Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945–1956

Doubleday. Nov. 2012. c.560p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780385515696. $35. HIST
OrangeReviewStarWhen 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.]
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