RFE/RL October 22, 2012
In a long-awaited history due to be published this week, American journalist and author Anne Applebaum draws on firsthand accounts and previously unpublished archival material to describe how the Kremlin established its hegemony over Eastern Europe at the end of World War II.
The book, titled "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56" explores the gutting of local institutions and the murders, terror campaigns, and tactical maneuvering that allowed Moscow to establish a system of control that would last for decades to come.
Applebaum, whose previous book, a history of the Soviet Gulag, won the Pulitzer Prize, discussed her latest work with RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Vladimir Dubinsky.
RFE/RL: Your book concentrates on three countries -- East Germany, Hungary, and Poland. What made you choose them in particular?
Anne Applebaum: I chose those three precisely because they are so different and they just had extremely different experiences of war. Germany obviously was Nazi Germany, Hungary had been a country somewhat in-between, a sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy ally of Hitler, and of course Poland was an ally and very actively [involved in the fight against Hitler.]
So therefore there were three countries with different recent histories and what interested me was the fact that despite those cultural differences, despite the linguistic differences, despite the recent political history, by about the year 1950 if you'd looked in at this region from the outside, they would have all appeared very similar.
RFE/RL: In the preface, you state that one of the purposes of the book it is to study the history of totalitarian countries and the methods employed by dictators to suppress populations. What can be learned from the history of the Soviet influence in Eastern Europe?
Applebaum: What you learn from studying the period is several things. One is how well prepared Stalin was before he got there. He had for example prepared police forces, secret police forces for each of the countries before he arrived in those countries. Most notably in Poland he begins recruiting policemen from the year 1939. Of course we've always known that he prepared and recruited, and organized communist parties from the time of the Bolshevik Revolution onwards.
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Interview: Anne Applebaum Discusses 'The Crushing Of Eastern Europe'