Ron Radosh: Review of Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956"

tags: Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain, book reviews, Ron Radosh, National Review



Ron Radosh is a PJ Media columnist and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

At the end of World War II, Eastern and Central Europe were “liberated” from Nazism only to see it replaced by a social order installed by the other great totalitarian nation, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. In his famous speech at Westminster College in March 1946, Winston Churchill told the world that “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the continent.” The left wing at the time saw the charge as outrageous and as warmongering. Anne Applebaum’s book not only confirms the accuracy of Churchill’s understanding that Moscow was establishing regimes that would attempt to duplicate the Soviet system, but she shows that the Soviet-led rulers of those regimes would attempt to eradicate any independent civil society and build a new human being — “Homo Sovieticus,” the new Soviet man — who would accept his essential role as the builder of Communism.

What Applebaum has accomplished in her worthy successor to her Pulitzer Prize–winning Gulag is nothing less than the first full account of precisely how the USSR worked to create — in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany, the three “people’s democracies” on which she concentrates — mechanisms that would make it virtually impossible to resist implementation of a Stalinist social structure. Any individual who sought to belong to or participate in a group not controlled by Communists was per se an “enemy of the state” and not to be tolerated. To insist on individuality or the right to belong to autonomous groups — even chess clubs — was viewed as a dangerous precedent that might lead to “anti-Soviet actions” by members, who thus deserved imprisonment before they could actually become opponents of the regime....



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