Excerpt from Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Iron Curtain

The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

By Anne Applebaum

Iron Curtain
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    608 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2013,
    640 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

But Arendt was wrong: 'the Russian rulers' did not follow the convoluted stages of the October Revolution in Eastern Europe. They applied only those techniques which they knew had a chance of success, and they undermined only those institutions which they believed it absolutely necessary to destroy. This is why their story is so full of interest: it tells us more about the totalitarian mindset, Soviet priorities and Soviet thinking than would any study of Soviet history on its own. More importantly, a study of the region tells us more about the ways in which human beings react to the imposition of totalitarianism than would a study of any one country on its own.

In more recent years, a wide range of scholars have begun to acknowledge this. In the two decades since the collapse of communism and the opening of archives across Central Europe, Germany and Russia, an enormous amount of academic work has been devoted to the region. Particularly well covered, in the Anglophone world, are the physical and human consequences of the Second World War – notably in the work of Jan Gross, Timothy Snyder and Bradley Abrams – as well as the history of ethnic cleansing in the region. 31 The international politics of the region are even better understood. Whole institutes now devote themselves to the study of the origins of the Cold War and the US –Soviet conflict. I have mostly relied on secondary sources when discussing these subjects.

The same is true of the political history of Eastern Europe, which has been very well told using archival sources in regional languages. I have not tried to replicate the work of excellent historians such as Andrzej Paczkowski and Krystyna Kersten, whose writings on the Polish communist leadership and secret police remain unsurpassed; Norman Naimark, whose book on the Soviet occupation of East Germany is the defi nitive work in English; Peter Kenez and László Borhi, who have written superb accounts of the political machinations in Hungary; Bradley Abrams, Mary Heimann and Karel Kaplan, who have described the period in Czechoslovakia. Certain more defined topics have also been the focus of excellent articles and full-length books. Among the best, again in English, I would include John Connelly on the Stalinization of Eastern European universities; Catherine Epstein and Marci Shore on communists and left-wing intellectuals; Mária Schmidt on the show trials; Martin Mevius on national symbolism in Hungary; Mark Kramer on de- Stalinization and the events of 1956.

General histories of the region as a whole are much rarer, if only because of the logistical difficulties. It's not easy to find a historian who reads three or four of the regional languages, let alone nine or ten. Anthologies are often the answer and there are at least two very good recent ones: Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in East-Central Europe and the Dynamic of the Soviet Bloc (New York and Budapest, 2009 ), edited by Vladimir Tismaneau, and The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944 – 1949 , edited by Norman Naimark and Leonid Gibianskii (Boulder, Colo., 1997 ). But though both volumes contain excellent essays, anthologies don't necessarily look for patterns or make comparisons. Since I wanted to do exactly that, I had the assistance of two superb researchers and translators, both writers in their own right, while working on this book, Regine Wosnitza in Berlin and Attila Mong in Budapest. I relied on my own knowledge of Polish and Russian.

Although much has been written about this period, there are still many, many untold stories. While preparing to write this book, I worked in former secret police archives – IPN in Warsaw, ÁBTL in Hungary, BstU (the Stasi archive) in Berlin – as well as the archives of government ministries, German art academies, the Hungarian fi lm institute, East German and Polish radio, just to name a few. I also made use of several new, or relatively new, collections of Soviet documents on the period. These include the two volumes of Vostochnaya Evropa v dokumentakh rossiskikh arkhivov, 1944 – 1953 (Eastern Europe in Documents from the Russian Archives 1944 – 1953 ), as well as the two volumes of Sovetskii faktor v vostochnoi evrope, 1944 – 1953 (The Soviet Factor in Eastern Europe 1944 – 1953 ) and a three-volume series on Soviet occupation policy in Eastern Germany, all published in Moscow with Russian editors, as well as a seven-volume series published by the Russian state archive, on the same topic. A joint commission of Polish and Ukrainian historians have now put together an imposing series of documents on their mutual history. In addition, the Polish Military Archive in Warsaw has a large collection of documents copied from Russian archives in the early 1990 s. The Central European University Press has also published two excellent document collections on the uprisings in Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956. A wide range of documents has been published in Polish, Hungarian and German as well.

Excerpted from Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum. Copyright © 2012 by Anne Applebaum. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Tenets of Communism

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  90Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.