Reviews for Iron Curtain : The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956
Book News Reviews
Applebaum, a Pulitzer award winning author who has written about Soviet history before, presents a history of the Soviet expansion into Europe following World War II up to 1956. She focuses on Hungary, Poland, and East Germany. She explains how the USSR imported the Soviet system into occupied nations, how the Soviets controlled radio-broadcasting in satellite nations, how Soviets encouraged, and how civil society organizations and small businesses were marginalized by and ultimately destroyed by communists. She draws both on archival and other historical sources, but also went to Poland, Hungary and Germany to conduct interviews. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Booklist Reviews 2012 October #2
Applebaum's Gulag received a 2004 Pulitzer Prize, an accolade that accords prominence on her new, groundbreaking investigation of the history of communism. Examining Stalin's imposition of totalitarian regimes on Poland, Hungary, and the Soviet zone of Germany, Applebaum depicts Communist parties that were remorselessly successful in destroying opposition but that failed to win widespread popular support. An interesting motif in Applebaum's history is the awareness by Communist leaders of civil society's rejection of Stalinist socialism, demonstrated by the communists' losses in somewhat unfettered postwar elections. After redressing that problem with rigged polls and mini gulags, the regimes strove to improve communist ideology's attractiveness through propaganda, mass demonstrations, socialist realism in art, and model communist cities. Some people became convinced supporters, but most did not and survived through personal compromises with communism. The latter's individual stories, drawn from interviews and research into those suppressed by state security, infuse Applebaum's account with perplexing human interest. What made for a collaborator, a true believer, a dissident? A masterful chronicle and analysis, Applebaum's work is a history-shelf necessity. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #1
A Pulitzer Prize–winning author returns with the story of those dark decades in Eastern Europe when the Soviet Union slammed the prison doors on people, cultures and countries. Realizing she could not tell the whole story in one volume, Washington Post and Slate columnist Applebaum (Gulag: A History, 2003, etc.) focuses on Poland, East Germany and Hungary and shows how their stories were representative. She begins as World War II was ending. The Russians were plowing through Eastern Europe on their way to Berlin. While many of the Allies were thinking of home, the Soviets had grander and grimmer ideas. Applebaum shows how the communists gained political control of individual countries (they were sometimes surprised in "elections" how unpopular they were), then charts how--in the service of their iron ideology--they systematically destroyed economies, organizations, the arts, education, the press, the judiciary, the church, the entertainment industries and every other social institution. Internment camps and prisons became the true growth industries. Applebaum also explores the tactics employed to keep people in line: fear and intimidation, of course, but also a massive propaganda industry that sought to convince everyone that things were better than they were, but not nearly as good as they would be in five years or so. They invested much hope in education, believing they could indoctrinate an entire generation. It didn't work. Periodically, the author chronicles what was happening in the West (the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift). Beginning with the death of Stalin, Applebaum shows how and why things slowly began to change. The emerging youth culture, the resurgence of religious belief, the rise of a new generation of writers and artists--these were among the factors that energized the 1956 uprisings, which, of course, the Soviets temporarily crushed. A dark but hopeful chronicle that shows how even humanity's worst can fracture and fall. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 May #1
Slate and Washington Post columnist Applebaum won a Pulitzer for Gulag, so you can bet that a lot of folks will be anticipating her next book. Here she explains how the Soviet Union, suddenly in control of the countries of Eastern Europe after World War II, turned them into communist regimes. Applebaum not only dug into newly opened archives but conducted interviews, which should give this book a personal feel. Exciting! [Page 54]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Express Reviews
When World War II came to an end in Europe in May 1945, the armies of the Soviet Union occupied all of Eastern Europe--and for the next 45 years that would be the case. Stalin and his henchmen aggressively took control of all aspects of life in the occupied nations, shutting down all independent agencies, governments, newspapers, etc., throughout the region. Within a decade, all pretense of freedom was gone for millions of citizens. Pulitzer Prizer winner Applebaum (director of political studies, Legatum Inst., London; Gulag: A History) has applied her immense knowledge--and impressive language skills--to a thorough investigation of how the Soviets under Stalin and his successors systematically established nearly totalitarian control of Eastern Europe and, in so doing, laid waste to cultures and societies that had been built over centuries.Verdict This is a powerful and sobering book, by far the best treatment to yet appear on the topic. There have been earlier studies treating individual nations (e.g., Laszlo Borhi's Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956, and Andrzej Paczkowski's The Spring Will Be Ours: Poland and the Poles from Occupation to Freedom, translated from Polish by Jane Cave), but no one has accomplished the synthesis of multiarchival sources that Applebaum presents here. An important and essential study of a neglected aspect of the Cold War era. [This book has been nominated for the 2012 National Book Award in nonfiction.--Ed.]--Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #3
According to this disturbing but fascinating history, the U.S.S.R.'s 1944-1950 subjugation of Eastern Europe was a brutal process. With other priorities in the forefront at Yalta and other wartime Allied summits, FDR gave Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe short shrift, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Applebaum (Gulag). In this account of the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe during and after WWII, Applebaum concentrates on events in Poland, Hungary, and what became East Germany, all of which unroll with depressing sameness. The Soviet army arrived in 1944-1945 with enormous destruction. There followed an orgy of arrests, trials, executions, and deportation of "fascists," a broad category that included noncommunist anti-Nazi resistance groups. Expulsions of ethnic Germans was also carried out on a mass scale. Faithful Marxists, the Soviet leaders knew that the masses would prefer communism, so they initially allowed political parties, churches, newspapers, and even elections, assuming the people would naturally vote for a proletarian state. When that didn't happen, democracy was quickly shut down. Applebaum delivers a gripping if unremittingly painful account of the period during which Communists, astonished at losing every election, steadily suppressed civil society, whereupon darkness descended for 40 years. With precision in her narration and penetrating analysis, Applebaum has written another masterful account of the brutality of Soviet rule. Illus., maps. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Nov.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC