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only identify new areas of research, they rephrase some of the initial questions
raised by contemporaries facing the extraordinary violence of Nazism and Stal-
inism. There are gains and losses to record here. The immediate contemporaries
by necessity all started with the shock of recognition of unheard-of atrocities
and worked their way toward a phenomenology of extreme violence, which
they placed within or just beyond the boundaries of available thought. It took a
long while before the experience of violence itself gained a voice. Nowadays we
can observe the reverse: historians work their way from the world of actors “
societies, regimes, and ideologies “ toward the violence they perpetrated. The
shock of extreme violence is diffused in numbers, the pervasiveness of terror,
and the minute description of how it happened. To be sure, this is all necessary
work, which national history cannot and should not escape. But in this situ-
ation, comparison works like Occam™s razor and compels judgment. What, if
anything, is captured by the notion of extreme violence? How do we distinguish
killing from murder, Soviet from Nazi terror, and the latter from the violence
of other belligerents in the thirties and forties? And not least, what is to be
gained from historicizing violence? The answers may differ for Stalinism and
Nazism, Germany and Russia; but much can be gained if we can make sense of
both histories “ and comparative history is a discriminating interlocutor, espe-
cially when it comes to violence, as the two essays on the subject suggest.116 Of
course, a history of violence and terror is only complete if war becomes an inte-
gral aspect of this. But the latter moves us from a comparative to an entangled

A good start is Robert Gellately and Ben Kiernan, eds., The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder

in Historical Perspective (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Introduction 33

history, in which the present and future of one regime are implicated in those
of the other. Especially if we add Edele™s and Geyer™s essay, the conclusion is
that, although we know a great deal, the question of extreme violence is still
very far from resolved.
the making of society (vergesellschaftung). While totalitarian mod-
els overwhelmingly focused on the state, the “regime,” or the “system,” the
study of society became a subject of study early on “ and here, Sovietologists
took the lead. Working with refugees in Europe and North America, they
investigated social strati¬cation and mobility, the attitudes of various groups
to the political system, and even informal social connections.117 The difference
between this early work and what came later is, perhaps, best characterized
by the adherence of the earlier work to basic class categories “ workers, peas-
ants, and so forth “ whereas more recent work is more fascinated with the
capacity of social classi¬cation to generate social realities rather than simply
re¬‚ect them.118 “Ascribing class” is, of course, only one dimension of this pro-
cess; ascribing nation “ ethnic, racial, or otherwise “ and generating a sense of
nationness in fractured (German) and quicksand (Soviet) societies is another
Browning and Siegelbaum position themselves squarely in the “ascribing
class” and “ascribing nation” paradigm and produce a beautiful example of
comparative history that pinpoints the similarity of regime strategies “ vis-a- `
vis the legitimization of new identities and the repression of old ones “ and
the very different trajectories that ultimately resulted. They are keenly aware
of the violence involved in the act of ascription as well as in the ideological
underpinnings of discursive regimes that, much as they are pushed from above,
are regenerated from below. They also tentatively point to the transnational
quality of these ascriptive categories and note their intrinsic differences. Class,
after all, is a universal category, whereas race is categorically not. They are,
however, skeptical of the more far-reaching claims of a categorical confusion
(in which each regime takes over attributes of the other) and, instead, empha-
size the effectiveness of the nation remade in war to create distinct postwar
national identities. The double irony is that not only was it war and sacri¬ce
that ultimately ascribed identity, but that the more exclusive German-volkish¨
identity mutated into a cosmopolitan transnationalism after defeat, while the
universal ideals of class disappeared into Soviet nationalism and, as far as
Eastern Europe was concerned, imperialism.
In their article, Fitzpatrick and Ludtke eschewed many of the standard
issues of everyday scholarship, including the common concern with resistance,
in order to retest a “classic” thesis, ¬rst introduced by Hannah Arendt and

Alex Inkeles and Raymond Augustine Bauer, The Soviet Citizen: Daily Life in a Totalitarian

Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959).
Sheila Fitzpatrick, “Ascribing Class: The Construction of Social Identity in Soviet Russia,”

Journal of Modern History 65, no. 4 (1993): 745“70; idem, Tear off the Masks! Identity and
Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
Michael Geyer

