"Iron Curtain" is a term used to describe the boundary that separated the Warsaw Pact countries from the NATO countries from about 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The Iron Curtain was both a physical and an ideological division that represented the way Europe was viewed after World War II. To the east of the Iron Curtain were the countries that were connected to or influenced by the former Soviet Union. This included part of Germany (East Germany), Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania (until 1960 when it aligned with China). While Yugoslavia was Communist politically it was not considered to be a part of the Eastern Bloc or behind the Iron Curtain. Josip Broz Tito, the president of Yugoslavia at the time, was able to maintain access with the west while leading a communist country. The other countries to the west of the Iron Curtain had democratic governments.
Although the term "Iron Curtain" was used in literature and politics earlier, it was made popular by Winston Churchill, who used it publicly in a speech in March of 1946. The term was first used to refer to the actual metal barrier that cut the continent in two, but it soon became a reference to the ideological barrier also. When Churchill first referred to the barrier he wasn't trying to emulate the words of others. In a telegram directed to US President Harry S. Truman, Churchill spoke about the European situation and said "An iron curtain is drawn down upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind." This was his first official mention of the term Iron Curtain.
The Iron Curtain fence stretched for thousands of kilometers to separate Eastern and Western countries, and it was especially strong in Germany, where the Berlin Wall became an unmistakable symbol of the Iron Curtain division. In certain regions, the Iron Curtain was nothing more than a plain chain link fence, when in other places it was a highly guarded area which only people carrying special government permissions could approach.
There are Iron Curtain monuments that stand as a reminder of a long-gone era. One is located in the Czech Republic and includes an original guard tower with signs explaining the origins and reasons for the Iron Curtain. The second monument, a simple tribute, is located in Bratislava, Slovakia.