The third act of the film moves the action to the granddad's countryside home, and meanders there for a long time without much happening at all. The film is also guilty of some truly terrible acting. Decent child actors are always hard to find, but Rice-Edwards doesn't even remotely convince as an actor. He delivers his lines with a rigid blankness and is not able to channel his character's emotions through to the audience.
And the late Ian Bannen playing Grandfather George suffers from a bad script and bad direction. He is meant to be the lovably grouchy old man, but stomping around muttering inaudible grumblings over and over and over again is neither funny or convincing. I'll stop the moaning there I think, because there were things I also liked about the film, it's just that the negatives irritated me so much that they overshadowed the positives. A stray weather balloon causing havoc amongst the rooftops whilst the family watch with glee, and the Canadian solider pulling faces through the family window while they stand straight-faced listening to 'God Save The Queen' are a couple of the rather wonderful and funny moments of the film.
And the forbidden and potential love affair between Grace and her husband's best friend seen through the eyes of a maturing Bill is cleverly explored only in glimpses. Overall an okay movie, which I will no doubt watch again in a few years to see if I've just missed something, giving the overwhelmingly positive critical response the film received. But for now I'll stick to my guns. Baroque 30 October A touching look at World War Two through the eyes of a British child the story is a quasi-autobiography of director John Boorman's childhood.
All the characters are completely believable, and the acting and dramatic elements are perfect. You almost want to strike up a conversation with these people. The man is so cantankerous that he is lovable. And how he teaches his young grandson how to bowl a "googlie" is priceless. The way he laughs at the end of the film is so wonderful. My mother introduced me to this film, and I am forever thankful. JamesHitchcock 29 July Although British by birth, John Boorman is perhaps best known as a Hollywood director, responsible for, among other things, that fine drama "Deliverance".
The film tells the story of the Rohans, a typical middle-class suburban London family between and The family consists of parents Clive and Grace, daughters Dawn and Sue and year-old son Billy, through whose eyes the action is seen. The film does not have a strongly defined plot, but rather tells of how Grace and her children get on with the business of living after Clive goes off to join the army. Dawn falls in love with a Canadian soldier and gets pregnant by him. The family home burns down and they are forced to move in with Grace's parents who live outside London.
A theme running throughout is how, in the midst of death and suffering, people manage to find joy in the small pleasures of life. For the teenaged Dawn this means letting her hair down at the local dancehall. For Billy and his friends this means exploring bomb sites to add to their growing collections of German bullets and shrapnel. And, even more importantly for the cricket-mad boy, it means learning how to bowl a googly. For a film about the war, this one contains a surprising amount of comedy.
The title, of course, derives from the well-known patriotic song "Land of Hope and Glory". In some ways the film is critical of some of the less attractive aspects of British patriotism, such as Billy's terrifying headmaster calling upon God to rain down destruction on the Germans or his teacher who explains to her class that the war is being waged to keep as much of the world map as possible coloured pink. Yet in other ways Boorman celebrates what might be called the "patriotic myth of the Blitz", the idea that when confronted by hardship and a ruthless enemy the British people reacted with solidarity and stoicism, taking in their stride things which at one time might have seemed like major disasters.
Before the war, an unmarried teenaged girl who found herself pregnant might well have been disowned by an outraged family, but Grace and Clive only treat Dawn with love. The family's loss of their home becomes easier to bear because they have already seen several of their neighbours lose theirs. When a German pilot is forced to bail out into the middle of the people he has just been bombing, they gaze at him in curiosity rather than hatred although they have plenty of reason to hate him and make no attempt to harm him before he is led away by a policeman.
Four acting performances stand out. There is young Sebastian Rice-Edwards who makes Billy a most engaging hero, a rather less scruffy version of Just William. There is Sammi Davis as Dawn, older than her brother and therefore more acutely aware that war is something real and deadly dangerous rather than an exciting adventure; her desperate search for love and pleasure can be attributed to this sudden recognition of her own mortality and to a desire to enjoy life while she can.
Davis seemed to be one of the rising young stars of the British cinema in the late eighties, but little has been heard of her recently. Then there is Sarah Miles, not always my favourite actress but here excellent as Grace, a woman trying to cope with the task of raising her family while her husband is away, and also trying to cope with her own emotions. We learn that the real love of Grace's life was not Clive but his friend Mac, still a civilian and unexpectedly single after being abandoned by his own wife.
And finally there is Ian Bannen as the family's difficult and eccentric old grandfather. It didn't win in any of these categories, but it is a tribute to Boorman's skills as a film-maker that it received so many nominations, because it was not a film particularly calculated to appeal to the American market. It deals with the British war effort during a period when America was still neutral. It deals with the lives of ordinary people rather than a recognisable figure like Churchill.
It does not star any big-name American actors; making a character in a British war movie Canadian is normally a device to create a role for a major Hollywood star, but not here. It does not even have any internationally known British stars apart from Miles. And, worst of all, it requires a certain knowledge of cricket, a sport which has about the same following in America that baseball does over here.
