Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956
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Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,607 ratings  ·  267 reviews
In the long-awaited follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag, acclaimed journalist Anne Applebaum delivers a groundbreaking history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe after World War II and transformed in frightening fashion the individuals who came under its sway.

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control o...more
Hardcover, First U.S. Edition, 566 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Doubleday (first published October 4th 2012)
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
The Hand of History

There are not many jokes in communism. Actually that’s not quite true. A case could be made that communism itself was a massive joke, except those living under it dared not laugh, or laugh only at their personal peril. All humour in what used to be called the Eastern Bloc was inevitably of a subversive nature. For as George Orwell wrote, a thing is funny when it upsets the established order; that every joke is a tiny revolution. The revolutionaries did not want revolution; th...more
Igor Efimov
Insightful, well researched book. I grew up in a Siberian "closed" town, which was build by Gulag prisoners before I was born, i spent my childhood behind three rows of barbed wires. My small town produced refined plutonium, spy satellites and engines for intercontinental ballistic missiles. In nearly 30 years I lived in the USSR before moving to the USA, I had no idea what was happening outside USSR, not only in capitalist West, but even in socialist East. We just never had a chance to see the...more
Loring Wirbel
If Anne Applebaum had written 'Iron Curtain' at the height of the revisionist '70s and '80s, she'd be dismissed as an acolyte of Richard Pipes. After two decades of opened files in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European satellite states, however, we know that the traditionalist Western view of 'High Stalinism' was more or less correct. Even giving post-war socialist striving its due, the Stalinist form of Central European consolidation was almost as depraved as the commie-hunters of the '...more
Pctrollbreath
This is a moving descruption of the crushing of Eastern Europe by the Soviets.

The book is written in a dead pan matter of fact style with a grimly dry humour.

It is very easy to get very angry about communist and Soviet evil doing when you read about normal people doing normal things and being executed or sent to the Gulag for it. You need to read the authors book on the Gulag's to get the full impact of flat statements that someone went to the Gulag for several years.

As you get further on into...more
Rob
A well researched book but ultimately, a major disappointment. The author is connected with the neoconservative Legatum Institute as well as high ranking elements in the Polish establishment so if you are looking for a balanced account of Europe behind the Iron Curtain, you shouldn't look for it here. Problems include:

- a narrow focus that concentrates only on the immediate postwar period as well as just three countries, East Germany, Hungary and Poland

- a failure to acknowledge that barmy as th...more
Joseph
It's really hard to believe that its been twenty-four years since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. I remember following the news on CNN at the United States Mission in Geneva, Switzerland. A communist Eastern Europe seemed to be a permanent fixture just weeks before.

Applebaum does and excellent job describing the Eastern Europe after WWII. She brings some excellent points to history. Terrorized by the Nazi's then liberated by the Soviets. Why weren't people anxious to go to the West? Pe...more
Hadrian
Here is a brutal and uncompromising look at a challenging issue of history and memory. It investigates less of a 'why' totalitarian Communism took hold in Eastern Europe, but 'how' it was done.

Applebaum's focus was on the territorial acquisitions made by the Soviets in Eastern Europe after the Second World War, but her particular focus is on East Germany, Poland, and Hungary.

Eastern Europe was in terrible shape after the Second World War. Some countries lost up to 20% of their population, and...more
Roger
The basic facts of the segregation of Europe after the end of the Second World War are well known - both the Soviet Union and the Western Powers (USA, Britain and France) divided the defeated Germany between them, and spheres of influence over other countries were split approximately along the lines agreed at the Yalta Conference, confirmed by "feet on the ground" at the cessation of hostilities.

And while those of us who are of a certain age or older know what we know about the Warsaw Pact, and...more
Louise
Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
by Keith Low concludes with a chapter on how the Soviet communists took advantage of a devastated Europe to control the destinies of millions of people. Anne Applebaum picks up the story from there, showing in detail the steps that solidified Soviet power in Poland, Hungary and East Germany for two generations.

The pattern was the same in each of these three countries. The Russian army, being place at the war's end, was able to take credit...more
Jill
Life under Nazi overlords during World War II was horrific for the peoples of Eastern Europe, but it didn’t improve all that much once the Red Army arrived, ostensibly as “liberators.” Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain is an account (in great and graphic detail) of how the Soviets imposed their will on Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland, East Germany, and Hungary.

