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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (486 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Anne Applebaum Narrator: Cassandra Campbell Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2012 ISBN: 9780307938831
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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 detail of Iron Curtain.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “One of the most compelling but also serious works on Europe’s past to appear in recent memory…In her relentless quest for understanding, Applebaum shines light into forgotten worlds of human hope, suffering, and dignity.”

    Washington Post

  • “In this epic but intimate history, Ms. Applebaum offers us windows into the lives of the men and sometimes women who constructed the police states of Eastern Europe. She gives us a glimpse of those who resisted. But she also gives us a harrowing portrait of the rest—the majority of Eastern Europe’s population, who, having been caught up in the continent’s conflicts time and time again, now found themselves pawns in a global one.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Remarkable…a book that reanimates a world that was largely hidden from Western eyes, and that many people who lived and suffered in it would prefer to forget…Iron Curtain gives us some idea of what it was like to be trapped in the Soviet experiment, to be a witness to the demolition and reconstruction of one’s environment.”

    New Yorker

  • “Illuminating…Human beings, as Ms. Applebaum rousingly concludes, do not acquire ‘totalitarian personalities’ with ease.”

    Economist

  • “Magisterial…Anne Applebaum is exceptionally well qualified to tell this story. Her deep knowledge of the region, breadth of view and eye for human detail makes this as readable as her last book, on the Gulag.”

    Daily Mail

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for December 2012
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the 2012 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, November 2012
  • A 2012 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2012 Washington Post Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2012 Publishers Weekly Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2012 National Book Award Finalist
  • A 2012 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karolyn | 2/9/2014

    " I, like many others, thought that liberation meant happy days were ahead, but that was definitely not the case in the Eastern Bloc countries. Certainly gives me a higher respect for the people who lived through it and finally prevailed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marc | 2/3/2014

    " A really nice introduction to the topic--thorough, well-organized, and largely free of cant. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tfalcone | 1/24/2014

    " Good history lesson and some stuff from the cold war I actually remember like the invasion of Chekoslovakia and the eventual fall of the wall. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa Lieberman | 1/18/2014

    " If you'd never read anything about the first decade of the Cold War in Eastern Europe, this would be a good place to start. The basic story is laid out, and it is well told. Applebaum has synthesized a great deal of research, and knows when to insert an anecdote to liven things up. Although not as broad as Tony Judt's Postwar, and nowhere near as thought-provoking, it kept my interest to the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol | 1/13/2014

    " If one has ever wondered how the eastern part of Europe following WWII became the Eastern Communist Block this book answers that question. In a post-war environment, did countries devastated by war have any choice what came next? Did the countries agree with the communist philosophy? What role did the other great powers, US and Great Britain, play in this reconstruction period? Anne Applebaum does a magnificent job answering these questions, defining the context of change and how the past of these countries impacted their future, immediately following the war and later. While the Soviets occupied 8 countries, Ms. Appplebaum focuses her book on three: Poland, Hungary and Eastern Germany, with references to the other countries as the examples support the subject over the ten year period from 1945 to 1955. She approaches the communist experiment from a political and sociological perspective. The reader comes to understand totalitarianism: dominant ideology, single ruling party, secret police prepared to use terror, monopoly on information, and planned economy. One of the first quotes sets the tone: everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. In the first half of the book she discusses chapter by chapter how the USSR dismantled what had survived the war and attempted to replace it with what would support the totalitarian philosophy of total control. Using very poignant stories of individuals the author shows how hopeful these countries were following the war and how mislead they became as the Soviets strove to create the "Soviet Man." From the very beginning when "ethnic cleansing," the same type of ethnic cleansing that was the reason for WWII, continued through the take over of social organizations (women's groups, YMCAs, Boy/Girl Scouts, Debate clubs, etc.), churches, schools,radio, police forces, economic systems the author leads the reader through the dismantling of not only societies but history as the Soviets, which I equate with Stalin, strove to create the Marxist utopia. By the end of the part one I was in total disbelief that the world could have stood by and allowed another Hitler like personality, Stalin, to have his way with these countries and their people, much in the same way Hitler did, and did nothing. Was it fear of another World War? Was it the world's problem to solve? The second part of the book discusses what the countries tried to do for themselves, who the reactionary enemies were, the internal enemies, the reluctant collaborators and passive opponents and the prices they paid. Applebaum shows the stages these people set for the revolutions that began to take place in the mid-1950s following Stalin's death, revolutions that continued in greater and lesser degrees all the way to 1989 when the wall was dismantled. After a thorough review of totalitarianism as it existed in this period the question is posed: can totalitarianism ever exist successfully? In my opinion it depends how you define "exist." The reality is it still exists in countries today, North Korea comes to mind. But the existence of the people in that regime, and others like it, is not much different than that of the people in the Eastern Block countries, an oppressed existence. However, the 8 countries have since gone on to grow and prosper, recovering much of their history and original identities, so even with adversity and tragedy there is hope....Ms. Applebaum is to be commended for her extensive research and for boiling down that research into coherent, manageable, easily readable format. This is not a book for the faint of heart but for those seeking to understand how entire countries could presumably be co-opted into a way of thinking and believing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doug Peters | 1/12/2014

    " Simply outstanding. An amazing achievement of research and story-telling. Should be required reading for every university student. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael Bear | 11/27/2013

    " Well-written and researched account of how institutions of 'civil society' in countries under Soviet domination following WWII became slowly taken over and/or eliminated by communist cadres and secret police. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ryan Bjorklund | 11/9/2013

    " Good fill in the gaps in my info of the history of that time "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth Marek | 10/20/2013

    " May not be of general interest, but for me it provided a completely new perspective. The brutality of "high Stalinism" was mostly in brainwashing the young minds...all this in the atmosphere of immense fear. Thankfully the experiment failed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Yossi Gurvitz | 9/25/2013

    " Excellent work by Anne Applebaum, as per the course. A must read for people interested in 20th century history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrdr | 8/20/2013

    " This is a fine book that documents many facets of the attempt to impose communism on the nations of eastern Europe after World War II. It is well written and well documented. Even though the broad strokes of this period are familiar, this work fills in details that make the tragedy real "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura Jordan | 7/31/2013

    " Yet another reminder of the fact that I'm so very happy not to have lived through World War II in Eastern Europe. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynn | 7/6/2013

    " It certainly convinced me how glad I am not to have lived there and then! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brian | 3/28/2013

    " Excellent - really illuminating and very dense with information. One of my favorite books of the past year. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dimitrios Triantaphyllou | 1/20/2013

    " A gem of a book depicting the tragic history of many peoples and nations....we cannot afford to forget. "

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About the Author
Author Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, covering US and international politics. She is also the director for politics at the Legatum Institute in London, and in 2012–2013 will hold the Phillipe Roman chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics. Her book, Gulag: A History, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, as well as Britain’s Duff-Cooper Prize. Anne has had a special focus on Eastern Europe and Russia since 1989, when she covered the collapse of communism in Poland for the Economist magazine. She speaks both Russian and Polish, and lives part of the time in London and part in Warsaw. She met her husband, Radek Sikorski,when they drove to Berlin together to cover the fall of the Wall. He is currently the Polish Foreign Minister. They have two children.

About the Narrator

Cassandra Campbell, Audie Award–nominated narrator and winner of several Earphones Awards, has performed in regional theaters across the country and in several off-Broadway shows at the Public Theater and the Mint Theater. In addition to narrating audiobooks, acting, and directing, she is a commercial and documentary voice-over artist.