Despite the Britishness of his subject-matter, however, Boorman was able to make a film which reflects universal values- love, the family, the struggle for survival, determination, humour in the face of adversity. It is the emotional power generated by this combination of the particular and local with the universal which makes "Hope and Glory" one of the best British films of the s, a decade when our national film industry experienced a remarkable revival following its nadir in the s. It is perhaps the best film ever made about the wartime Home Front.
When Hitler thought to bomb the British into submission he neglected to take into account the peculiar resilience of his target: it takes more than TNT to upset the composure of a typical English family, as John Boorman discovered while growing up in a London suburb under the Blitz. His semi-autobiographical screen memoir is a celebration of heroism at its most banal, with Londoners meeting the daily bombardments more as a thrilling inconvenience, to be answered by a stubborn refusal to alter old habits.
Of course the odds of being killed in an air raid meant little to a seven year old boy compared to the fun of looting through bombed-out houses, and by filtering the war through the eyes of a child what might have looked tragic father leaving home to enlist in the army; big sister's affair with a Canadian GI becomes instead an adventurous rite of passage.
Boorman recreates the exhilarating anarchy of the period with a warmth and reserve not much seen in recent films, capturing the moment when his country was briefly awakened from its usual complacent monotony to withstand the Nazi threat of invasion. Like a less cheesy version of "Empire of the Sun" tieman64 4 July Sentimentalists, however, avoid this experience of reality and try to keep people from asking questions. This shameless manipulation of emotions is the ultimate act of cynicism.
It's a means of justifying sentimentality, wide eyed kids battered in the name of exposing injustice. John Boorman's "Hope and glory" is harder to get a reading on. Based on his own experiences growing up in Britain during World War 2, Boorman's film watches as a suburban family, the Rowans, struggle to cope with the London Blitz. But though Boorman finds humour and adventure in virtually every scene, his light approach seems to actually desentimentalize the typical view of the Blitz, which is usually ascribed stoic heroes, valiant firemen and stiff-upper-lipped Londoners.
Boorman doesn't shy away from the more traumatic, disturbing areas of war, of course, but his film is more preoccupied with capturing what is truer for far more people during wartime; that life simply goes on, that catastrophe brings people together out of fear and necessity, that conflicts have a way of turning towns into extended families, that war through a sheltered child's eyes can be a giant adventure, and that, in some ways, the war offered Britain a respite from the economic downturns of the early 20th century.
As one character puts it, "war removes the struggle of keeping up appearances". What the film ignores is the fact that many of the socio-economic factors which led to war, and therefore an escape from the Great Depression, are exactly that which put millions in poverty in the first place. Subtly, Boorman's film also references many of his other features. Observe the way "Hope and Glory's" child hero mentions King Arthur and Merlin and believes war-torn London to be an "enchanted forest", all of which recall Boorman's earlier films, "Excalibur" and "The Emerald Forest".
Meanwhile, Boorman's "Zardoz" seems to spring from both "Hope's" rubble strewn streets and its all female households, whilst the film's ineffectual patriarch recalls the clownish "men behind the curtains" which pop up throughout Boorman's filmography; figureheads without any real power. In this way, "Hope and Glory" isn't just about Boorman's past life as a child during the Blitz, but the seeds of his future as a film-maker. These are the scraps which fuelled his imagination. These autobiographical themes are encapsulated best by "the googly", a cricket term which pops up repeatedly throughout the film.
The father, a typist no less Boorman writes most of his scripts , then philosophizes about how to tell lies and get away with it. Throw in the fact that Boorman's on screen heroes evade the war by retreating to Shepperton next to the soon to be erected Shepperton Studios, where Boorman would later work and that they repeatedly run across film-makers and cinemas within the film, and you have a strange meta-film about the germination of Boorman's own future filmography.
Aesthetically the film is rather restrained for Boorman, who is usually overwrought, ridiculous and wholly self-indulgent. The film is swift and juggles its tones better than "Empire of The Sun", another "WW2 through a boy's eyes" film released in Bit of trivia theladydragonfly 24 December Those of us so far removed from this time can't understand rationing of food and gasoline, the loneliness of women whose husbands went to war and the effects these things had, in addition to the war, on the children of the time.
This movie has historical accuracies of note.
Dawn Rowan has her brother draw lines up the back of her legs to simulate stockings which could not be gotten during war time. The bomb shelter in the back yard, collecting shrapnel and the oversexed American soldier are accurate as well. Here, you can see why the Brits would say of the American servicemen During the scene where they are shooting down a parameter balloon that has gone astray, you will catch a brief glimpse of the cast of "Dad's Army" as they march in formation as part of the home guard. Blink and you'll miss it!
What a joy this film is, every time I watch it it's just as fresh as the first time. The acting is first class and I can relate so easily to it being a lad of five myself at the time, also it has a most lovely musical score. The scenes in London are so true to the war years, and the bombed houses and children collecting shrapnel I remember well and those long hot summers are something I will always recall and although the world was caught up in terror and death it was something that in the end you just had to accept, but I have to say for a 5 year old boy it was So exciting.
