What Was the Elbe-Trieste Line?

elbe-trieste-line Credit: BigSteve/CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Elbe-Trieste line was drawn by the Allies between eastern- and western-occupied territories at the end of World War II. This "Iron Curtain" represented the physical, ideological and military division of Europe between the western and southern capitalist states and the eastern Soviet-dominated communist nations throughout the Cold War.

In April 1945, American and Soviet troops met on the Elbe River in northern Germany to celebrate victory over Nazi Germany. To ease Soviet fears that Germany might rise again, the Allies divided Germany by a line drawn from the Elbe all the way south to Trieste, Yugoslavia. The line would be immortalized in Winston Churchill's 1946 speech, which declared, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent."

Concerned about the possibility of Soviet expansion in Europe, Churchill called on the English-speaking world to join forces and refuse to appease the Soviets. Stalin denounced Churchill and labeled his call-to-action as imperial racism. He redoubled his efforts to fortify the divide between communist and non-communist areas. The drawing of the line marked the start of the Cold War and divided Europe until the early 1990s, when the communists abandoned the one-party-rule system.