Barrington Moore, that emphasized the ability of the regimes to create a sense
of belonging in what 1950s scholarship called an atomized society, a society
in which social bonds were torn asunder either in the grand processes of mod-
ernization, industrialization, and urbanization or in the terrifying processes of
war, mobilization, and civil war. The results of their investigation are puzzling.
For as much as evidence points to societal bonds fracturing or, at a mini-
mum, to conditions (war, in¬‚ation, and mobility) suggesting they would, there
is contrary evidence intimating that bonds of family and friendship actually
strengthened, as did workplace bonds. All this suggests that the regenerative
powers of society cannot be underestimated. However, we do not yet fully
understand the nature of this capability or the impetus that leads some of these
labors of togetherness to identify with the state and others to turn against it.
The third essay on shaping the social body by Fritzsche and Hellbeck might
be considered in opposition to the previous one, because it is so distinctly
ideology driven. They argue that the two regimes intended to create a new
collective subject, an entirely modern, illiberal, and self-fashioned personage.
They point to the long intellectual tradition of imagining this kind of subject,
the initiatives to create such personalities, and, in an exemplary fashion, the
kind of striking conversion experience that real persons underwent in becoming
not just dedicated Nazis and Stalinists, but new “men.” While these labors of
self-transformation in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia differed in signi¬cant
respects, the point of this essay is to highlight the ways in which Nazism and
Stalinism were literally embodied in the lives of people. That discipline was
central in both projects is noteworthy, not least because it suggests a site where
ascribing class, creating bonds of belonging, and transforming the self intersect
in a telling fashion. Overall, this line of inquiry “ one of the key contributions
of a new Soviet history that explores “ opens up a wide arena of study that
might, indeed, compare the rage for the “self-made” and “self-help man” and
may well link it to a hitherto unexplored politics of intimacy.119
All three of these studies on societalization depart from the older literature
that spoke of society “under” Nazism or Stalinism and, quite compellingly,
explore the extent to which the two regimes left deep and lasting imprints
on the social makeup of these nations and on social and individual self-
understanding “ because ascription was transmuted into self-de¬nition and
identi¬cation. This is the grand wager of a new social history of the two
regimes. What has been demonstrated conclusively is that the ascription of
class and nation not only occurred, but that it was perniciously effective. We
do not know with the same clarity and the same conviction how this project of
ascription worked, what social and individual needs and desires it articulated,

Moritz Follmer, “[Einleitung] Interpersonelle Kommunikation und Moderne in Deutschland.”

in Sehnsucht nach Nahe: Interpersonelle Kommunikation in Deutschland seit dem 19. Jahrhun-
dert (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004), 9“44; Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci and Pierre
Milza, eds., L™homme nouveau dans L™Europe fasciste, 1922“1945: Entre dictature et totali-
tarisme (Paris: Fayard, 2004).
Introduction 35

and what it really amounted to in the self-fashioning of individual identities.
Nor do we have a strong sense of timing “ that is, whether or not Stalinism and
Nazism were particularly “pregnant” times for shaping German and Russian
society. Finally, we do not know how to evaluate exigencies “ the role of scarci-
ties, life-and-death situations “ or, equally important, the penchant of people
to not get involved in anything at all, let alone in such arduous schemes as
self-fashioning. It seems evident, though, that social groups, rather than merely
being a site of regime action, are actors in their own right, actors whose prac-
tices, as, for example, the strategies of societalization (Vergesellschaftung), we
need to fully understand before we can begin to fathom the legacies of Stalinism
and Nazism. Just on the horizon of this kind of history we also discover that,
much as the local and particular dominates, these social actors partake in a
wider world that is partly made up of fantasies and projections, but partly also
the product of transnational practices.
entanglements. To move this project of revisiting Stalinism and Nazism
beyond totalitarianism requires one more essential step: to explore not only the
two regimes™ image of each other, but the interactive processes and imaginary
transaction that made Stalinism and Nazism what they were. There is, of
course, a long tradition of studies that either focus on all manner of, but
especially cultural exchanges between Russia and Germany or, alternatively,
on war with Germany and Russia as allies, neutrals, and mortal enemies.120
But despite various initiatives to the contrary, war and culture (and the never
to be forgotten economy) retain separate trajectories and all of them hit a wall
when it comes to Nazism and Stalinism. To be sure, the image of the other is by
now rather well explored, but the monstrous imbrications and entanglements
of Nazism and Stalinism have yet to be fully recognized. For however we turn
them, the past, present, and future of both regimes and what came of them are
inseparable from their histoire crois´ e.121
In their essay, “States of Exception,” Edele and Geyer start from the propo-
sition that in order for the notion of extreme violence to be productive it has to
both enable a better understanding of the historical place of the Soviet-German
war and account for the relationship between war and genocide as well as
genocide and the Holocaust. The Soviet-German war was the pivotal war of
twentieth-century Europe and, arguably, the twentieth-century world. It was
also the climax of more than twenty years of war, revolution, and violence.
The war that these two regimes fought is often called a “total war,” but, the
authors argue, the totality of it makes sense only if we understand it “ in both
practical and ideological terms “ as a life and death struggle. In this context,

