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together only by a shared negativity (for example, dictatorship as a contrast to
democracy), it did not.
Second, space mattered more than anyone could have predicted.108 In fact,
it occasionally felt as if the old categories of territory and climate might destroy
the project. Needless to say the Soviet Union inherited the problem of governing
a multiethnic empire, whereas Nazi Germany created one through exclusion
and war. More surprising, however, was the extent to which more “classic”
conditions, like size and habitability, interfered. With size came problems of
multiethnicity; and, with habitability came problems of standards of living.
Taken together, they impacted the issues of regime mobilization, the pursuit of
violence, and, had we chosen the subject, the modes and spaces of resistance.
Size determines very different degrees of permeability “ in both the ability of a
regime to organize a given social territory and in how that task is structured.
For some participants, the “gardening metaphor” captures quite neatly the
peculiarly “modern” nature of the Stalinist and Nazi regimes “ but then the
task is to discern speci¬cally what gardening entailed in Russia and Germany,
Third, periodization is of consequence. The editors focused on the 1930s and
1940s because that period seemed best suited for illuminating the quintessen-
tial features of Nazism and Stalinism. While most participants clamored for
the temporal parameters to be moved back to at least World War I (and, in

This phenomenon is demonstrated nicely in Overy, The Dictators: Hitler™s Germany and

Stalin™s Russia.
Jurgen Osterhammel, “Die Wiederkehr des Raumes: Geopolitik, Geohistorie und historische

Geographie,” Neue Politische Literatur 43 (1998): 374“97; Karl Schlogel, Im Raume lesen wir
die Zeit: Uber Zivilisationsgeschichte und Geopolitik (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2003).
Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca; NY: Cornell University Press, 1989);

Amir Weiner, ed., Landscaping the Human Garden: 20th-Century Population Management in
a Comparative Framework (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003).
Michael Geyer

rare cases, forward to the Cold War), the extended comparison proved prob-
lematic because, for the most part, the national historiographies would not
accommodate the long-term comparison, although there is an illustrious his-
tory of Russian-German (cultural) exchanges that ranges from the eighteenth
to the twentieth centuries.110 If the editors extended the time frame beyond the
period of Nazism and Stalinism, what then was the subject of comparison?Was
it democracy versus dictatorship, capitalism versus failing economies, West ver-
sus East?Why even limit the comparison to the twentieth century?Ultimately,
the debate was not so much about periodization as it was about the proper
subject of comparison. An even more pressing problem was how to charac-
terize and de¬ne the period in question. If contemporaries agreed that it was
a time of exceptional and exceptionally violent regimes, the resultant bias of
participants was to think in terms of thirty years of war and revolution that
climaxed in Stalinism and Nazism.
Fourth, the project of comparison is never neutral. As discussed above,
comparison has been used time and again to justify the other regimes™ actions
or a third-party (American) intervention. The noxious popular and historio-
graphical (mis)use of the other(s) as self-exculpation was on everyone™s mind,
although it rarely entered the debate. It is one thing, however, to avoid the
invocation of the other as apology; it is quite another when this hesitation pre-
vents one from exploring the actual imbrications of the two regimes and their
ideologies.111 What we know is that the two regimes were keenly aware of each
other, observed each other, and, in several crucial cases, misjudged each other.
We also know, at least in the German case (for example, the mobilization of
female labor), that “the other” often acted as shorthand for what was imper-
missible. What we do not know is when and how the two regimes mobilized
this discrete knowledge and how factual observation and ¬ction intertwined.
The emphasis on the intensity and aggressiveness of action that characterized
the peculiar historicity of the two regimes suggested that we study practice. We
were particularly interested in the act of governing, the act of using violence, the
act of making society, and the act of the two regimes engaging and imagining
each other. We failed, however, to reach any agreement on the role of ideology
and what constituted its practice. Thus, education and architecture as sites of
ideological practice fell by the wayside, as did distinct acts of believing (secular
and religious). Of course, the point can be made that ideology was not a discrete
domain, but an element in grounding and projecting action, without which
governance, violent action, and socialization were impossible. And, hence, one
may argue that ideology acted as an integral element in all practice.112 Despite

Karl Schlogel, Berlin Ostbahnhof Europas: Russen und Deutsche in ihrem Jahrhundert (Berlin:

Siedler, 1998); Klaus Zernack, Polen und Russland: Zwei Wege in der europaischen Geschichte
(Berlin: Propylaen Verlag, 1994).
Wolfgang Kraushaar, “Sich aufs Eis wagen: Pladoyer fur eine Auseinandersetzung mit der
¨ ¨

