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Uses of History for Political Legitimation by Communist Regimes: Some Reflections on Eva Schmidt-Hartmann's Article

Bohemia, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 135-138, 1995

20 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2011 Last revised: 26 Feb 2016

Fred Eidlin

Charles University

Date Written: 1989

Abstract

All regimes use history for purposes of legitimation, but since communists have traditionally heaped scorn on the idea that a regime ought to seek legitimation through the holding of elections through which the ruling party might actually have to give up its hold on power, the weight placed on history of legitimation becomes considerably greater than it is for most other kinds of regimes. Stalinist regimes did not try to persuade their peoples of the truth of this theory. It simply terrorized them into reciting the official theory as liturgy and systematically suppressed criticism and all competing views. As the ideological glue that had bound the Communist rank and file to blind, unquestioning acceptance of the policies of the ruling elite weakened, historical interpretation naturally had to be increasingly promoted by argument rather than imposed. As historiography becomes more sophisticated and historians more familiar with the behavior of the regime, it becomes increasingly difficult for the partisans of a monolithic regime to decide on the criteria necessary for a total control and manipulation of history.

Keywords: history, legitimation, legitimacy, communism, communist regimes, Stalinism

Suggested Citation

Eidlin, Fred, Uses of History for Political Legitimation by Communist Regimes: Some Reflections on Eva Schmidt-Hartmann's Article (1989). Bohemia, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 135-138, 1995. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1965436

Fred Eidlin (Contact Author)

Charles University ( email )

U krize 8
Prague, 158 00
Czech Republic

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