Physical Violence and State Legitimacy in Late Socialism – An International Research Network

Compleated SAW-Project

This historical research network on violence after Stalinism includes researchers and PhD students at Potsdam’s Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) as well as postdoctoral fellows from Central and Eastern Europe and senior fellows from various universities and institutes. It is generously funded by the Leibniz-Gemeinschaft. The project is hosted by the ZZF in co-operation with the Institute for Southeast European Studies in Regensburg, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for European History and Public Spheres in Vienna and the European University Institute in Florence. Several other Institutes are also related to the project (please see partner institutes). Twice a year, the project invites Visiting Fellows to join the project for two months. The three-year project started its work in April 2011.

The network investigates the relationship between physical violence and state legitimacy in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, addressing the following questions: How did the state control violence after Stalin? How did political legitimation change after 1956? How were these changes related to the repression and the use of violent force? To what extent did physical violence disappear from politics? How was physical violence in the private sphere dealt with? Did these changes contribute to the decline of communism?

The project’s international research network of scholars seeks to contribute to ongoing debates about the nature of communist dictatorships, the causes of the European revolutions of 1989 and the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Its aim is to strengthen international co-operation and support comparative and transnational research in the field of communist studies.

For further information please have a look at the individual research projects of the group.



The Lubyanka building (former KGB headquarters) in Moscow. Photo: A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace), Lubyanka Building, CC BY-SA 3.0

Late Chekism and Concepts of Violence

Jens Gieseke

Compleated Part-Project of the SAW network ‘Physical Violence and State Legitimacy in Late Socialism’

The aim of this project is to analyse the changes in ideology and cultural...

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Paragraph 215 of the Criminal Code of the GDR, 1968.

„chuligánství“ in ČS(S)R und „Rowdytum“ in East Germany (1956-89)

Kotalík, Matěj
Completed PhD project
The dissertation has recourse to methodological tools of comparative history, transfer history, Domination as Social Practice (Herrschaft als soziale Praxis) and Eigen-Sinn. For Czechoslovakia and East Germany,...

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Withdrawal of the Yugoslav People's Army from Slovenia, July 1991. Photo: arhiv Vojaškega muzeja, Umik JLA iz Slovenije (1), CC BY 3.0

War and Peace in Socialism
The Yugoslav People’s Army and the Break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Robert Lučić
Completed PhD project

The aim of my research project is to analyse how the societal role and the self-understanding of the Yugoslav People’s Army and its military staff changed during the constitutional crisis that took place in the 1980s and early...

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Playground of a children's home in Hungary, 1980s. Photo: private archive.

Care of the State. Relationships in and through state care in late socialist Hungary

Jennifer Rasell
Completed PhD project

Recent major scandals of historic abuse in children’s homes provide a disconcerting account of the everyday dynamics in many institutions and of the unhappiness of residents. While many aspects of the history of child welfare...

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