Not often is a phrase, coined for a particular occasion, immediately seized upon, and widely used.
The phrase “iron curtain”, however, so aptly described a condition which was disturbing half the globe that it achieved immediate popularity.
It was coined by Winston Churchill who, as prime minister of Great Britain during World War II, had an unequaled view of European politics during those critical years. The rise of Russian influence over eastern Europe disturbed him, accompanied as it was by rigid censorship and closed borders.
When, no longer prime minister, he visited the United States in 1946, he felt free to express his misgivings. In a speech on March 5 at Fulton, Mo., where he was receiving an honorary degree from Westminster College, he expressed his concern in the following words:
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 might 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.