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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2005, 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
Churchill's 'iron curtain' speech online
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Churchill
Winston Churchill addressing a crowd in London in July 1945
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent."

Winston Churchill's talismanic speech about the onset of the cold war has been made available as an online educational resource.

Delivered in Fulton, Missouri in 1946, it spelt out the deepening tensions between the western democracies and the Soviet Union, as their wartime alliance turned into peace time hostility.

Churchill's speech has been turned into an online resource, with the recording available both in its entirety and also divided into sections. It is accompanied by photographs and notes providing background information about the historical context.

Unlike the nugget-sized phrases of modern political speeches, this speech by Churchill is a piece of classical oratory, heavy with literary language and imagery. It is not so much a sound-bite as a sound three course meal.

'Totalitarian control'

The most familiar phrase from the speech - the "iron curtain" - became part of the political language, as he described how the "ancient capitals and states of central and eastern Europe" were falling under a deepening Soviet control.

Potsdam
Potsdam 1945: The wartime allies soon became rivals

These emerging Soviet satellite states were "police governments", he warned, where Communist parties were seeking to "obtain totalitarian control".

The speech also sketched out the fault-lines which would dominate global politics for the next half century - how the United States would exercise its dominance, the expansionist ambitions of the Soviet Union, the risk of nuclear proliferation, how the newly created United Nations should enforce its decisions and the move towards European co-operation.

It also addressed the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain which would continue to be a strong and often controversial influence on British foreign policy.

The liberation of Europe, completed less than a year before this speech, had not brought the settlement for which many in the west had hoped, he said.

And he argued that a much more profound level of international co-operation would become necessary. The United Nations would need to be able to intervene militarily and there would have to be a strengthening of ties within western Europe.

"The safety of the world requires a new unity in Europe," he told his audience, including US President Truman. "Surely we should work with conscious purpose for a grand pacification of Europe within the structure of the United Nations."

The address, although known as the "iron curtain speech", had been given the title "the sinews of peace" speech by Churchill. It captured the moment between the optimism at the end of the war and the deepening awareness of the risk of future conflicts.

Churchill himself had been ousted from office as prime minister in the 1945 general election - and this speech, taking weeks to write, distilled his own reflections on the political structures emerging from the wreckage of the war.

Media event

The online archive also includes the typed "speech notes", which he used as prompts, rather than memorising a long text. And it explains that the speech was amended further after conversations with President Truman.

The address by the wartime leader was a major media event on both sides of the Atlantic.

Radio stations across the United States broadcast it and Churchill's words were re-printed in newspapers in the US and Britain. Cinemagoers were able to watch the speech on newsreels.

The Churchill Speech Interactive projected is a partnership involving the Churchill family, Cisco systems, MWR researchers and the Imperial War Museum.

A museum dedicated to the life and times of Winston Churchill was opened in the Cabinet War Rooms in London earlier this year.


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