‘Freedom!’ The 1980s: a magnificent decade for democracy

On March 5, 1946, at the request of Westminster College in the small Missouri town of Fulton (population of 7,000), Churchill gave his now famous “Iron Curtain” speech to a crowd of 40,000. In addition to accepting an honorary degree from the college, Churchill made one of his most famous post-war speeches:

“…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 many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone – Greece with its immortal glories – is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy…”

In the evening of November 9, 1989, East German government official Günter Schabowski stated during a press conference that travel through the border to the West was open.

People who heard the broadcast were shocked. They went to the border to see if it was true. The border guards, who had no explicit instructions as to what to do, let them through.

As the news spread on both sides of the Wall, huge numbers of people flocked to the Berlin Wall and celebrated.

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