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Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56 [Hardcover]

Anne Applebaum
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
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Book Description

4 Oct 2012

From Anne Applebaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag, comes a major new work of historical and moral reckoning: the story of life behind the Iron Curtain.

Once the Nazis were defeated in 1945, the people of Central and Eastern Europe expected to recover the lives they had led before 1939. Instead, they found themselves subjected to a tyranny that was in many ways as inhuman as the one which they had just escaped. This book explains how Communism was imposed on these previously free societies in the decade after the end of the Second World War. Applebaum describes, in calm but devastating detail, how political parties, the church, the media, young people's organisations - the institutions of civil society on every level - were all quickly eviscerated. Ranging widely across new archival material and many sources unknown in English, she follows the communists' tactics as they bullied, threatened and murdered their way to power. She also chronicles individual lives to show the rapid choices people had to make - to fight, to flee, or to collaborate.

Within a remarkably short period after the end of the war, Eastern Europe had been ruthlessly Stalinised. Iron Curtain is a brilliant history of a brutal period in European history, but also a reminder of how fragile free societies are, and how vulnerable they can be to the predations of determined and unscrupulous enemies.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (4 Oct 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0713998687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998689
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 15.5 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Applebaum is a journalist who writes about international relations, an historian who writes about the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and a columnist for Slate and the Washington Post. She writes in the US and Britain for, among others, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic and the Spectator.
Her most recent book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, was a finalist for the National book Award. Her previous book, Gulag: A History won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction.
She currently runs the Global Transitions program at the Legatum Institute in London. In the academic year 2012-2013 she holds the Phillipe Roman chair in International History at the London School of Economics. She is married to Radek Sikorski, the Polish politician and writer - and is also the author of a cookbook, From a Polish Country House Kitchen.

Product Description

Review

Iron Curtain is an exceptionally important book which effectively challenges many of the myths of the origins of the Cold War. It is wise, perceptive, remarkably objective and brilliantly researched. (Antony Beevor)

Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain [is] certainly the best work of modern history I have ever read. (A.N. Wilson Financial Times)

Applebaum's description of this remarkable time is everything a good history book should be: brilliantly and comprehensively researched, beautifully and shockingly told, encyclopedic in scope, meticulous in detail... it is a true masterpiece. (Keith Lowe Sunday Telegraph)

In her relentless quest for understanding, Applebaum shines light into forgotten worlds of human hope, suffering and dignity... Others have told us of the politics of this time. Applebaum does that but also shows what politics meant to people's lives, in an era when the state did more to shape individual destinies than at any time in history. (John Connelly Washington Post)

Iron Curtain is modern history writing at its very best; assiduously researched, it wears its author's considerable erudition lightly. It sets a new benchmark for the study of this vitally important subject. (Roger Moorhouse Independent on Sunday)

Anne Applebaum's masterly book gives for the first time, a systematic explanation of the other, largely untold, side of the story... it is a window into a world of lies and evil that we can hardly imagine. (Edward Lucas Standpoint)

About the Author

Anne Applebaum is a historian and journalist, a regular columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, and the author of several books, including Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. She is the Director of Political Studies at the Legatum Institute in London, and she divides her time between Britain and Poland, where her husband, Radek Sikorski, serves as Foreign Minister.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Iron Curtain' by Anne Applebaum 5 Nov 2012
By Patrick
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anne Applebaum's last book, 'Gulag' related events that were so horrifying that you were almost glad when the book came to an end. The story here is also of cruelty and failure, but not on such a terrible scale. It shows how ordinary, decent people were made to conform, partly at least because of the threat of terror, and how the Soviet backed governments in Eastern Europe tried to divert attention from their failure to get public support or to significantly improve living standards. It ends with the doomed attempts at rebellion in East Germany and then Hungary.
A lot of research must have gone into this book, but the author manages to present her ideas clearly and simply. Partly of necessity, she has to concentrate on only three countries, Hungary, Poland and East Germany. She shows that the conventional picture of the Cold War only breaking out in 1948-9 is misleading. The communists genuinely believed, after the War, that they could win popular elections. But they were soon disabused of these ideas. Instead, they effectively seized power and crushed any opposition.
By relating the personal stories of many of the people that she was able to interview, the author is able to make the story that she is relating much more interesting. A major theme is how private institutions were not allowed to survive for very long under Communism.
This book is well worth reading. It extends our knowledge of what happened in Eastern Europe after the War, and never fails to interest the reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good book 29 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book very much. I have always wanted to understand why Russia and the West fought together against Germany in the Second World War, and then went on to become enemies with the division of Europe. This book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand this period of European history, and the background to the subjugation of Eastern Europe by Russia after the Second World War.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By Lost John TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Concentrating on Poland, Hungary and East Germany, the focus of this book is not as wide as might be presumed from either the Iron Curtain or the Eastern Europe of the title. Ann Applebaum explains her reasoning in the introduction and writes that she chose those three countries not for their similarities but for the sharp contrasts between them. Their national experiences before 1944 were markedly different, and that had an important bearing on their different experiences and reactions after they were taken into the Soviet empire.