Karl Schlogel, Jenseits des großen Oktober: Das Laboratorium der Moderne, Petersburg 1909“

1921 (Berlin: Siedler, 1988).
Bernhard Chiari, “Geschichte als Gewalttat: Weißrußland als Kind zweier Weltkriege,”

in Wehrmacht, Verbrechen, Widerstand: Vier Beitrage zum nationalsozilistischen Weltan-
schauungskrieg, ed. Clemens Vollnhals (Dresden: Hannah Arendt Institut fur Totalitarismus-
forschung, 2003), 27“44.
Michael Geyer

the question of genocide and how to place it in a history of war “ and of
Russo-German and Nazi-Soviet war at that “ is still largely unresolved. The
immediate question concerns the Holocaust, the Nazi murder of any and all
Jews, in an environment of ethnic cleansing.122 But the general question con-
cerns the nature of war, which in the eastern parts of Europe was rarely ever
contained in military battle and guided by politics. Again, the issue of compari-
son arises with considerable urgency, for, in their enmity, the two societies seem
to have converged rather than moved apart. Thus, it can be argued, as Amir
Weiner has done for the Soviet side (and Nolte for the German side), that one
side acquired traits of the other “ although we need to be careful in identifying
what those traits were.123 The authors suggest an altogether more entangled
approach. The comparative and genetic impetus gives way to an interactive
approach in which enmity shapes a peculiarly warped exchange that leaves a
legacy beyond victory and defeat.
In the ¬nal essay, Clark and Schlogel analyze the process of mutual image
making, a process that gained particular valence as a result of the competition
and con¬‚ict between the two regimes. That the Soviet image machine fared rel-
atively well with its split imagination as the preserver of (German) culture in a
barbaric war and as the relentless resistor against imperial aggression, whereas
the German image machine proved so relentlessly and violently racist, points
again to the utopian dimension of one ideology and the dystopian dimension
of the other. But even on the Nazi side, multiple and con¬‚icting images coex-
isted. Even if we want to think of this phenomenon as an Orientalism and
an Occidentalism, we still have to deal with the simultaneous importance of
the phenomenon, its slippery instability, and its extremely violent realization.
Overall, it is surprising how little we actually know about how the two nations
understood and imagined each other.
There are two additional observations regarding an interactive German-
Russian, Nazi-Soviet comparison that lead to a more general observation on
the nature of comparison. The ¬rst concerns the very presence of the other side,
wanted or unwanted, in each regime “ Russian emigr´ s in Germany and occu-
pied Europe, former Soviet subjects in German military and police units, and,
conversely, Germans in Russian ones, German propaganda against the Nazi
war effort, and, not least, the German origins of Marxism and the Bolshevik
presence in German Communism. All of this demonstrates how porous and
permeable national boundaries have proven for people and ideas. This phe-
nomenon points not only to interpenetration, but also to a shared culture or
discourse of modernity. Rather than expelling Stalinism and Nazism from this

Norman M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Cam-

bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001). See also the contributions of Gerlach and Werth
as well as Baberowski and Doering-Manteuffel.
Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolu-

Introduction 37

common culture, Clark and Schlogel strongly suggest that we must reintegrate
them in order to gain a better understanding of both.
As we lift some of the dichotomizing weight off the comparison of Nazism
and Stalinism, we notice that the comparison is burdened by other factors, as
well. For we discover that, on the macro level, national imaginaries, contradic-
tory and open-ended as they may be, are never innocent “ and neither is their
comparison. A sense of superiority is deeply invested in these imaginaries “ and
so too is a sense of inferiority. That is to say, comparison has its own practice.
It is not something that scholars do (and do objectively), but something that
nations and people experience as a simultaneous sense of empowerment and
emasculation. The most concrete expressions of this phenomenon were the
racist supremacy of German soldiers, on one hand, and mass rape as an act of
humiliation, on the other. We might also discover it in the hidden agenda of
so much totalitarian comparison that sets these two dictatorships against the
third, unspoken alternative of (American) liberal capitalism and the bristling
feeling of the illegitimacy of comparison that accompanies the statements of
even avowed antitotalitarians in Russia and Germany. Comparison, we dis-
cover, is an emotional and, indeed, moral business.
part i


The Political (Dis)Orders of Stalinism
and National Socialism


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