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

Free elections held in some countries in 1945 and 1946 were not a sign of communist tolerance either. The Soviet and Eastern European communist parties allowed these elections to happen because they thought that with control over the secret police and the radio, and with heavy influence over young people, they would win. Communists everywhere believed in the power of their own propaganda, and in the first years after the war's end they had some good reasons for that belief. People did join the party after the war, whether out of despair, disorientation, pragmatism, cynicism or ideology, not only in Eastern Europe but in France, Italy and Britain. In Yugoslavia, Tito's communist party was genuinely popular, thanks to its role in the resistance. In Czechoslovakia – occupied by Hitler in 1938, thanks to the appeasement of the West – real hopes were at first placed in the Soviet Union, which the Czechoslovaks hoped would be a more sympathetic power. Even in Poland and Germany, countries where suspicion of Soviet motives was strong, the psychological impact of the war also shaped many people's perceptions. Capitalism and liberal democracy had failed catastrophically in the 1930 s. Many believed it was now time to try something different.

Hard though it is sometimes for us to understand, communists also believed their own doctrine. Just because communist ideology now seems wrongheaded in retrospect, that doesn't mean it didn't inspire fervent belief at the time. The majority of communist leaders in Eastern Europe – and many of their followers – really did think that sooner or later the working-class majority would acquire class consciousness, understand its historical destiny, and vote for a communist regime. They were wrong. Despite intimidation, despite propaganda and despite even the real attraction communism held for some people devastated by the war, communist parties lost early elections in Germany, Austria and Hungary by large margins. In Poland, the communists tested the ground with a referendum, and when that went badly its leaders abandoned free elections altogether. In Czechoslovakia, the communist party did well in an initial set of elections, in 1946 , winning a third of the vote. But when it became clear that it would do much worse in subsequent elections in 1948 , party leaders staged a coup. The harsher policies imposed upon the Eastern bloc in 1947 and 1948 were therefore not merely, and certainly not only, a reaction to the Cold War. They were also a reaction to failure. The Soviet Union and its local allies had failed to win power peacefully. They had failed to achieve absolute or even adequate control. Despite their infl uence over the radio and the secret police, they were not popular or universally admired. The number of their followers was shrinking rapidly, even in countries like Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, where they had initially had some genuine support. As a result, the local communists, advised by their Soviet allies, resorted to harsher tactics which had been used previously – and successfully – in the USSR . The second part of this book describes those techniques: a new wave of arrests, the expansion of labour camps, much tighter control over the media, intellectuals and the arts. Certain patterns were followed almost everywhere: fi rst the elimination of 'right-wing' or anti-communist parties, then the destruction of the non-communist left, then the elimination of opposition within the communist party itself. In some countries, communist authorities even conducted show trials very much along Soviet lines. Eventually the region's communist parties would attempt to eliminate all remaining independent organizations; to recruit followers into state-run mass organizations instead; to establish much harsher controls over education; to subvert the Catholic and Protestant churches. They created new, all-encompassing forms of educational propaganda, sponsored public parades and lectures, hung banners and posters, organized petition-signing campaigns and sporting events.

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: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

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 Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  167The City:
    Dean Koontz
  2.  116Tomlinson 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.