Anti-communist persecutions in the 20th century

Anti-communist persecutions in the 20th century

Christian Gerlach (University of Bern), Wendy Goldman (Carnegie Mellon University), Clemens Six (University of Groningen)
From - Until
21.04.2017 - 23.04.2017
Christian Gerlach

Many waves of mass violence against communists occurred in the twentieth century. They took place in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, in capitalist but also in socialist countries. They happened before, during and after the Cold War. Such persecutions came about in a variety of situations – in peacetime, wartime, civil wars and/or guerrilla wars, as a prelude to World War II, and in the aftermath of World Wars I and II. The political outcomes varied greatly, and in many countries, the impact on social life, political thought, individual behavior, and socioeconomic makeup was profound. The number of victims varied, ranging from hundreds to millions.

Although there is excellent historical scholarship of anti-communism, especially in terms of ideas and propaganda, there has been relatively little attention to many of these bloody events, and almost none, on the violence as part of a larger, connected phenomenon. In particular, there are hardly any systematic analyses dealing with more than one case of such a persecution. Scholarship on the issue is fragmented into national histories and transnational perspectives are missing, except for references to Cold War politics. The conference will try to address these shortcomings.

Persecution implies the existence of government policies of violence. But in many cases, violence transcended state action against members of a political party. Anti-communist persecutions were not only about communists; other groups came under attack as well, often including leftists in general but quite frequently also ethnic or religious minorities, women’s movements and others. Family members also suffered intensely. Moreover, non-state actors usually participated in the violence in one way or another, shaping the course of events and greatly influencing the options for action of communists and other target groups.

The organizers of this conference are seeking proposals for papers that shed new light on anti-communist mass violence. Contributions that cover more than one case of such persecutions and discuss common features and variations are especially welcome. Possible topics include the origins of violence, the evolution of state policies, activities by non-state actors, the range of victims, survival strategies and other responses by those under attack, social and political contexts and the long-term impact of the violence. We value critical scholarship that provides for more than a memorialization of the victims. Our aim is to develop a global understanding by focusing on multiple countries and regions, including but not limited to Europe, the United States, the Soviet Union, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

The language of this conference will be English.
Limited financial aid will be available to those who need help with travel expenses.

Please send us the proposal for your presentation (300 words) by 31 January 2016 to , and


Contact (announcement)

Christian Gerlach,
University of Bern

Wendy Goldman
Carnegie Mellon University

Clemens Six
University of Groningen

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