Applebaum is fluent in Polish and Hungarian, and so she has been able to utilize sources inaccessible to most western historians. The...more
Peter
There are few non-scholarly works who tackle the experience of Soviet occupation from an international comparative perspective. Perhaps this is the first by an anglophone author writing from a Western political perspective.

I was born in East Germany and feel quite knowledgable about the creation period of the GDR, due to education, family history, etc. But reading the sections about Poland and Hungary was quite a revelation and made me realize how East Germans had it (comparatively) good and tha...more
James
For a while, now, I've been saying, at first as a joke but with ever-increasing earnestness, that librarianship is less a skill than an ideology. So I shouldn't have been that surprised when I found myself closely identifying with the 'reluctant collaborators' that Applebaum portrays in this lucid and thorough history of the 'Stalinization' of Eastern Europe. The Soviet-inspired system she outlines, in which enthusiastic regurgitation of meaningless slogans is 'privileged' over productivity, fel...more
Jerome
The sheer size and scope of the book give pause to the casual reader but this is mitigated by the author's elegant prose and ability for descriptive details. The reader is not spared from the horrors of war illustrated by the unremitting violence, unmitigated brutality, wholesale rape, mass murder, abject poverty, deadly starvation and theft - events that led to mass dislocation and homelessness of massive populations within Europe by the end of world War ll - and became the fertile ground for t...more
Ken Clarke
Because I grew up during the Cold War and was a avid follower of the news by the time I was age 9, I thought I knew something about the Soviets and Eastern Europe. Turns out, I knew very little.

Anne Applebaum's superb book details the Soviet Union's enduring and total brutality, paranoia and intolerance toward the people of Eastern Europe, starting not at the end of World War II, but months, even years, before. The Soviets and their puppet leaders in each country sought nothing less than total c...more
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
Perhaps what is most fascinating about the strange episode of human history under which the communist oppression of Eastern Europe falls is that it has gone so long without a comprehensive history of how it occurred. Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 appears to step into that gap, providing in-depth research and a vividly written history of the period that saw the Soviet oppression and domination through totalitarian regimes of what would come to be known a...more
Anna Q
Anne Applebaum has written a meticulously-researched book that brings to life the cruel realities of daily existence for those captured in the Soviet Bloc of Central and Eastern Europe. Along the way, she provides the reader with some examples of Soviet propaganda that demonstrate a surprising depth of hatred towards America. Surprising because these outbursts occurred so quickly after the war in which we were Allies came to an end. These include poems portraying Americans as warmongers who used...more
John Carter McKnight
An excellent and timely history of the Soviet seizure of control of Eastern Europe. Dividing the book into thematic chapters, Applebaum stresses just what "totalitarian" meant, describing initiatives in everything from radio to youth groups to agriculture.

Two things stand out to the contemporary reader: the horror of mass relocation of millions of people in response to casually-redrawn borders at Yalta and the subsequent ethnic cleansing as Eastern Europe began to reorganize on ethnic-state lin...more
Florence
This is a monumental work detailing the events of eastern Europe during the years after World War II until the fall of communism in 1989. The Soviet Union gripped these countries, known as the Warsaw Pact, with an iron claw beginning with the Red Army's victorious march westward. The goal of the Soviets was to remove the national characteristics of the nations under their control and forcibly substitute the model of their own totalitarian government. It is not an exageration to say that the stat...more
Denise
Meticulously researched look at how Stalinist Russia installed totalitarian systems in the Eastern European countries under their influence after the WWII treaties divvied up the world, by a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian. Their methods included mass arrests of members of the anti-Nazi underground, priests, and local communist leaders, among others, whom they sent to the conveniently empty Nazi concentration camps or to the Russian gulag, or executed; ethnic cleansing, forcing people of German...more
Heather
Thorough, meticulous, and creepy. Recommended for history buffs, probably not for casual readers of non-fiction. It's quite good. I put myself on the reserve list after Terry Gross interviewed the author on Fresh Air. If you're thinking of reading it, maybe listen to a podcast to get the feel for the material first?

