The horrifying genius of Soviet communism – as conceived in the 1920s, perfected in the 1930s and then spread by force to Soviet-occupied Europe – was the system’s ability to get the silent majority in so many countries to play along without much protest. A small proportion of people protested, and a small proportion collaborated. But carefully targeted violence, propaganda and the state’s monopoly on economic and civic institutions persuaded the rest to go along. These techniques were used to great effect in Eastern Europe after 1945; they are the central topic of this lecture, as well as of Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum’s new book.
This lecture was recorded at the London School of Economics on October 17, 2012.