K at the moment although thankfully it does quite often get an airing on TV.. Don't miss this one! Oh, my youth! I was 6 years old when World War II broke out. Washington, DC wasn't England, but, still - air raid drills, models of fighters, the feeling of living in a great epic - all were there. This is a truly superb film. This semi-biographical movie from John Boorman is beautifully done and takes me back to my very similar childhood in England during WWII. As I watched it, I felt transported back in time to that wonderful world of make belief that became more real than the Blitz and kept us all sane in a world gone mad.
In general, however, Applebaum is a great writer who makes her analyses come alive. My bigger complaint is that the book cannot be comprehensive because it chooses to focus on Poland, East Germany, and Hungary. It's understandable that Applebaum wanted to make her subject manageable. Putting aside Yugoslavia may have been necessary because Tito was such a special case.
But Romania and Bulgaria are unknowns to many in the West, and a better study of their cultural specifics would have been nice. The bigger loss, though, is Czechoslovakia. The brutal nature of the coup, and the special circumstances leading up to the Czech Spring, virtually demand a better coverage of that nation. Other elements of the book seem hurried. Applebaum spends plenty of time in the 18 months of displaced hell following World War 2, which is very worthy considering the paucity of research in that period.
But why breeze over the show trials of so quickly? Why spend so little time looking into the bizarre role played by U. A little more balance in what was and was not covered would have made this a better book. Still, this is a decent analysis about a terrible time in history that is not studied carefully and seriously enough. The holes in Applebaum's study might justify a sequel book to study the Southern European states of Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. View 1 comment. Oct 31, Manray9 rated it really liked it Shelves: wwii-europe , russia.
Although I approached the book with some skepticism, due to the author's association with prominent neoconservative organizations The Legatum Institute and the American Enterprise Institute and her husband's position as Foreign Minister of Poland he is an AEI alumnus too , it was detailed and fair -- if vehemently anti-Russian. I noted with interest in the acknowledgements s Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, is a thoroughly-researched and rewarding read. View all 3 comments. Mar 03, Bettie rated it it was amazing Shelves: lifestyles-deathstyles , nonfiction , published , newtome-author , history , cold-war , totalitarian , slavic , military-manoeuvres , fraudio.
It took an observant flister to point it out. So are we still being censored folks! ETA: according to Feedback, who answered promptly, it looks like there is a bug going around re deleted comments. That is heartening. Wouldn't this be fab: Source. Mar 15, Ana rated it it was amazing Shelves: absolute , about-murders , of-life-and-death , touches-art , of-self , somehow-societal , treats-religion , history , law-abiding-citizen , architecture. An in depth review of the modes of repressing and molding the human psyche in Eastern European societies that have suffered under the Soviet-Stalinist hand.
It touches on everything from the political, economic and social environments to the specific use of radio to either brainwash people or to help the permanent even though small resistance during the period of , as well as a beautiful dive into the architecture of oppression which has quickly become one of my favorite subjects an An in depth review of the modes of repressing and molding the human psyche in Eastern European societies that have suffered under the Soviet-Stalinist hand.
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It touches on everything from the political, economic and social environments to the specific use of radio to either brainwash people or to help the permanent even though small resistance during the period of , as well as a beautiful dive into the architecture of oppression which has quickly become one of my favorite subjects and the way designing certain spaces, like the industrial cities of '49, '50 influences the way people live their lives.
It mainly focuses on Hungary, Poland and the Cheks, but it also touches on my country, Romania, a few times, and makes some very good points about things that I have as well studied in school with regards to our communist years. My favorite part of Applebaum's writing is her irony and dark humor - she manages to make you laugh with a well-placed remark about some politician's life, in the midst of a lecture on one of the worst things humans have done to themselves. And the pages in this book that write specifically about the use of jokes under communism in order to kindle and keep alive the fire of resistance in people hit very close to home, because even I, born 6 years after the fall of communism in my country, still use some of them and still understand and in a weird way relate to this black, bleak humor.
I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in Eastern Europe in the 20th Century, but as always, be aware, this is a history book, not a piece of fiction, so you might have to read everything with a pen in hand and Wikipedia open, in order to check names, dates and facts. I think that's very important to do when you read historical works, as otherwise your brain tends to treat them as pure fiction or the more literary type of writing, and you don't retain as much information.
Oct 11, Pctrollbreath rated it it was amazing Shelves: history. This is a moving descruption of the crushing of Eastern Europe by the Soviets. The book is written in a dead pan matter of fact style with a grimly dry humour. It is very easy to get very angry about communist and Soviet evil doing when you read about normal people doing normal things and being executed or sent to the Gulag for it. You need to read the authors book on the Gulag's to get the full impact of flat statements that someone went to the Gulag for several years.
As you get further on into This is a moving descruption of the crushing of Eastern Europe by the Soviets. As you get further on into the the book you begin to admire the strength of people living in these countries. There is a lot of imformation about communist slogans in this book, the bulk of which are patronising, stupid nonsense. We British have a slogan dating from the second world war which we are proud of; "Keep Calm and Carry On" which was originally intended for use if we were invaded.
You don't have to read far into this book to realise that Eastern Europe lived the idea for several decades. It is clear that these countries may have been swallowed but they were never digested. This book is well written and informative, giving insight into a little known period of both on the personal and the political level.
