Churchill's Fulton Speech


One of the most controversial, remembered and formative speeches of the post-war years.

MP and historian Roy Jenkins, Why Churchill’s Speech was ‘A Shot Which Rang

around the World’ (2002).


In February 1946, Stalin gave a speech for the Russian elections (it is often called the 'Bolshoi' speech because he made it at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow).   It contained the normal Communist attacks on capitalism, but included one sentence in which Stalin claimed: 'world capitalism proceeds through crisis and the catastrophes of war'.   American politicians took it as a threat.   


The Long Telegram

The American State Department asked the American Embassy in Moscow for an analysis of Soviet policy.   Their question was answered by George Kennan, an Embassy official who had lived in Moscow since 1933, and who hated Communism and the Soviet system.   Kennan's 8,000-word reply - nicknamed 'the Long Telegram' - advised:

  1. The Russians are determined to destroy the American way of life and will do everything they could to oppose America.

  2. This is the greatest threat the US has ever faced.

  3. The Soviets can be beaten.

  4. The Soviets must be stopped.

  5. This can be done without going to war.

  6. The way to do it is by educating the public against Communism, and by making people wealthy, happy and free.


The Fulton Speech

On 5 March 1946, on the invitation of President Truman, Winston Churchill went to Fulton in America and gave a speech.

He said ‘a shadow’ had fallen on eastern Europe, which was now cut off from the free world by ‘ an iron curtain.  Behind that line, he said, the people of eastern Europe were ‘subject to Soviet influence . . . totalitarian control [and] police governments’.


Source A

Mr Churchill has called for a war on the USSR.

Stalin, writing in the Russian newspaper Pravda in March 1946.


Source B

The Cold War set in.   Churchill had given his famous speech in Fulton urging the imperialistic forces of the world to fight the Soviet Union.   Our relations with England, France and the USA were ruined.

Khrushchev, writing in 1971.  In 1946 he had been a member of the Soviet government.


Powerpoint presentation explaining the cartoon

Source C

This cartoon from 1946 by the British cartoonist Illingworth was published in the Daily Mail on 6 March 1946 (the day after Churchill's Fulton speech).  It shows Churchill having 'a peep under the Iron Curtain'.   ‘Joe’ is Joseph Stalin.   In fact, the ‘iron curtain’ was a 2,000-km. line of barbed wire, look-out posts and road blocks.

Click here for the interpretation


New Words

totalitarian: where the government has total power over the people.

imperialistic: wanting to build an empire (communists used it as an abuse-word about the western powers).




  Churchill's speech



   Why had the Superpowers become suspicious of each other by March 1946, when Churchill made his important speech at Fulton?








Did you know?

Churchill was so worried about Soviet domination of eastern Europe that he tried to get the British armies to advance faster.

To try to do so, in 1944, he dropped British paratroopers behind enemy lines at Arnhem – but they were defeated.  This story was told in the film, A Bridge Too Far.















1.  Explain how Churchill’s speech was a turning point in the history of the Cold War.

2.  Did Churchill cause the Cold War?





















Did you know?

There is a story that Churchill was once invited to France give a speech about his past, a speech which - despite his limitations with the language - he insisted on delivering in French.  He began:

"Quand je regard mon derrière, je vois qu'il est divisé en deux pars".