Communism, Genocide and Mass Killing: Overturning the Existing Consensus
King's College London, United Kingdom
Many of the largest genocides and mass killings in human history have been conducted by Communist states: in particular, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, China under Mao, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Something of a consensus exists in comparative scholarship as to why. Communist states are held to adhere to ‘utopian’ or ‘revolutionary’ ideological goals of societal transformation, that require certain groups incompatible with the revolutionary utopia to be purged. In this paper, I argue that this established consensus is largely wrong, only really fitting (and even then imperfectly) the Khmer Rouge case. The conventional wisdom faces two important problems. First, if Communist violence is rooted in revolutionary goals, why do many Communist states that share such goals (for example, Vietnam, Cuba or Nicaragua) not engage in large scale mass killing? Second, why, if Communist violence is essentially orientated around transforming society to fit longstanding utopian ideals, does it generally emerge only in response to specific periods of crisis, rather than as a general tool of social reengineering? By re-examining three cases: early Soviet violence under Lenin, the collectivisation and Great Terror campaigns under Stalin, and the Cultural Revolution under Mao, I show that these problems reflect a mischaracterisation of the link between Communism and violence in the established consensus. Ideology is crucial, but Communist mass violence is not rooted primarily in transformational goals, but in hardline communist ideas about security and warfare. These ideas are not universal features of Communism, and they generate a strategic conception of Communist violence as a response to contingent threats. Consequently, they encourage a resort to mass killing only by certain Communist regimes in response to certain conditions. I conclude by linking this argument to broader shifts in recent scholarly understandings of ideology and strategic decisionmaking in genocide and mass killing.
Digitally mapping the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontus
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
While the study of the Pontic Greek Genocide has been largely been researched in fragments, ie there are specialized studies for specific areas, or for specific periods, and other surveys through specific archives, there has not been a study that utilizing all the above data to place the plan of extermination of the Greeks in a single geographical and chronological context.
In this particular presentation, the chrono-geographical mapping of the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontus on a digital map will be attempted. That is, to present on a digital map the chronological and geographical record of the massacres and persecutions. The fact that this mapping is necessary is related to the absence to date of a study that examines the overall extent of this genocide in time and its geographical spread. The imprinting on a digital map, which will document this gradual extermination of the Greek element from Pontus, will help us better understand, in relation to the utilization of other historical data, how the extermination plan was implemented.
The map will be digitally created using the method of Geoinformatics through Geographic Information Systems, (G.I.S.). The combination of the aforementioned technologies with the historical data from the sources, give the opportunity: to ask, analyze and further research questions, to create specific thematic maps, or create and analyze statistical data. In other words, this paper wants to show that the characteristic feature provided by Geoinformatics (spatial connection with descriptive information), makes it a unique tool for collecting, processing and analyzing data to delve into the history of the Pontic Greek Genocide.
Military Traditions and Leadership Styles in the SS-Einsatzgruppen
Mass executions across Nazi occupied Soviet Union marked the first stage of systematic annihilation during the Holocaust. The SS-Einsatzgruppen, mobile paramilitary units, murdered over a million and a half civilians, shooting them in the margins of cities, local castles, and into pits in the hearts of forests and fields. My paper will examine how EG officers’ leadership styles interacted with particular settings in the occupied territories and affected individual Einsatzgruppen members’ willingness to participate in mass executions.
Spotlighting three units, Einsatzgruppen members’ postwar witness accounts reveal their officers followed the German military tradition of Auftragstaktik (mission command), by which the leadership required junior officers on the ground to set their immediate goals and promoted them based on proven results. Anticipating later promotion, some EG officers initiated more executions and pushed for faster killing rates. Discussing a number of EG officers, I will analyze their different approaches while dealing with personnel of competing German institutions, recruiting local leaders, and manipulating victims into participating in their own demise. I will also explain how officers’ leadership styles promoted particular hierarchies and specific social relations, and how these encouraged followers to actively contribute to their units’ crimes.
Characterizing the settings in which Einsatzgruppen officers operated, I will consider how contemporary urban and rural spaces in the Baltics, Belarus, and Ukraine provided the necessary conditions for Einsatzgruppen leaders and their followers to abandon universal values and adopt new standards of brutality.
My paper will clarify how the interaction between military traditions, leadership styles, and particularities of space encouraged Einsatzgruppen members to engage in mass violence. Understanding how these factors facilitated genocide perpetration serves to analyze past and current groups of perpetrators who act in volatile spaces. It could thus help prevent future cases of mass violence from escalating into mass atrocity.
The Group Targeted by Soviet Genocide in Lithuania: The Legal Perspective
Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuania
In 2015 the conflict between Soviet/Russian and Lithuanian narratives about Soviet repressions during occupations (1940-1941 and 1944-1990) against Lithuanian nation reached the legal level, when European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) discussed the application of Lithuanian domestic regulations in the framework of two postwar international legal instruments: Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).
The aim of this presentation is to expose the legal debate about the group targeted by Soviet genocide in Lithuania, revealed in the cases Vasiliauskas v. Lithuania (2015) and Drėlingas v. Lithuania (2019). Both of the aforementioned ECtHR cases were concerned with the Lithuanian legal definition of genocide, which included inter alia protection of political and social groups and
explicitly had retroactive application in the context of Soviet crimes. In 2015 the ECHR was not convinced that Lithuanian partisans, who had resisted Soviet rule for almost a decade, were subject to the crime of genocide. However, in March 2019, the ECHR promulgated a decision, which may challenge the definition of genocide established in the 1948 Genocide Convention, as it approved the judgment of Lithuanian domestic courts that systematic killing of partisans was genocide of the Lithuanian nation in part.
The implications of the ECHR judgment in the Drėlingas case are fundamental. For the first time, an international judicial institution has recognized genocide in Lithuania by the Soviet regime. This also provokes the resumption of the long-lasting discussion about the scope of the crime of genocide among international scholars. The presentation of the analysis of the European case-law regarding the group targeted by Soviet genocide in the upcoming IAGS conference would benefit greatly to this regard.