Well worth the read. Jan 29, A. Sowards added it Shelves: audio-book , nonfiction , , historys. This it the third Anne Applebaum book I've read or listened to in the past six months. Applebaum focuses on three of the Eastern block countries: Poland, East Germany, and Hungary, then covers how the Soviets cemented control thematically. So there's a chapter on youth groups, art, radio, rebuilding, etc. The epilogue makes a poi This it the third Anne Applebaum book I've read or listened to in the past six months. The epilogue makes a point that when a government tries to control all aspects of life, all aspects of life become a possible venue for political protest--which radio station people listen too, every business decision, even what to wear.
Applebaum sheds some light on what it would have been like to live in a totalitarian society. Nov 12, Samir Rawas Sarayji rated it did not like it Shelves: history , non-fiction , dumped. I really struggled to get to the middle of the book and eventually gave up. There were lots of interesting facts, but the book tried to do too much, from too many angles at the expense of depth. The author's opinions and frustrations were too prominent in the writing, which at first I liked since my problem with most history books is the overly objective narrative, but this was really too much!
At one point it felt like a rant, despite the well polished academic tone Jan 09, Ken Clarke rated it it was amazing. Turns out, I knew very little. Anne Applebaum's superb book details the Soviet Union's enduring and total brutality, paranoia and intolerance toward the people of Eastern Europe, starting not at the end of World War II, but months, even years, before. The Soviets and their puppet leaders in each country sought nothing less than total c Because I grew up during the Cold War and was a avid follower of the news by the time I was age 9, I thought I knew something about the Soviets and Eastern Europe.
The Soviets and their puppet leaders in each country sought nothing less than total control over every aspect of every citizen's daily life. Applebaum concentrates on East Germany, Poland and Hungary. She details how, after a period of relative tolerance up to about , the Soviet hammer began to fall heavily and relentlessly. By then it had become obvious to the stunned Communists in Moscow that the people of Eastern Europe were resistant to the idea of Soviet style "socialism.
The Communists had anticipated a proletarian revolution. What they got instead, after some early enthusiasm, was increasing resistance. Applebaum writes that the Soviet Union and its local allies "had failed to achieve absolute or even adequate control. The number of their followers was shrinking rapidly.
Civic groups and clubs were outlawed, including Boy Scouts, theater groups, school groups, charities, church groups. The free press disappeared, replaced by newspapers and radio stations that spread party propaganda. Church leaders were imprisoned. Terror became an essential weapon. Tens of thousands of people were murdered, sent to the Soviet gulags or tossed into prison. Millions of others endured forced relocations, often from towns and villages where their families had lived for centuries. Labor camps were expanded. The most notorious, of course, was the Stasi in East Germany, which monitored the lives of every citizen it considered suspicious for even the slightest of reasons.
As the '40s became the '50s, the economies of Eastern European countries continued to fall behind those of Western Europe. For the citizens of the Soviet bloc, the quality of life failed to improve, despite or because of, detailed economic plans and goals, some of which were ludicrous. After the death of Stalin in , public protests became more common. One in East Berlin in '53 brought Soviet tanks. Major rebellions followed in Hungary and Poland in As a result, the Communists moderated their tactics, which continued to fail in a pattern that was repeated until the fall of Communism in Applebaum's book isn't for everyone.
I'm a history wonk, and I admire the incredibly detailed and deep research that went into her book. Details that I found fascinating, including governments' mind-numbing tactics borne of paranoia, may numb the minds of some readers too. On the other hand, Applebaum often brings the story of the dark era down the personal level, the result of interviews she conducted with people who lived with and finally triumphed over Soviet domination.
Well researched and well written book about the post-war period in Eastern Europe. It contains a detailed and interesting narrative of the progressive Stalinization of Eastern Europe, focused primarily on East Germany, Poland and Hungary. The only issue with this book and the reason why I am not giving it 5 stars is, in my opinion, a possibly ideologically motivated lack of balance in the judgment of the individuals and peoples involved in this process - sometimes they are portrayed in an alm Well researched and well written book about the post-war period in Eastern Europe.
The only issue with this book and the reason why I am not giving it 5 stars is, in my opinion, a possibly ideologically motivated lack of balance in the judgment of the individuals and peoples involved in this process - sometimes they are portrayed in an almost caricatural manner, ignoring that some of them were making an honest attempt to rectify society's inequalities and they did believe that the new Communist societies would remediate the evils visible in the Capitalistic societies.
If proper allowance is made for this lack of balanced view, this book is really a very interesting read, recommended to anybody interested in this particular period. Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, works not simply as a history of the early Cold War but as an anodyne to the Leftist academics, which is most of them, who read the Cold War as the byproduct of American imperialism.
Applebaum demonstrates that it was Russian imperial reach that crushed the Central and Eastern European states and civilizations; not American interference in the Soviet sphere Warsaw Pact nations. The list of Soviet atrocities, both cult Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, works not simply as a history of the early Cold War but as an anodyne to the Leftist academics, which is most of them, who read the Cold War as the byproduct of American imperialism.
