FROM THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR OF GULAG COMES A MAJOR NEW WORK OF HISTORICAL AND MORAL RECKONING: THE STORY OF LIFE BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
At the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union unexpectedly 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 a completely new political and moral system: communism. In Iron Curtain, acclaimed historian Anne Applebaum describes how the communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete.
Applebaum portrays in devastating detail how political parties, the church, the media, young people’s organizations—the institutions of civil society on every level—were quickly eviscerated. She explains how the secret police services were organized and how all forms of opposition were undermined and destroyed. Drawing widely from newly available archival material and many sources unknown in English, she follows the communists' tactics as they bullied, threatened, and murdered their way to power. She also chronicles individual lives to show the choices people had to make—to fight, to flee, to collaborate.
Within a remarkably short period after the end of the war, Eastern Europe had been ruthlessly Stalinized. Iron Curtain is a brilliant history of a brutal time and a haunting reminder of how fragile free societies can be. Today the Soviet bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Anne Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.
ANNE APPLEBAUM is the author of several books, including Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. She writes a column for The Washington Post and Slate, and is the Director of Political Studies at the Legatum Institute in London. She divides her time between Britain and Poland, where her husband, Radek Sikorski, serves as Foreign Minister.
“The communist takeover of Central and Eastern
Europe has waited a lifetime for its historian. A tenacious
researcher, an eloquent writer, but above all a passionate—and
compassionate judge of the human condition, Anne Applebaum has
written a masterly account. It is a timely reminder of how swiftly
liberation can be turned into slavery.”
"Iron Curtain is an
exceptionally important book that effectively challenges many of the
myths of the origins of the Cold War. It is wise, perceptive,
remarkably objective, and brilliantly researched."
“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
individual lives with extraordinary immediacy.”
“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 that took place not long ago and
in places not far away—in many lessons for the present.”
The loss of freedom, tyranny, abuse, hunger
would all have been easier to bear if not for the compulsion to call
them freedom, justice, the good of the people... Lies, by their very
nature partial and ephemeral, are revealed as lies when confronted
with language’s striving for truth. But here all the means of
disclosure had been permanently confiscated by the police.
A Note About Abbreviations and Acronyms xi
PART ONE: FALSE DAWN
1: Zero Hour 3
PART TWO: HIGH STALINISM
11: Reactionary Enemies 249