Reviews — From the February 2013 issue

Red States

The Soviet Attempt to Export Communism

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Discussed in this essay:

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956, by Anne Applebaum. Doubleday. 608 pages. $35.

One of the twentieth century’s most significant innovations was the concept of world war, and it managed to stage not one but two, as if the first weren’t good enough and had to be perfected. Figures for the death toll in these wars vary widely, but whereas World War I (“the war to end all wars”) notched up something like 20 million deaths, World War II (“the greatest man-made disaster in history,” according to Antony Beevor in his new book, The Second World War) did much better, with 60–70 million deaths. After this Armageddon, Europeans longed for a permanent peace and a chance to recuperate; Western Europe for the most part got both. The eastern half of the continent, however, was forcibly separated from the western half by the forces of the Red Army, who arrived as liberators and stayed as occupiers. Cut off by a military shield that came to be known as the Iron Curtain, Eastern Europe was subjected to a raft of both violent and peaceful operations designed to transform the countries of the region into model communist states. This war by other means led to another twentieth-century innovation, the Cold War, and is the subject of Anne Applebaum’s impressive new book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956.

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is the author of Solzhenitsyn: A Biography and Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic.

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