So how did the Soviets create the Eastern Bloc? It wasn’t just by ‘being there’ when the war ended. The presence of tanks and soldiers? Granted, that was how their reach and influence was extended, but it was the utter destruction of civil society – Soviet style – that really was behind the Soviet ‘success’ ~ the immediate presence of secret police and the breaking down of all opposition, including any independent organization within the civil societies of these countries. Applebaum’s use of the 1944 date in her book title is key; these, and many other steps, which led to the post-war Soviet-led horror show in Eastern Europe, were all very orchestrated by the Soviets. I thought the title was also very apt: the ‘crushing’ of Eastern Europe. This is what happened, insomuch as the Soviets (and domestic true-believers, fellow travellers and power-seekers) could accomplish ~ the independent vestiges of civil society, the things that make up ‘life’, were purposefully crushed.
This is another excellent history from Anne Applebaum; her “Gulag” is also recommended. I had previously read Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago”. That was the toughest, darkest thing I have ever read; it was literally disturbing to me during the time that I read it. I’m glad I did read it, but Anne Applebaum’s review of that system was also excellent to read. Solzhenitsyn’s style could be so angry and intimate at times, I appreciated reading a more objective summary. I would recommend reading both, although “Gulag Archipelago” is a steep investment.
In terms of both books, really, it is tough to believe that such a system dominated so much of the globe for so long, and so recently. And it continues today in some jurisdictions. For me personally, it makes me all the more appreciative of what we have in the West. Freedom baby.