What divided Eastern and Western Europe after World War II?  

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As World War II came to an end, Europe became indelibly divided into east and west. Eastern Europe became the countries occupied by the Soviets when they expelled the Germans from this land as they moved their army toward Germany. Western Europe was mostly defined as the lands liberated by the British and American forces, as well as some countries that had remained neutral in the conflict, such as Spain and Switzerland. Germany was split in two, with one-quarter of the country remaining under Soviet influence while the rest of the country was re-established as a democracy.

What happened in Eastern and Western Europe after World War II would define the playing field of the Cold War. Western European countries were largely democratic, while Eastern European nations mostly had socialist governments that were mere puppet regimes of the Soviet Union. The division between East and West would be called the "Iron Curtain" after a speech given by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1946.

Further divisions between Eastern and Western Europe were made in 1949 with the founding of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). This multinational military alliance consisted mostly of countries in Western Europe and North America. They sought to support each other should any member nation be attacked. Although the treaty did not state so specifically, NATO was meant to be a protective pact should Eastern Europe try to move the Iron Curtain further west. The Eastern European countries responded in 1955 with the Warsaw Pact. This was a similar treaty between the Soviet Union and its various satellite states. In many ways, the divisions between Eastern and Western Europe can be seen by looking at which countries were members of these treaties, although a number of European countries did not sign on to either treaty.

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In the years immediately following World War II (and really the last days of the war itself in Europe) Western and Eastern Europe became divided because the Soviet Union occupied the countries of Eastern Europe after driving out the occupying German army. The Soviets, under Josef Stalin, established Soviet-style communist governments in these countries, which included Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Meanwhile Marshal Tito, a leader in the resistance movement in Yugoslavia during the war, established a socialist state in that nation independent of the USSR. The division of Europe was most tangible in Germany, which was divided between the Soviet-dominated East and the Anglo-American-dominated West. Berlin, the capital of Germany, was similarly divided though it lay entirely within East Germany. So it was the establishment of communist states, viewed by the USSR as a necessary buffer zone and by the Americans as the establishment of an "iron curtain", that led to the division of Europe after the war.

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