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Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

4.5 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307938824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307938824
  • Package Dimensions: 17.8 x 16.8 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,936,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am just about old enough to remember 'Eastern Europe'; I can remember school books and soon-to-be-outdated atlases in which Europe was neatly divided in half, West and East. I can just about remember the 'fall of Communism', specifically I remember the tanks on the street of Romania, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and later the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of my headteachers actually managed to get hold of a piece of concrete he solemnly told us was a piece of the Berlin Wall. I got an idea of Eastern Europe as a strange and homogenous region with identical cultures, histories, and similar sounding place names, all built out of concrete. Later, I learnt about spheres of influence, the Warsaw Pact, the Cold War, and Totalitarianism, all of which seemed to reinforce these ideas.

Later still, and I started to meet people from 'Eastern Europe' and found my ideas were challenged. Not least, people from the Czech Republic and Poland aren't especially impressed with the 'East/West' dichotomy and see themselves as inhabitants of central Europe, a place that was never in my old books. I have visited both countries, and found that the old Habsburg cities survived the horrors of World Wars and Communism, if not intact, then with their historic hearts still beating. I realised that my earlier ideas weren't just challenged, but wrong. So was Communist 'Eastern' Europe just a veneer, or a piece of Western propaganda? How did the Soviet Union come to dominate such a large territory so completely?

So it was with some interest I looked forward to the paperback publication of this book; the title alone seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.
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Format: Paperback
This book is probably best read as a follow-on to a decent history of the Second World War, so if you know your Ardennes from your Dunkirk, you'll be good to go. It starts at the end of the war, with the Soviets having stormed Berlin and pretty much continues from there, making a convincing refutation of the general idea that conflict and bad times stopped in 1945. Millions of people in Eastern Europe had it what you might call 'bad' under the Nazis but if Applebaum is to be believed (and with a bibliography like that, not to mention the amount of shoe-leather she's worn out digging out old survivors to talk to in person, why wouldn't she be?) it got, if anything, considerably worse under the Russians.

Over the course of 450 pages, Applebaum shows, layer by layer, how the Russians went about imposing socialism on those Eastern European countries under its control after the end of the war. She shows how the involuntary imposition of a political ideology on a country can only be achieved by means of force and is thus doomed to become a totalitarian rule, no matter what the initial intention of that ideology. In this respect, the simple showing-how-it-was-done, the book is a total success. It is so good, in fact, that it could almost be used as a guidebook on how to set up a totalitarian state. In her attention to this nuts-and-bolts approach, however, Applebaum often neglects to really convey the profound impact the Kremlin's overarching decisions about moving populations and building factories and educating children had on individuals in the same way a Beevor or Hastings might.
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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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By Vitosha M TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have a great love of modern European history, with part of my degree specialising in Soviet politics and the satellite states and modern history. I ordered this book with great expectations but had not read the other reviews. Firstly this book only covers, Hungry, East Germany and Poland, which quite frankly is a travesty. Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania and Romania represent countries where the authors analysis of how socialism was engineered and Eastern Europe was crushed by the mighty Soviet Union does not necessarily hold up. The way power was transferred in these countries should have been included. Secondly the in-depth strata/realist analysis of how "Eastern Europe" was crushed is not here in this book. The author tends to make sweeping generalisations and does not look at the micro causes of why certain groups backed the taking over of the Governments in these three countries.

The book focuses upon how Governments used the threat of terror to gain public support and then used propaganda and lying to hide their failures. I am sorry but there is a far greater depth of analysis needed to understand control and taking of power in these countries. If you take just two examples Matyas Rakosi in Hungry and Wladyslaw Gomulka in Poland you can see the simplifications to the theory by the author do not explain the whole story. Rakosi was deemed too dangerous and too cruel in his treatment of the Hungarians by Moscow, that Moscow decided he had to go. Yes he kept order, yes he destroyed minority discontent but it was the Soviet Union itself who did not want this type of person in charge of Hungry so they themselves removed him. If terror was the name of the game Rakosi would have been kept in power.
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