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Iron Curtain

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Among the most interesting segments of the book are those that describe individuals who simply tried to lead normal lives as much as possible. The chapters called “Reluctant Collaborators” and “Passive Opponents” show the lives of those who disliked subsisting under totalitarian systems but were unwilling or unable to outright defy their masters. It is a reminder that, even in what appears to the most closed of societies, individuals will find a way to subvert the system in which they live. No government can entirely extinguish the personal lives of its citizens, no matter how powerful and vicious it is.

"Iron Curtain" ends on a hopeful note. In March of 1953, Stalin died, instantly dampening the control that the Soviet Union had accrued. Communist propaganda raised the Georgian-born dictator to so exalted a status that his death left an emptiness that citizens tried to fill. In June, tens of thousands of East Berliners staged the first mass strike since the war. The first uprising against the Soviet Union was underway. It was swiftly crushed, but it influenced subsequent revolts in Hungary in 1956, Prague in 1968, and Poland in 1981. When the Soviet Union finally died in the late 1980s, its demise owed something to those brave Germans from the 1950s.

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