Iron Curtain

The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–56

Anne Applebaum

Introduced by the author

Iron Curtain is Anne Applebaum’s landmark study of Eastern Europe under Soviet rule. An outstanding Folio edition with newly selected pictures, plus an exclusive introduction on chilling parallels with the invasion of Ukraine.

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‘The outstanding book of the year... a masterpiece.’
  1. The Times, Books of the Year

After the Second World War, millions of Eastern Europeans found themselves under Soviet rule. Their story is told in Iron Curtain, Pulitzer prize-winning author Anne Applebaum’s landmark study of the imposition of Soviet totalitarianism. Weaving together archival evidence and first-hand testimony, she shows how the communists extinguished democracy in Poland, Hungary and East Germany – crushing dissent, liquidating opponents and assuming an iron grip of the media, schools, police, justice system and every other part of civil society. Applebaum’s story is rooted in everyday life: how people learned to cope with the capricious cruelty of the authorities, and ways in which they collaborated, complied or resisted. Iron Curtain was shortlisted for the US National Book Award and was TIME magazine’s number-one non-fiction book of 2012. In a compelling new introduction, Applebaum draws a direct line between the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ‘terrible, bygone era’ of repression in the Eastern Bloc. Almost 60 integrated images, including some from the 20th century’s most eminent photojournalists, make for a definitive edition of an important and gripping book.

Bound in printed and blocked textured paper designed by Jamie Keenan

Set in Brygada 1918 with Futura as display

744 pages

46 integrated colour and black & white images

Integrated maps

Printed and die-cut slipcase

Ribbon marker

10˝ x 6¾˝

In the Folio edition’s newly commissioned introduction, Anne Applebaum writes: ‘When Iron Curtain was first published, in 2012, I assumed that it was a book about the past... Instead, it turned out to be a book that is directly relevant to contemporary events.’ She argues that the invasion of Ukraine follows the exact playbook first written by the Soviets in 1945 – and that the book has gained extra relevance as fewer people remain with first-hand experience of life behind the Iron Curtain. Their personal accounts drive forward Applebaum’s sweeping narrative of the communist takeover, complemented by powerful photographs in black-and-white and full colour: factories and kindergartens, propaganda posters and Stalinist architecture, military parades and teenage rebels. The Folio Society scoured national archives and private collections, such as the vast Fortepan repository of pictures from everyday Hungarian life. The era’s greatest news photographers are represented, including Robert Capa, Ian Berry and Thomas Hoepker of the legendary Magnum Photos co-operative.

In researching this landmark study of life behind the Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum drew upon archives in six languages, including much material that remains unavailable in English. The first half of the book, ‘False Dawn’, tells how the Soviets swiftly created a cluster of Moscow-oriented dictatorships in war-shattered Europe. Iron Curtain sets out in meticulous detail the hollowing-out of all aspects of civic society, down to women’s welfare leagues and chess clubs, and the shadowy rise of secret police. The second part, ‘High Stalinism’, shows how the communists maintained an implacable grip, seeking to create a new race of ‘homo sovieticus’ that could not conceive of life outside the system. Alongside the rigged elections, show trials and brutal punishment of dissidents, Applebaum captures the daily indignities of a life where everything – school, the workplace, and even the home – is an apparatus of the state. The book ends on the 1956 uprisings in Poland and Hungary, expressions of hope that were quickly snuffed out with merciless force.

About Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist. She is currently a staff writer for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Following her education at Yale, LSE and Oxford, Applebaum worked in Warsaw as a correspondent for The Economist and has since written widely for newspapers including the Washington Post and the Sunday Telegraph. Her award-winning books on Eastern Europe in the 20th century include Gulag: A History, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe and Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. Most recently she is the author of Twilight of Democracy, on the rise of populist authoritarianism across the West. Applebaum introduced the Folio edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism (2022).


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