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. Education became pure propaganda. Even children's stories were rewritten in order to make them ideologically correct.
The book superbly details the eventual failure of this parody of a political system. She explains, however, that the West singularly failed to intervene to hasten the demise of this doomed evil system.
The book concentrates on three states: Poland, Hungary and the former East Germany. They differed greatly. As yet she is unable to tell us what was happening inside the Soviet Union while all this was going on. One day hopefully she will. Until that day we have been given a masterly account of how in those three countries in particular Stalin undermined their institutions, twisted their language and manipulated the people. She has given us an essential window into a hideous world of paranoia, lies and evil that is almost impossible to imagine. Yet it took place over many decades beginning less than 70 years ago.
Anne Applebaum is married to the current foreign minister of Poland. She is a fluent Polish speaker.
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