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Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  4,284 ratings  ·  518 reviews
At the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union unexpectedly found itself in control of a huge swathe of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to a completely new political and moral system: communism. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum describes how the Communis ...more
Paperback, 613 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Penguin Books (first published October 30th 2012)
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4.02  · 
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 ·  4,284 ratings  ·  518 reviews


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Igor Efimov
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan-Maat
Shortest Review
Read Ashes and Diamonds instead.

Short Review
This is a book which in its final pages, like a bad report or essay seeks to assert new ideas( and with them the books own value and importance) not in evidence in the bulk of the text during whichThe Simpsons provide the essential vocabulary of reader response with Meh and Duh! depending on which blatantly obvious point the author highlights.

Longer Review
My overwhelming response to this book is don't bother.

Life, we are told, is sh
...more
Joseph Spuckler
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
Maciek
Anne Applebaum is a journalist and author of Gulag: A History, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. She has written for many papers and publications, and was a foreign correspondent for The Economist in the late 1980's, when she covered the societal and political changes happening in Eastern Europe. She is married to Radosław Sikorski, Poland's former minister of foreign affairs, and is now a Polish citizen.

Iron Curtain is a well-researched and important book which seeks to answer the q
...more
Rob
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex Givant
When I was a kid in Soviet school they told us Russian troops brought peace and prosperity to Eastern Europe countries and I believed in it, but what 13-14 years old in totalitarian society could know.

Later I read lot of stuff and now I see picture much clearer: we brought misery and raping to these countries. First our soldiers (not all of them, but enough to discard it as one-off) raped women in all countries they liberated.

Then came more dangerous predators: politicians. They raped not a si
...more
Mikey B.
Page 174 (my book, Polish radio announcer Andrzej Zalewski)

One winter day, I stupidly wrote in the text of the script, “There is a cold atmospheric front approaching us from Russia.” The broadcaster read it aloud … in the morning they phoned me: “Go and see the director.” I went to see the director and was ushered in right away: “Zalewski,” he told me, “I thought you were more intelligent. From now on, remember only warm, good things come from the East.” It didn’t seem funny at the time…

This boo
...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
4triplezed
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, history
"The best work of modern history I have ever read" says A N Wilson on the cover. The cover praise is gushing as we get "masterpiece" from Oliver Kamm and "at last the story can be told" by Orlando Figes. I have to say that I have come out of this book extremely disappointed and for many reasons.

The best work of modern history is as ridiculous a comment and as to Masterpiece? Evans Reich trilogy just kills this book for the sheer brilliance of the telling of the subject as opposed to a limited f
...more
Loring Wirbel
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Manray9
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia, wwii-europe
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-Russian. I noted with interest in the acknowledgements s ...more
Bettie☯
(view spoiler)

Please note - all the comments regarding this book have been removed and I have not been informed by grramazon. It took an observant flister to point it out.

So are we still being censored folks!


ETA: according to Feedback, who answered promptly, it looks like there is a bug going around re deleted comments. That is heartening.

Wouldn't this be fab:

Source
Ana
An in depth review of the modes of repressing and molding the human psyche in Eastern European societies that have suffered under the Soviet-Stalinist hand. It touches on everything from the political, economic and social environments to the specific use of radio to either brainwash people or to help the permanent (even though small) resistance during the period of 1944-1956, as well as a beautiful dive into the architecture of oppression (which has quickly become one of my favorite subjects) an ...more
Pctrollbreath
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
A.L. Sowards
This it the third Anne Applebaum book I've read or listened to in the past six months. Of the three, I actually enjoyed Gulag: A History and Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933 more, but I still found this one well-researched and worth my time.

Applebaum focuses on three of the Eastern block countries: Poland, East Germany, and Hungary, then covers how the Soviets cemented control thematically. So there's a chapter on youth groups, art, radio, rebuilding, etc. The epilogue makes a poi
...more
Samir Rawas Sarayji
I really struggled to get to the middle of the book and eventually gave up. There were lots of interesting facts, but the book tried to do too much, from too many angles at the expense of depth. The author's opinions and frustrations were too prominent in the writing, which at first I liked since my problem with most history books is the overly objective narrative, but this was really too much! At one point it felt like a rant, despite the well polished academic tone... a historian's rant...
Ken Clarke
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 works not simply as a history of the early Cold War but as an anodyne to the Leftist academics, which is most of them, who read the Cold War as the byproduct of American imperialism. Ms. Applebaum demonstrates that it was Russian imperial reach that crushed the Central and Eastern European states and civilizations; not American interference in the Soviet sphere (Warsaw Pact nations).

The list of Soviet atrocities, both cult
...more
Lukasz Pruski
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a Pole I am lucky to have been born several years after the end of World War II. I was spared the unspeakable horrors and atrocities committed by Germans during the war and occupation. I was also spared the horrors and atrocities that accompanied the Russian liberation of Eastern Europe and were still happening behind the Iron Curtain during the first 10 or so years after the war. My first memories that relate to politics date to 1956, which was the year demarcating the terrible period of ...more
Roger
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marks54
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Communism went out of business after 1989 and the Cold War ended, one of the common reactions was that it would now be possible to put the odd history of that period on the shelf and move on without needing to deal with the history of Stalinist regimes and their mixture of totalitarian control, mass propaganda, and confrontational foreign affairs. Well, what also happened was that the various state archives of these repressive regimes were opened to researchers, so that the history of this ...more
WarpDrive
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history_general
Well researched and well written book about the post-war period in Eastern Europe. It contains a detailed and interesting narrative of the progressive Stalinization of Eastern Europe, focused primarily on East Germany, Poland and Hungary.
The only issue with this book (and the reason why I am not giving it 5 stars) is, in my opinion, a (possibly ideologically motivated) lack of balance in the judgment of the individuals and peoples involved in this process - sometimes they are portrayed in an alm
...more
Jerome
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jill
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Louise
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Peter
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Czarny Pies
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyoone interested in the 20th Century.
Shelves: european-history
Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain" is a very important book about how the Soviet Union conquered Poland, Hungary and East Germany militarily, then eliminated political opposition in these countries and finally conducted a KulturKampf in order to create a new Soviet mentality in the three subjugated nations. "Iron Curtain" is a pioneering work. No other work of comparable scope exists in English nor, I suspect, does such a book exist in Polish, German or Hungarian. Ms. Applebaum has given us a fabul ...more
John Gurney
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iron Curtain is an excellent, yet, in ways, difficult read. This lengthy book succeeds in conveying how totalitarian communism permeated almost everything in post-WWII Poland, East Germany, and Hungary. Under Stalin's gaze, the Eastern European Communist parties swept aside the old systems: governmental, economic, cultural, and religious in order to build a new communist order. They failed economically and their citizens rebelled in ways both small and symbolic as well as great, ranging from emi ...more
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588 followers
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.

“Before a nation can be rebuilt, its citizens need to understand how it was destroyed in the first place: how its institutions were undermined, how its language was twisted, how its people were manipulated.” 15 likes
“Totalitarian regimes, they declared, all had at least five things in common: a dominant ideology, a single ruling party, a secret police force prepared to use terror, a monopoly on information, and a planned economy. By those criteria, the Soviet and Nazi regimes were not the only totalitarian states. Others—Mao’s China, for example—qualified too.” 5 likes
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