Fran Hirsch Profile picture
Apr 12 17 tweets 3 min read
Russia has become a totalitarian society. Public opinion does not matter. It's all about complacency.
I teach a course on Totalitarianism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here are some reading recommendations from my syllabus.
Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness 1933-1941: A Diary of the Nazi Years. The entries from 1933 are especially powerful.

"Every new government decree, announcement, etc. is more shameful than the previous one..."

"And... everyone's keeping his head down..."
George Orwell's 1984.

Obvious perhaps, but worth re-reading.

Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Love, Ministry of Plenty

Oh--and the role of State Television during a period of extreme wartime censorship.
Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism

Always worth re-reading--especially for her reflections on the atomization of society.

Yes, people can be disgruntled (it's not about brainwashing)--but it become harder for people to connect for fear of denunciations and arrest.
Lev Kopelev, "The Last Grain Collections (1933)"

A powerful memoir on Soviet-era collectivization and what we now talk about as the Holodomor.

On how people internalize hateful propaganda--and why it matters.
Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, 1993.

On totalitarianism at war--and how ordinary soldiers become perpetrators of atrocities.
Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s

On the atomization of society.

"As always when I meet someone new, I don't rush to get into a conversation until I've scoped out the circumstances and the people around me. I don't say anything. I just listen while they talk."
Stalinism as a Way of Life, ed. Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov

Letters from Soviet citizens to Soviet leaders and newspapers in the 1930s

We see how official language, official categories become a part of everyday life.
Why use the term totalitarianism?

It's not about brainwashing or the achievement of total control. It's not even always about the complete mobilization of society.

It's about the suppression of civil society, the criminalization of free thought, the closing down of options....
It's about the spread of misinformation, the denial of truth, the atomization of society.

It's about fear and complacency.
There will still be dissent. There will be people who resist--and who risk speaking out.

We need to continue to listen for and amplify such voices.
But let's stop talking about pubic opinion polls. They can't be trusted.

And at least right now, they don't really matter.
More from Klemperer in August 1933:

"I simply cannot believe that the mood of the masses is really still behind Hitler. Too many signs of the opposite. But everyone, literally everyone, cringes with fear... Everyone fears the next person may be an informer."
Klemperer in November 1933:

"If I have no choice but to read and hear something everywhere, it is forced upon me. And if I can hardly guard against believing it--how shall millions of naive people guard against it? And if they believe then they are indeed won by Hitler."
Last ones

Klemperer in June 1933:

"During the day I now forcibly cling to some relatively pleasant event or other, even the most trivial thing like the growth of a philodendron leave..."

Klemperer in August 1933:

"One has simply to get through this time with decency."

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Fran Hirsch

Fran Hirsch Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @FranHirsch

Apr 6
As a result of the efforts of Raphael Lemkin, the term #genocide was included in the Indictment for the #Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46 under the category of War Crimes.
British deputy chief prosecutor Sir David Maxwell Fyfe used the term in June 1946 #Nuremberg during his cross-examination of Konstantin von Neurath, former Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.
Maxwell Fyfe reminded Neurath that the prosecution was charging him and many of his fellow defendants with genocide, “which we say is the extermination of racial or national groups.”
Read 14 tweets
Apr 5
In his closing speech at the #Nuremberg Trials in 1946, British chief prosecutor Sir Hartley Shawcross used the term #genocide to describe the Nazis’ “deliberate and systematic plan” to wipe out peoples and cultures.
Shawcross revisited the evidence about the Einsatzgruppen and Auschwitz.

But he also reminded the Tribunal that #genocide had not been limited to the murder of Jews and Gypsies.
Shawcross emphasized that the Nazis had pursued genocide “in different forms” in Poland, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Alsace-Lorraine.
Read 10 tweets
Apr 5
The RIA-Novosti article--a horrifying treatise for #genocide--is a ramped-up and developed version of a "plan" for "deukrainization" advocated by the Russian economist and publicist Mikhail Khazin back in 2016.
Chilling to re-read Khazin's "vision" for a divided Ukraine. He had called for the transformation of Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy into "agricultural hinterland stripped of industry and armed forces" with "excess population" deported to Russia's Far East.
Khazin had suggested that there would likely be "several million" Ukrainians who "cannot be reformed" and who would "need to be partly terminated, and partly expelled."
Read 11 tweets
Apr 4
Yes, the word genocide was indeed created to describe what is now transpiring in Ukraine. And the term totalitarianism was invented to describe the kind of regime that is now in place in Russia.
To me, this much is obvious.

We've seen it before. I've spent my career as a historian studying it.
Yes, we will need war crimes trials and a new #Nuremberg to try the Putin regime, Putin's generals, and rank-and-file Russian soldiers.
Read 4 tweets
Apr 3
Crimes against humanity as defined in the #Nuremberg Principles of 1946
"Atrocities and offenses, including but not limited to murder, extermination, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population…”
Russia hasn't broken "western" rules of law. It has violated universal principles.

These were principles that the jurists and diplomats in the Russian Empire and in the Soviet Union had once had a major role in formulating.
Read 4 tweets
May 23, 2021
On the morning of May 23, 1946, Soviet assistant prosecutor Nikolai Zorya was found dead in his hotel room in #Nuremberg. Zorya, below, had presented key parts of the Soviet case.
Zorya’s death was reported to Moscow as a suicide. In Nuremberg, the Soviets put forward another story: Zorya had accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun.
No one really believed that Zorya’s death was an accident—especially in the wake of the public exposure of the secret protocols to the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact.
Read 10 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!