well as the properties of Iron in your response.
- What does Churchill claim the Soviets desire?
- In what way does the Soviet mission (according to this document) seem to threaten the American mission?
Optional further exploration: Time Magazine - Churchill did not coin the phrase the Iron Curtain http://time.com/3733955/winston-churchill-did-not-coin-the-phrase-iron-curtain/
- Mitchell, M. "“THE IRON CURTAIN” SPEECH OF WINSTON CHURCHILL." “THE IRON CURTAIN” SPEECH OF WINSTON CHURCHILL. The Mitchell Archives, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
- "Winston Churchill's Speeches." National Churchill Museum. Westminster College, n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
- Churchill, Winston. "Iron Curtain Speech." C-SPAN.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.