Totalitarismustheorie,” Mittelweg 36, no. 2 (1993): 6“29.
Lewis H. Siegelbaum, and Lewis H. Siegelbaum, eds., Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative

in Documents (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000).
Introduction 29

some misgivings, the participants settled on this latter approach rather than
breaking out ideology into a separate domain of research.113
governance. No one disputed the centrality of governance and the prox-
imity, as opposed to separation, of state and society, although the latter was
not always explicitly addressed. However, gone are ideas about the monolithic
character of the political system, of obedience enforced by terror, of society as
a receptor of leadership initiatives and, hence, also the concern with “levers
of power” and the role of ideology. The discussion has shifted and with it the
stakes in the comparative enterprise. The relevant question now is who con-
trols the act of governing, how effective it is (and why), and what, if any, its
limits are. A large and growing literature on the subject exists and we need not
rehearse it at this point. Suf¬ce it to say that by generating renewed interest
in the question of legitimacy and the popularity of the regimes, social and cul-
tural history has enhanced rather than detracted from the centrality of politics
in both regimes.
Yoram Gorlizki™s and Hans Mommsen™s respective positions on the nature
of the Stalinist and the Nazi regimes need no rehearsal here. Suf¬ce it to say
that Mommsen is well known for his structuralist approach to the Nazi regime
that highlights its self-destructive social dynamics. Gorlizki pursues a reading
of Stalinism that depicts the autocratic and centralized control of the Party
in a symbiotic relationship with the state. Needless to say, their search for
a common vantage point from which to argue their respective cases while
maintaining a comparative perspective was intriguing. The resultant product,
however, is an essay whose importance goes well beyond its stated focus on
the state and party bureaucracy, the role of the leader, and the development
(and legitimacy) of the two regimes. The added value derives from the authors™
exploration into what distinguishes the two regimes: namely, that the Stalinist
regime stabilized governance (with, rather than in spite of, terror and mass
mobilization), whereas Nazism sought to revolutionize the state and used the
war as a means of projecting a highly personalized and amorphous regime of
authority on the state. The relative longevity of Stalinism and brevity and self-
destructiveness of Nazism, the authors suggest, was not mere happenstance;
it emerged out of the politics of the two regimes. Whether these divergent
trajectories were the products of the founding moments of the two regimes,
different levels of socioeconomic development, or other intervening factors,
however, remains to be seen.
David Hoffmann and Annette Timm™s contribution, “The Politics of Repro-
duction,” approaches issues of governance from the societal end, revisiting the
highly contested sphere of biopolitics. First, the two authors seek to establish
the politics of reproduction as a site of governance in Stalinism and Nazism.
While both regimes were pronatalist, neither regime succeeded in attaining the

Igal Hal¬n, ed., Language and Revolution: Making Modern Political Identities (London and

Portland, OR: F. Cass, 2002).
Michael Geyer

goal of increasing the birthrate. This observation establishes the authors™ over-
all position vis-a-vis their respective historiographies. In terms of comparison,
the more intriguing observation is that “politics of reproduction” was an inter-
national and, indeed, transnational phenomenon “ and, hence, anything but
homegrown. And yet, because their ideological foundations differed, Stalinist
and Nazi approaches to reproductive policy could not have been further apart.
In fact, the two shared more in common with third parties “ Nazism with
Scandinavia, Stalinism with Catholic countries! “ than with each other. This,
of course, raises the question, What was the goal of the two regimes™ respective
politics of reproduction?Was it to “make babies” (unsuccessfully, as the case
was), or was it to articulate and reinforce a family ideal and, hence, to establish
a politics of national cohesion?Hoffmann™s and Timm™s essay can also be read
as a complement to and corrective of Fritzsche™s and Hellbeck™s essay on “The
New Man.”
The takeaway here is not that while the regimes shared certain features, they
remained fundamentally different “ that is only stating the obvious. Rather,
the key point is that governance was central for both regimes and that both
sought to overthrow older forms of governing. In view of the literature on
totalitarianism it seemed important to highlight the rise of new policy areas in
both regimes. For the canon of what constitutes politics was radically changed
and expanded in both cases. This is also where the real questions begin. How
does the act of governance actually work in these dictatorships and what does it
take, in each case, to make it work “ political patronage, a managerial outlook,
bureaucratic procedures, working toward the Fuhrer? What are the domains
of an expanding political sphere that, at times, seems all-encompassing and,
yet, clearly is not? What are the limits of centralized power and where are
they “ between center and periphery, at the seams of personalized rule? The
most important issue, though, emerges from the observation that Stalinism
was able to make and stabilize a political system with an overwhelmingly new
elite, whereas the Nazis, with the support of the traditional elite, were not. If
anything, this suggests that Nazism represents a failed revolution of the state
and of the political system. The emphasis on statebuilding in the Soviet Union
(at the expense of intermediate managerial structures) on one hand and the
destruction of the bureaucratic state (and the rise of intermediate command
authorities) in Nazi Germany on the other, together with the wholesale shift in
policy-areas, are among the most important ¬ndings.
violence. Focusing on politics, however, violates one of the ¬rst principles
of the totalitarian model, which tends to subordinate politics to violence. State
violence and terror, or so the argument goes, were essential elements in the
totalitarian formula of rule.114 Moreover, the phenomenon of the Gulag as a
manifestation of Soviet state violence and the Holocaust as the central site of
Nazi terror convey the unmistakable message that the two regimes were bent

