Booklist | Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

Perhaps billing this book as a “how to” guide for future totalitarians is a good marketing schpeel in poor taste–but it does seem to capture the essence of this exciting new book from the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gulag.

Inspired by their example, other young Germans began organizing similar anti-fascist groups in Berlin, but they didn’t last long. On July 31, the Soviet Military Administration banned all unregistered organizations. After that, many groups, clubs and associations were denied permission to exist.

This decision was not an aberration. Newly opened archives show that the persecution of civic activists, frequently enforced by violence, often took precedence over Communist parties’ other political and economic goals in the Soviet bloc at that time. Selective violence was carefully aimed at elites — intellectuals, businessmen, priests, police officers, anti-Nazi partisans — and above all at anyone capable of founding and leading any kind of spontaneous organization, no matter how apolitical. Scout groups, Freemasons and Catholic youth leaders all figure among the early victims of these regimes.

In later decades, this Soviet pattern of “totalitarianization” — the pursuit of total control over all aspects of public life — was widely imitated. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya got Soviet and East German advice on secret police methods, as did Chinese, Egyptian, Syrian, Angolan, Cuban and North Korean governments on those and other aspects of societal control.

via The Dead Weight of Past Dictatorships – NYTimes.com.

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One thought on “Booklist | Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

  1. Jordan White says:

    I don’t think this is a very new idea. For a long time we have understood that civil society helps fuel democracy. It gives people a chance to do something productive and interact with people outside of a work environment. Many times this makes the person believe they can speak up on issues, since they usually are within their groups on some level. I think being a dictator would be extremely hard though. Allowing civil society could well undermine the power of a dictator, but without it, your country doesn’t function as well. Advancements and progression greatly slow when there is not a society of interacting and active population. Though is democracy so much better? People say democracy is the best, and that we have lasted a long time, but monarchy had been around a lot longer. We are still an experiment, and only really started in the last century. Is it possible for civil society to bring problems even in a democratic government? I think to some extent it does, since different groups begin to feud with each other which breaks down civil interaction. However, as it stands, democracy has not been taken down by civil society, and dictatorships have.

    here is an article of civil society and democracy
    http://www.stanford.edu/~ldiamond/iraq/Develop_Democracy021002.htm

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