The list of Soviet atrocities, both cultural and political, is long, varied, and beyond the scope of this review. However, a quick reading of the introduction of this book will give the reader a clear understanding of the depth of Soviet villainy and the attempts of the peoples of the occupied states to live with and under the horrific weight of totalitarianism.
Applebaum's book is both detailed and engaging, as well as thoughtful and carefully researched.
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Highly recommended for readers of 20th Century European History and those interested in an accurate, ideological free the author prefers history to theory reading of the early Cold War. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars Jul 09, Lukasz Pruski rated it it was amazing. I was spared the unspeakable horrors and atrocities committed by Germans during the war and occupation. I was also spared the horrors and atrocities that accompanied the Russian liberation of Eastern Europe and were still happening behind the Iron Curtain during the first 10 or so years after the war.
My first memories that relate to politics date to , which was the year demarcating the terrible period of Being a Pole I am lucky to have been born several years after the end of World War II. My first memories that relate to politics date to , which was the year demarcating the terrible period of High Stalinism and the tough-but-not-all-that-dreadful times of late s to early s. Anne Applebaum's "The Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe: " is a monumental work, meticulously and exhaustively researched almost 70 pages of references , well written and compulsively readable; in addition I have found it tremendously illuminating.
Based on what my family and older friends had told me about the s and s I can see how historically accurate the text is.
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At the same time I have learned so much about an important period in my native country's history. The book is divided into two parts: "False Dawn" which deals with the years from to - the years of liberation from German occupation and subsequent enslavement by the Soviet ideology - and "High Stalinism", which investigates the - period. The author focuses on three countries that were undergoing the process of "Stalinization": Poland, Hungary, and East Germany the so-called "German Democratic Republic".
Historically and socially, the countries are quite different, yet the fates they suffered in that gruesome period are very similar. The individual chapters illustrate various aspects of the process of "Stalinization": the Communist leadership, the security apparatus, the armed anti-Communist opposition, massive ethnic cleansing, the indoctrination of youth, the role of radio the main mass media at the time , the so-called free elections and referendums, the nationalization of industry, the role of small business, the persecution of church and the religion's role in leading the resistance, the show trials, the elimination of all civic and social institutions, the creation of homo sovieticus , the so-called "socialist realism" dictate in arts and culture, the reluctant collaborators and passive opponents of the system, and finally the revolutions against Stalinism, which began in and culminated in While Ms.
Applebaum's work - she is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her "Gulag", and in my view she deserves another award for the "Iron Curtain" - is extremely thorough and rich in detail, the best feature, to me, is its structural concept: interweaving the serious historical study approach with deeply resonant personal stories of people.
It is yet another testimony to the quality of the author's work that various reviewers identify different central themes of the book. The motif that resonates with me the most is one that the author mentions at the end of the Introduction "I sought to understand how ordinary people learned to cope with the new regimes, [ Applebaum writes about "the system's ability to get so many apolitical people in so many countries to play along without much protest".
She managed to convince the "Sovietized" people at the top of power hierarchy that reconstructing Polish culture after the war was an important goal. It took me way over a month to read the book as I read every single sentence with full attention. I needed to know about that horrible period. I owed it to my parents, grandparents, and all the people who had to suffer so much. I had an obligation to learn about those times and tell that to others. Four and three quarter stars. Apr 09, Roger rated it really liked it Shelves: russia-cold-war , europe. The basic facts of the segregation of Europe after the end of the Second World War are well known - both the Soviet Union and the Western Powers USA, Britain and France divided the defeated Germany between them, and spheres of influence over other countries were split approximately along the lines agreed at the Yalta Conference, confirmed by "feet on the ground" at the cessation of hostilities.
And while those of us who are of a certain age or older know what we know about the Warsaw Pact, and The basic facts of the segregation of Europe after the end of the Second World War are well known - both the Soviet Union and the Western Powers USA, Britain and France divided the defeated Germany between them, and spheres of influence over other countries were split approximately along the lines agreed at the Yalta Conference, confirmed by "feet on the ground" at the cessation of hostilities.
And while those of us who are of a certain age or older know what we know about the Warsaw Pact, and the Cold War, for those of us who had no experience of what it was like to live under the Communist yoke, Anne Applebaum's book is valuable. As a bonus, it is also, for a scholarly book, readable and interesting.
Applebaum has taken the post-war histories of East Germany GDR , Poland and Hungary as her subject, but by inference many of the things she discusses in these places happened in the other countries of the Eastern Bloc Romania, Albania, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. From the opening chapter which describes the way the Red Army took control in newly liberated areas, Applebaum devotes each chapter to a certain area of society to show how the local Communist movements, usually under instruction from Moscow, converted all areas of society to their pursuit of power.
First the police and security forces, the media, then the electoral process, then education, to then destroying or replacing other non-state groups, from the Church to charity groups such as the Polish Women's League, Applebaum uses a judicious serving of archival material and interviews with residents to describe how this resulted in a total takeover pretty much by the turn of the decade in Her description of "High Stalinism", with it's emphasis on parades, production quotas, and hagiography of leaders, is particularly compelling.
Also compelling is her description of the bewilderment of the high officials on the occasions the public let them know they weren't as popular than they thought, although their Soviet minders usually had a much better idea than they did of the mood of the country.