See, for example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Permanent Purge: Politics in Soviet Totalitarianism

(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956).
Introduction 31

on genocide. But was the turn to crushing force a re¬‚ection of the weakness
of power as Hannah Arendt would suggest? Did terror “ or, at least, certain
kinds of terror “ enjoy popular support, was it self-vindication, a means of
social mobilization and ideological identi¬cation? Could the regime count on
popular participation? If we take the Gulag Archipelago and the Holocaust as
key “ but by no means exchangeable “ sites of terror, how do they compare
to other sites of terror “ or should they be treated entirely separately (as has
been argued for the Holocaust)? Is there an overarching schema of violence in
each regime that would allow discerning family resemblances? Not least, we
have the nightmare of comparison “ the question of which of the two evils
was worse and how to measure the relative depravity of the two regimes.115
In light of all these debates, the two contributions addressing regime violence
had their work cut out for them. In the end, they staked out two quite different
positions “ one emphasizing the social embeddedness of extreme violence, the
other highlighting the ideological imperative to order multiethnic empire. If we
add Edele and Geyer™s essay to this set of re¬‚ections, we quickly discover that
the most important area of debate is less the differences between the regimes
(which emerge very clearly) than the nature and the purpose of extreme violence
which both regimes exercised and in which both societies participated.
Gerlach and Werth stepped back from the overheated debate regarding the
comparison of Nazi and Soviet terror and closed the door on older debates
concerning ideology versus economy, intentionalism versus structuralism, and
similar dichotomies. They plead instead for the multicausality and multidi-
mensionality of the violence of the two regimes “ from systematic starvation
to outright mass murder “ and, consequently, for a broadening of the ¬eld
of inquiry. Furthermore, they highlight the need for proper contextualization
and historicization, so as avoid the impression that violence emerges out of
the arbitrary rule of dictatorship. It is, after all, revealing that much of Soviet
violence turned internal violence outward, while Nazi terror served ¬rst and
foremost expansion. The authors also address the recent (primarily Germanist)
concern with the study of perpetrators. Again, the “thick” comparison reveals
important differences between the two nations™ regimes of terror “ rather than
a planet Auschwitz or Gulag, we see two distinct universes developing along
independent trajectories. Exemplary of this difference is the degree of under-
planning and overful¬llment and overplanning and underful¬llment of goals
in the Stalinist and Nazi regimes, respectively. But the key proposition is that

It should be recalled that this was the subject of one of the most arduous postwar German

controversies, the so-called Historikerstreit, which was centrally focused on the provocation of
Ernst Nolte, who insisted that Nazi genocide and the Holocaust were derivative of and reacted
to Bolshevik barbarism in the (Russian) Civil War. Ernst Nolte, “Marxismus und National-
sozialismus,” Vierteljahrhefte fur Zeitgeschichte 31 (1983): 389“417; Rudolf Augstein, ed.,
“Historikerstreit”: Die Dokumentation der Kontroverse um die Einzigartigkeit der national-
sozialistischen Judenvernichtung (Munich: R. Piper, 1987); Forever in the Shadow of Hitler?
Original Documents of the Historikerstreit, the Controversy Concerning the Singularity of the
Holocaust (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993).
Michael Geyer

violence, while mostly state driven, was deeply embedded in the respective soci-
eties. This raises not only the question of the nature of social violence, but also
how and why this massive propensity for violence developed within the two
In their contribution on Stalinism and Nazism as expansionist regimes,
Baberowski and Doering-Manteuffel offer something of an antidote. While
they surely would subscribe to most of the features highlighted by Gerlach
and Werth, they are more impressed by the use of terror and violence as tools
in the (re)construction of society and its ultimately counterproductive results.
Building on Baumann™s gardening metaphor, they emphasize the quest for and
the imposition of order through violence. They further note that the extreme
violence of the regimes, lethal as it was, not only failed in its pernicious goals,
but left a legacy of destruction and a haunted politics of memory that have pro-
duced chaos in both the short and the long run. Lastly, they contend that Nazi
and Stalinist violence is only conceivable in imperial space and in the peculiar
drive to order that space. This proposition ¬ts in well with the German debate
on the subject but may well raise eyebrows in the Soviet context. In any case,
Baberowski and Doering-Manteuffel have placed imperial plani¬cation as a
source of extreme violence on the map.
In working through the research of the past thirty years these ¬ndings not


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