In the long-awaited follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag, acclaimed journalist Anne Applebaum delivers a groundbreaking history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe after World War II and transformed in frightening fashion the individuals who came under its sway.
At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews, and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.
'From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.'
Winston Churchill, Fulton, Missouri, 5 March 1946
Among many other things, the year 1945 marked one of the most extraordinary population movements in European history. All across the continent, hundreds of thousands of people were returning from Soviet exile, from forced labour in Germany, from concentration camps and prisoner of war camps, from hiding places and refuges of all kinds. The roads, footpaths, tracks and trains were crammed full ...
The book is a fascinating study of how an ideology transformed millions of people's lives in a very short period of time, and Anne Applebaum does a remarkable job of comparing and contrasting each country's gradual disappearance behind the "Iron Curtain." Students of modern history will definitely want to add this one to their libraries.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (795 words).
Communism is an economic and philosophical theory that can be summed up by a phrase made popular by the "father of communism," Karl Marx: "From each, according to his ability, to each according to his need."
In its ideal form, all property is held in common; there is no private ownership. There are also no class divisions, and equal weight is given to everyone in the society regardless of gender or race. Poverty and wealth are both non-existent since all products and services are distributed equally to all. Decisions are based on what will benefit society as a whole as opposed to what will enrich just one person or group.
Although communism became an important influence beginning in the middle of the 19th century, it is not a new ...
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