Lecture in Regensburg with Prof. Amir Weiner (Stanford): The KGB: Ruthless Sword, Imperfect Shield.

13.10.2014 (16:00 - 18:00)

The talk seeks to explain the oft, although unsurprisingly ambiguous record of Soviet surveillance on the ground, which was torn between totalitarian aspirations and institutions and the corresponding quota system, collateral damage, and constant pressure for immediate results on the one hand, and the aspiration to professional pride and ethos of its police officers on the other. What did the Soviets initially know about populations on which they imposed their rule? What did they want to know? How did they obtain their information and recruit informants? How did the surveillance system cope with the political and socio-economic turbulence and changes of the post-Stalin era, and, in particular, the challenges of the spillover of unrest from the restless satellites and the loss of monopoly over information? How did the organs in charge of gathering information react and adjust to the simultaneous decline in the party-state authority and the rise of dissent, restless youth and secessionist national movements? How successful was the surveillance enterprise according to the Soviets’ own goals and evaluation? And finally, what do the surveillance methods tell us about the nature, goals and distinct features of the regime when compared with other systems?

Amir Weiner is a Professor of History at Stanford University. He is the author of Making Sense of War (2001); Landscaping the Human Garden (2003); and numerous articles and edited volumes on the impact of WWII on the Soviet polity, social history of the WWII, and Soviet frontier politics. He is currently completing a book, "The KGB: Ruthless Sword, Imperfect Shield."

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