Once, when I was 16, I did a bus tour of East Berlin (that's how old I am!). I commented that one statue we drove by was really ugly. It was this hideous shiny brown marble tiled stat...more
Sarah Payok
Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain is a chronicle of what happened in Eastern Europe once the Iron Curtain came down. She focuses mainly on Germany, Hungary, and Poland and examines what occurred in those countries as they came increasingly under the thumb of the Soviet Union. This a story that often isn't told, and I was riveted by the combination of personal interviews, official documents, and political history that Applebaum weaves together. Applebaum doesn't tell the story chronologically, instea...more
Manray9
Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956" is a thoroughly-researched and rewarding read. Although I approached the book with some skepticism, due to the author's association with prominent neoconservative organizations (The Legatum Institute and the American Enterprise Institute) and her husband's position as Foreign Minister of Poland (he is an AEI alumnus too), it was detailed and fair -- if vehemently anti-Communist. I noted with interest in the acknowledgemen...more
Henna Paakkonen-Alvim
Given the current events ongoing in Eastern Europe with Ukraine and Russia, i felt compelled to pick up this book to understand what exactly happened in that specific region after the second world war. Back in the day, during highschool history classes, I was not too inclined for this subject matter and really just studied the basics... I notice however, that the older one gets, the more one gets interested on the causality of events… and I can’t but to question ironically that is history someho...more
Nickolette
… You know there is a ten year delay in the Soviet Union for the delivery of an automobile. And only one out of seven families in the Soviet Union own automobiles. There is a 10 year wait, and you go through quite a process when you are ready to by, and then you put up the money in advance.
This man laid down the money, and the fellow in charge said to him: Come back in 10 years and get your car.
The man answered: Morning or afternoon?


(big pause for laughter)

And the fellow behind the counter sai...more
Barbara
Applebaum writes insightfully and clearly about the Soviet communism era in three Eastern European countries: Poland, East Germany, and Hungary. The extent of her research is staggering (six years! four languages!), though the writing is far from dry or pedantic. I particularly admire the way she weaves individuals and their stories into the larger canvas of political reality. That made this sometimes painful history of subjugated people easier for me to understand.

I have only to look at the mul...more
Valerie
Wow, the author sure hates Communism, and even Marxism. Some interesting info, but her refusal to even consider that Marxism (let alone Communism) might have seemed to anyone at any time a legitimate system or philosophy ultimately turns this into a screed rather than an interesting work of history. Everything is too black and white, anyone who wasn't actively a part of the government was either an active or passive resister, and fellow travelers in the west were not legitimately supportive, but...more
David
It's hard to believe that the author of this excellent book is the same person as the writer of all those dopey articles on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, but it's true. Even if you've read her journalism and it gave you a migraine, you should still try this book. It's very readable and the author should be praised for capturing a significant part of history while the witnesses are still alive to tell her about it.

Before I started reading, I mentioned to the Long-Suffering Wife, a Woman...more
Steve Smits
A comprehensive account of the imposition of communism on countries in Eastern Europe, Applebaum's history posits the strategies and tactics used by the Soviet Union and its in-country collaborators (principally focusing on East Germany, Poland and Hungary) that installed Soviet brand communism in those nations.

While the Soviet military presence was a determinant reality in these countries, and certainly the constant backdrop behind implanting communism and assuring its dominance, it was the me...more
H Wesselius
Superbly written and researched book on the early days of the Iron Curtain. A great description of the power vacuum and how it was filled.

Applebaum begins by describing the process by which the Soviets extended their hold on eastern Europe. For her, the consolidation of power was not a reaction to American moves but a deliberate plan devised prior to "liberation" in 1944-5. Although I have no doubt Stalin and his minions planned to dominate post WWII eastern Europe, we would be amiss not to con...more
Scott
This book details how the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe affected the population, with an emphasis on the countries East Germany, Poland and Hungary through the years 1944 to 1956. Meticulously researched, there are many first-hand accounts from those who lived through the liberation from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II to the gradual takeover of Communist rule. The story is a classic case of how liberators can become oppressors.

The iron fist of Stalin was very much in effect in these...more
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Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written extensively about communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 2006, she is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Washington Post.
She is married to Radosław Sikorski, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. They have two children, Alexander and Tadeusz.

More about Anne Applebaum...
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“the Polish Institute of National Memory estimates that there were some 5.5 million wartime deaths in the country, of which about 3 million were Jews. In total, some 20 percent of the Polish population, one in five people, did not survive.” 1 likes
“This “success” had a political price, in Hungary as everywhere else. In practice, nationalization had very little effect on the daily lives of ordinary workers: they were paid the same wages, did the same work, had the same grievances. What difference did it make if their foremen worked for a capitalist or for the Ministry of Industry? Buoyed by consciousness of the rightness of his cause—he was an employee of “the people” after all—a state manager might even be more arrogant than a private owner. Instead of making the communist party more popular, nationalization often made workers more wary and even led in some places to strikes.” 0 likes
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