The Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological conflict and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. On either side of the Iron Curtain, states developed their own international economic and military alliances:
- Member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and theWarsaw Pact, with the Soviet Union as the leading country.
- Member countries of the European Community and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and associated countries with the United States as the leading country.
Physically, the Iron Curtain took the form of border defenses between the countries of Europe in the middle of the continent. The most notable border was marked by the Berlin Wall, which served as a symbol of the Curtain as a whole.
The events that demolished the Iron Curtain started in discontent inPoland,and continued in Hungary, German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania. Romania was the only country in Europe to violently overthrow its communist regime.