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The final part of the book deals with the repercussions from the death of Stalin, which led, via riots in the GDR and Poland to the revolution in Hungary. What Applebaum emphasises is the lack of preparedness of the hierarchy for such a spontaneous uprising, despite the secret service states they had built. Mentioned in passing are the different responses each country had to the disturbances, which led to some individual flavour in the Communist experience across the region. Her epilogue is worth quoting at some length discussing the legacy of these governments - "Yet such regimes can and did do an enormous amount of damage.
In their drive for power, the Bolsheviks, their Eastern European acolytes, and their imitators farther afield attacked not only their political opponents but also peasants, priests, schoolteachers, traders, journalists, writers, small businessmen, students, and artists, along with institutions such people had built and maintained over centuries.
They damaged, undermined, and sometimes eliminated churches, newspapers, literary and educational societies, companies and retail shops, stock markets, banks, sports clubs, and universities. Their success reveals an unpleasant truth about human nature: if enough people are sufficiently determined and if they are backed by adequate resources and force, then they can destroy ancient and apparently permanent legal, political, educational, and religious institutions, sometimes for good. And if civil society could be so deeply damaged in nations as disparate, as historic, and as culturally rich as those of Eastern Europe, then it can be similarly damaged anywhere.
If nothing else, the history of postwar Stalinization proves just how fragile civilization can turn out to be. Mar 20, Marks54 rated it it was amazing. When Communism went out of business after and the Cold War ended, one of the common reactions was that it would now be possible to put the odd history of that period on the shelf and move on without needing to deal with the history of Stalinist regimes and their mixture of totalitarian control, mass propaganda, and confrontational foreign affairs.
Well, what also happened was that the various state archives of these repressive regimes were opened to researchers, so that the history of this When Communism went out of business after and the Cold War ended, one of the common reactions was that it would now be possible to put the odd history of that period on the shelf and move on without needing to deal with the history of Stalinist regimes and their mixture of totalitarian control, mass propaganda, and confrontational foreign affairs. Well, what also happened was that the various state archives of these repressive regimes were opened to researchers, so that the history of this period can be reexamined in considerable detail and a refreshing change of perspective.
With the fall of Communism, we have become able to learn much more about what really happened. This outstanding book is a comprehensive history of the Communist regimes established in Eastern Europe at the end of WW2 from their initial establishment until , the time of the failed Hungarian Uprising.
The focus is thus on the change from initial regime establishment to "High Stalinism" to the beginnings of liberalization following the death of Stalin. The book proceeds roughly in chronological sequence through a series of topically focused chapters. Within each chapter, the same topics are covered for East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia now the Czech republic and Slovakia.
Other regimes, such as Bulgaria and Rumania, are covered as required. I had moderate expectations when starting this book. I had already read much about the period and the details of communist regimes are well publicized and generally depressing. I was wrong to have such preconceptions. The author, through meticulous research, takes each topic and in effect writes a mini-exposition for it, one that often stands on its own as a separate story but which is also well linked into the generally narrative that is developed about the Communist "project" in Eastern Europe.
The people are shown to be a diverse set of interesting individuals who do their best to cope with the governments. The governments are also shown in much detail as trying to make their way while balancing an unsustainable ideological project with both national needs and pressures from Moscow. The author is not shy in fully fitting in the role of terror, violence, and intellectual and political repression to the broader story. The logic of the story is largely internal to the Soviet Bloc and foreign affairs and the USA are mentioned more in passing. That is a helpful focus, since the detailed narrative would become much more complex otherwise.
The writing is very well done and I really regretted finishing the book, which is an odd conclusion given the general topic. This book is important for linking with other literatures, such as on WW2, the Cold War, and the eventual demise of these regimes after Overall, it is a spectacular book, one of the best I have read in quite a while.
The sheer size and scope of the book give pause to the casual reader but this is mitigated by the author's elegant prose and ability for descriptive details.
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The reader is not spared from the horrors of war illustrated by the unremitting violence, unmitigated brutality, wholesale rape, mass murder, abject poverty, deadly starvation and theft - events that led to mass dislocation and homelessness of massive populations within Europe by the end of world War ll - and became the fertile ground for t The sheer size and scope of the book give pause to the casual reader but this is mitigated by the author's elegant prose and ability for descriptive details. The reader is not spared from the horrors of war illustrated by the unremitting violence, unmitigated brutality, wholesale rape, mass murder, abject poverty, deadly starvation and theft - events that led to mass dislocation and homelessness of massive populations within Europe by the end of world War ll - and became the fertile ground for the spread of false hope by the communists.
These events are well described in the first half of the book, "False Dawn". Applebaum covers the chaotic transition from Nazi tyranny to Soviet tyranny in Eastern Europe. In all, this is an impressive and ambitious book. The second part of the book. Applebaum depicts the subjugation on Eastern European countries through persecution, mass deportation, bogus trials, trumped-up accusations of treason and sedition and the summary arrests, torture and execution of dissidents.