Applebaum also helpfully sets out her objectives for the book:-

* To gain an understanding of totalitarianism, not in theory but in practice, and how it shaped the lives of millions of Europeans in the 20th Century.
* To seek evidence of the deliberate destruction of civil society and small business.
* To investigate the phenomenon of social realism and communist education.
* To gather information on the founding and early development of the region's secret police.
* To understand how ordinary people learned to cope with the new regimes; how they collaborated, willingly or reluctantly; how and why they joined the party and other state institutions; how they resisted, actively or passively; how they came to make terrible choices that most of us in the West, nowadays, never have to face.

Generally speaking, the end result matches-up to those objectives very well. I do have a few reservations, however. Despite the huge amount of information included, the bitter hatred of many East Germans for the Stasi (secret police) and all its works is not, I feel, fully communicated to the reader.
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73 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destroyer of Myths 1 Oct 2012
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Readers of the Washington Post will be familiar with the lucid and knowledgeable writings of Anne Applebaum.
Her book about the Gulag rightly won her acclaim as an historian of the first rank. This outstanding book of over 650 pages will cement that reputation.

For the very first time we are given a detailed and meticulously researched account of what happened after 1945 in those Baltic states that fell under the tyranny of the Soviets. In so doing Applebaum gives us a new and much needed perspective on the so-called Cold War.

She also destroys the myth that Eastern Europe was a homogeneous grey,backward and poor mass. She also rightly points out that the fighting did not end in 1945. In one or two cases it lasted into the 70's.

The book tells us again of the brutal and murderous treatment by the soviets of anyone accused of being a dissident. Torture, 'show trials' and blackmail were commonplace. Applebaum reveals how Stalin's wartime allies fully consented to the ethnic cleansing that was carried out with typical soviet brutality.Thousands died as a result.Rape was commonplace as were confessions obtained under torture. The Cardinal of Hungary, for example, was forced under torture to admit taking part in plot to steal the crown jewels and begin a new world war.

Soviet totalitarian rule attacked and in some cases destroyed any institutions such as the Catholic Church, fearing any form of rival belief.

'Iron Curtain' will make very uncomfortable reading for those in the West who blamed Western warmongers for Soviet terror, indeed for any of the many apologists for Stalin' monstrous regime. Applebaum exposes the frantic desire of the Soviet system to exterminate any form of independent life, for example, Freemasons.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a reminder of dark times
Good account revealing the dreadful reality of communism. Should remove the scales from the eyes of apologists for the USSR
Published 18 days ago by Ian Skinner
4.0 out of 5 stars A snoring account of the installation of Stalinism in Central Europe
Good narrative of the fall of the Iron Curtain across Central Europe. Concentrates on the gradual seizure of power by the Soviet backed or installed Communist parties. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Conrad Flynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Very detailed reading, thoroughly enjoyed it although it could be sometimes rather heavy reading... None the less I highly recommend it an look forward too reading "Gulag", the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Conzj
5.0 out of 5 stars ANNE APPLEBAUM
After reading Gulag I knew that this book would be the definitive account of how the Soviets extended their ideology across Eastern Europe. Read more
Published 2 months ago by MR P BUCZKO
5.0 out of 5 stars The Suffocation of Central Europe
I am just about old enough to remember 'Eastern Europe'; I can remember school books and soon-to-be-outdated atlases in which Europe was neatly divided in half, West and East. Read more
Published 2 months ago by S. Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review -Iron Curtain
Excellent book by well researched author. Well written and a good historical analysis and recommend this book to all those interested in the post war political scene.
Published 3 months ago by Silver Surfer
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening how easily terror and fear take away freedom
I found this quite disturbing at times. Not the content, some of which is unpleasant to say the least, but primarily the dreadful things human beings do to one another in the name... Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling but not Comprehensive review of the rise of Communism in...
Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer prize winning Gulag presents a compelling overview into how East Germany, Poland and Hungary fell under the influence of Communism and the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Toast
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reminder From History
In this book Anne Applebaum tells the story of a strange and tragic period in history, the consequences of which we are still living with today. Read more
Published 3 months ago by P. Haydon
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucid, but at times grim reading
Iron Curtain: The Crush of Eastern Europe, is a return in some ways to an earlier epoch of history. Contemporary historians have focussed on the causes of events, their social... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Martin Turner
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