The European Green Belt, our shared natural heritage along the line of the former Iron Curtain, is to be conserved and restored as an ecological network connecting high-value natural and cultural landscapes while respecting the economic, social and cultural needs of local communities.



From Europe’s Division to the Cold War

Europe’s division into two different political and ideological spheres began with the Russian Revolution and the spread of communist ideas into political life. During World War II, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Hitler-Stalin -Pact, in which they promised mutual renunciation of aggression, neutrality in wars with third parties, and - in a secret protocol - the partition of Europe into spheres of influence. After the German invasion, the Soviet Union joined the Allies as one of the three big parties.

Towards the end of World War II, beginning with the Tehran Conference in 1943, the Soviet Union started to follow its interests for a post-war order. In exchange for having supported the Allies in the fight against the Axis powers, it demanded the adjustment of the Polish-Soviet border (the Curzon Line) and support for Yugoslavia’s communist partisans. This was followed by the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences, which determined the post-war division of Europe into two spheres of influence.

After the war, many Eastern European countries fell under Soviet socialist influence. Most of them subsequently joined the Warsaw Pact, while the “Western” countries from Norway to Turkey practised a social or free market economy, and most of them joined the Western defence alliance, NATO. Some European countries stayed out of the two alliances: Yugoslavia remained fully independent, while Albania broke free of Soviet influence in the 1960s and aligned itself with China.

West of the Iron Curtain, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland remained independent in a military sense and formed the so-called "non-aligned nations". Economically, the Western states were organised in the European Community and the European Trade Association, whereas the Eastern states formed COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, 1949-1991). Germany and Austria were separated into four zones of occupations (Soviet, American, British and French).

In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic were founded, and in 1955 the Austrian State Treaty was signed and confirmed by the occupying powers - Austria declared its political neutrality. The following period of political tension, intense armament on both sides, and several proxy wars throughout the world was called the Cold War.