Civil administrations and societies were destroyed, religion was outlawed and churches persecuted - as demonstrated by Stalin's edict to.. Separate the Vatican from the believers Control all the churches by December ".. The account also made it clear at least to me how fragile and how dependent on the autocratic whims one man Stalin the whole system was.
It was also good in showing how dependent Stalin's system was on isolation and how that isolation wasn't possible in Eastern Europe. Planted throughout the eighteen chapters, are the stories of individuals, such as Benda in East Germany, Supka and Bien in Hungary who were persecuted by communist regimes. These examples are used to emphasize the paranoia of the totalitarian oppressive governments mainly in East Germany, Hungary and Poland, but were similar to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia.
National autonomy was dismantled; arts, education, the media and school textbooks were subjugated to the promotion of the "Homo Sovieticus". Information was censored and tightly controlled by the state. Goods were rationed and housing was planned around "Ideal Cities" of communal living. The entire system was sustained by delusions, lies, fraud and corruption made possible by a vast network of informants, compliant and reluctant collaborators and cowed passive opposition. Personal security and professional advancement were closely tied to the allegiance to the communist party.
Applebaum is very good at the details of people's lives. She shows how all the propaganda and other lies was never actually believed- most people could see through its absurdity. And yet publicly they spouted the Marxist pieties for all they were worth- for fear of who or what was watching them. In this sort of system the individual and their quest for self-realisation was lost, and instead a sort of double life between public record and private observation had to be maintained.
Political correctness was necessary at all times, even when obviously false. What is actually stranger is how many bureaucrats were filing very detailed and accurate reports to Russia describing the problems, but publicly still celebrating Marxist planning, and arguing that the problem was that the system had not been implemented well enough, not that it was fundamentally flawed from its beginning. The example of Communism is so obviously absurd from this distance- but what other ideas do we currently hold on to that are fundamentally flawed, rather than badly implemented?
This book is a superb piece of history writing. It shows the brutality, horror and absurdity of totalitarian Socialism, and of systems that advocate that people need to be perfected in some way or another. It shows the stupidity of monolithic politics- that try to deny our plurality of viewpoints. The conception of the state as "all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value" and of totalitarianism as "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the star" are utterly disastrous to free peoples and free countries.
Such concepts can only be maintained by coercion and force, and fortunately eventually they collapse under their own impossibility and contradictions. The tragedy is that so many suffer whilst this illogic collapses. The book's view of how the Soviets increasingly asserted control is consistent with a fairly orthodox interpretation of the beginnings of the Cold War - Applebaum makes clear, for example, that the secret police agencies for East Germany, Poland and Hungary and for other East European countries existed in embryonic form even before the Red Army pushed the Nazi armies out of these countries in Iron Curtain provides considerable supporting detail for her arguments in each of her areas of focus, with a subtle analysis of how the control strategies evolved in response to developments.
It's a very powerful account of how Soviet totalitarianism replacing fascist totalitarianism came to permeate these societies following the war, but she also is very attuned to pointing out ways in which the resulting societies contained within them fundamental flaws that would lead to their ultimate failure when communism collapsed in the late 's. Her understanding of those matters is very poor. To suggest that the black market was an effective solution and that there was no rationing going on and no rationing possible is more than a bit much.
The problem is that those policies were hardly unique to Eastern Europe at the time. They could also be found in places like Italy, France or Britain. By her argument, the author doesn't make a case for Eastern Europe being worse in that regard. But they were boom towns and there neither anything incredible or unexpected about them being lawless. The author provides no citation for her claim of "mythology". Neither Poland nor Hungary between the wars could be considered examples of social democratic government or capitalism or much of the time even democratic government.
In explaining the tragic cleansing of ethnic Germans from central Europe, she writes on p. Those two states, as she knows, were creations of Versailles and their territories originally part of the Habsburg Empire: its administration dominated by Austrian German-speakers, not the ethnic majorities of these districts. Which shows that the root problem here was not Soviet administration, but the very concept of national self-determination as a defining force in politics.
Her statement p. Benes and Mikolajczyk were as guilty of this as Stalin. Likewise does she gloss over the Polish-Ukrainian ethnic war in the alleged "eastern territories" of pre-war Poland. The pinning of anti-Semitic riots on the anti-communist movements, backed by the Catholic Church, she describes as a "smear" which "seemed to stick" p. This was not a smear and stuck precisely because it reflected observable reality. In , Lvov-born journalist Joseph Tenenbaum returned to Poland and found over a thousand Jews had been murdered, many by conscious terrorist acts of the NSZ underground.
In an audience with Augustus Hlond, Cardinal Primate of Poland, Tenenbaum requested said Eminence to issue a pastoral letter condemning these atrocities. Hlond's blunt reply: "These Jewish Communists in the Government are at the root of all evil. As long as the Jews continue to rule, there will be trouble, and the people will retaliate.
They do not murder the Jews as Jews. Add to that the three million Soviet soldiers who became POWs at the very start of the conflict. While he himself did not take part in the Battle of Kiev, what he remembers of the first few months of the war — how soldiers were given two-metre puttees instead of boots, how machine-gun operators had to carry weapons in excess of thirty kilos, and how news of the war was delivered to various army regiments by messengers on foot — helps us understand why the first stages of the war resulted in such catastrophic losses for the Soviet Union.
