In This Review

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956
By Anne Applebaum
Doubleday, 2012, 608 pp

Here is a fresh, flesh-and-blood account of the pall of Soviet power descending over the war-ravaged wreckage of Eastern Europe. Much recent attention has concentrated on how the Soviet system came apart in the late 1980s. Applebaum brings an impassioned, critical eye to its creation and maintenance: the methodical, carefully staged infiltration of key institutions, the often violent elimination of competing voices, and the slow subversion of public and private institutions. The stages by which Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union established its sway over postwar Eastern Europe have been well studied, but never with this much texture or human testimonial. Applebaum pays relatively little attention to the factors explaining why this all happened, instead focusing on what happened—to millions of displaced people, to the ablest and most courageous members of these societies, to poets and civic activists, and to economies, politics, and the communist lords themselves.