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.
"So much effort is spent trying to understand democratization these days, and so little is spent trying to understand the opposite processes. Anne Applebaum corrects that imbalance, explaining how and why societies succumb to totalitarian rule. Iron Curtain is a deeply researched and eloquent description of events which took place not long ago and in places not far away - events which contain many lessons for the present." (Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World)
"Iron Curtain is an exceptionally important book which effectively challenges many of the myths of the origins of the Cold War. It is wise, perceptive, remarkably objective and brilliantly researched." (Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad and The Second World War)
"This dramatic book gives us, for the first time, the testimony of dozens of men and women who found themselves in the middle of one of the most traumatic periods of European history. Anne Applebaum conveys the impact of politics and ideology on individual lives with extraordinary immediacy." (Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War)
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Important story, imperfectly executed
Reliving the cold war...
An insightful, well researched book. I grew up in a Siberian "closed" town in 1970s, which was build by Gulag prisoners before I was born. I spent my childhood behind three rows of barbed wires and had a happy childhood in this Soviet version of "gated community", which was not on the map. Interestingly, my home town Zheleznogorsk is still not on the map - Google maps missed it for some reason. My small town produced refined plutonium and spy satellites. In nearly 30 years I lived in the USSR before moving to the USA, I had no idea what was happening outside USSR, not only in the capitalist West, but even in the socialist East. We just never had a chance and thus did not even dream about traveling the world, until Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly everything become possible. Now I am trying to catch up with all the missed opportunities - and travel 30-40 times a year.
Book is a bit single sided though. I wish I could discuss it with the author. I live in Missouri now, not too far from Westminster College in Fulton MO, where the famous "Iron Curtain" speech was delivered by Winston Churchill in 1946. A week later the transcript of this speech was on Stalin's desk and infuriated him. It prompted Stalin to approve plans for building my home town among a network of similar "closed" cities of Siberia and for establishing my Alma mater - Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology - the best STEM school in former Soviet Union, which trained many outstanding physicists. It is impossible to go back in time, but what would have been without this speech? I am far from thinking that Stalin would have been different, but historical dynamics might have been not so dramatic in 1946 and on after the speech.
It is sad that the responsibility for rape of Eastern Europe by Stalin's Soviet Union is not acknowledged by the current Russian government, as it was by Germany. Without such a moral statement there will be no reconciliation.
- Igor R. Efimov