The catastrophic conclusion to the Battle of Kiev had as much to do with politics as with the sorry state of the military. The implications of surrendering a major capital were dire What next? In the chronic confrontation between political and military considerations, politics usually triumphed. Human life never counted for much in the Soviet Union, but during the war soldiers and civilians alike were sacrificed by the million with determined and heartbreaking ease.
By the time they were ready to go, it was in most cases too late. For his part, my grandfather was under orders to remain in Kiev until the last possible moment.
Together with the military prosecutor N. The three of them headed for the forests of the Chernigov region in northern Ukraine, where they went underground and joined the large partisan regiment active in the area. My grandmother, of course, had no way of knowing whether her husband had managed to escape Kiev before it was occupied. But many residents who remained there as Nazi troops marched into the city believed in their heart of hearts that Germany was a civilised and cultured nation, and that nothing too terrible was going to happen to them. Their wishful thinking was not entirely delusional.
After all, the worst had not yet occurred: it would be on the eastern front that the German army, specifically the SS, would demonstrate how far it was prepared to go. Those kikes who do not comply with the order and are found elsewhere will be shot on the spot. These notices, printed in Russian, Ukrainian and German with the street names misspelt , appeared across the city. The same sort of orders had been given at other European cities, big and small, before Kiev.
But this time those assembled were not taken to ghettos or put into cattle trains bound for concentration camps. Instead, they were all indiscriminately executed at a local ravine named Babi Yar. Anti-semitism was not brought to Ukraine by the Nazi SS units and death squads. The republic had a tradition of Jewish oppression dating back to the seventeenth century. Ukrainian pogroms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were notorious for their barbarity, even though at the time persecution of European Jewry was commonplace.
The truth is that the relationship between Ukrainian Jews and ethnic Ukrainians, especially during World War II, is as painful and complex a human story as you are likely to find. When the war came, a sizable minority of ethnic Ukrainians welcomed the arrival of the German troops — at least initially. In parts of western Ukraine annexed by the Soviet Union shortly before the start of the war in line with the Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact the Germans were seen as liberators.
In Nazi propaganda campaigns, the invading German army was presented as the powerful ally of ethnic Ukrainians and their fight for independence, and as the mortal enemy of both Jews and Bolsheviks. Sometimes collaborators were coerced, but others volunteered their services. They were there at Babi Yar too. But there were countless Ukrainians who would not collaborate. And though the actions of those who risked their lives to help their Jewish neighbours, friends and total strangers could not undo the crimes of the Polizei, to remember the war is to remember these Ukrainians alongside the collaborators.
Rudolf Boretsky, now a professor of journalism at Moscow State University, was eleven when Kiev was occupied. When the Jews of his city were ordered to assemble with their belongings and no one quite knew what awaited them, his mother, together with young Rudolf, visited the families of all her Jewish friends, pleading with them not to follow the German orders but to hide instead.
For the most part, her pleas fell on deaf ears. Rudolf remembers that she did not think twice about hiding a Jewish acquaintance in the corner of their room behind the wardrobe, keeping this hiding place secret even from the neighbours. His mother was a woman of admirable inner strength, but she was hardly an exception. This too is part of our history. As a doctor, Tamara was assigned to Uzbekistan, and this is where my grandmother and all the kids, born and unborn, headed in the summer of Most of those evacuated were women and children.
The majority of men stayed on to fight although not just men; around a million Soviet women also became combatants in the course of the war. From Dubovyazovka, Tamara, Faina and the kids got to the train station by horse-drawn cart. My grandmother had almost no belongings, just one small suitcase containing the light clothing she had brought on her summer vacation. At the station, train after train was leaving, taking a continuous stream of people away from the front.
The evacuees faced round-the-clock bombardments of both the trains and the railway tracks. If the rails were damaged and needed to be repaired, people simply waited at the side of the tracks until they could reboard. Thank God it was summer. Sometimes German planes flew low to the ground and a machine gun would methodically hunt down those who had escaped the larger artillery.
Writer Evgenia Frolova was a schoolgirl evacuated from Leningrad. Clothing, blankets, bags and bodies are thrown off the plank beds, from all sides something whizzes by over our heads and plunges into walls and the floor.
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There is a scorched smell as if from milk burnt on the stove. To eat and to feed their children, people sold whatever they had so they could buy the produce that peasants from nearby villages brought to the stations along the way. This was how Tamara, Faina and the kids just made it to Uzbekistan. By the time they reached Samarkand, the largest city in Uzbekistan after Tashkent, my grandmother, great-aunt and the two little girls were barely alive.
Uzbekistan was sunny, abundant, harvest-rich, a world away from the death, destruction and hunger of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Despite the major culture shock Akhmatova experienced on arriving in Central Asia, she also discovered true human kindness. And how many orphaned children from the occupied territories of the Soviet Union found new families in Central Asia. Uzbekistan had not been incorporated in the Soviet Union until , after considerable local resistance; the European components of the USSR were alien and unimaginable to Uzbeks as their own country must have been for the majority of refugees.