Author talks WWII
Renowned author and journalist bellied up to the podium in The Honors College Commons and invited the audience Wednesday to have a glass of wine while she delved into her lecture about the collaboration and opposition of Soviet communism during the post-World War II era in Eastern Europe.
Anne Applebaum’s lecture, “The Nature of Collaboration and Opposition in a Totalitarian Regime,” focused on how Soviets were able to persuade other countries to go along with their communism by using propaganda and violence.
“Just after the devastation of WWII, the cataclysmic crisis caused many of those from Eastern and Western Europe to doubt everything that they were taught and to believe that their society was no longer organized and to conform even amongst the calamity,” Applebaum said.
She then presented to the audience a few elements in which Soviet communism flourished by the red army and the soviet secret police, who found themselves occupying central Europe in 1945 and were prepared to take charge and to practice their techniques of totalitarianism.
“They had also trained multiple secret agents, who were working in several different countries, to work with their party,” Applebaum said.
Not only did secret agents and secret police take control of these other countries with ease, but Applebaum said the access of the radio and how it was also another crucial way in which Soviet communists could control other countries.
“Soviet officials cared about radios far more than newspapers because they reckoned radio was the media that could reach the masses including the peasants and the workers whose support they expected to receive,” Applebaum said.
Applebaum went on to explain how the USSR was most interested in controlling all aspects of society.
“They controlled not only the economy and property in 1948, but the political spheres, sports, leisure time, hospitals, universities, summer camps, children’s after school activities, music and museums and that ambition to achieve total control put people in ethical and moral binds that we can hardly imagine today.”
She gave the audience an example of how people were put in those moral or ethical binds by explaining how those who worked for publishing houses and printers were ordered to only print what the Soviets allowed them to print and failure to comply would not lead to death necessarily but of the shutdown of that publishing house or printer. Thus, leading to thousands of job losses and several families being affected in a negative ways, Applebaum said.
Several staff and students packed the lecture in The Honors College Commons. Petroleum engineering sophomore Don Nguyen was intrigued by the decisions eastern Europeans faced.
“When Applebaum spoke on how people in eastern Europe at that time didn’t have a choice to fight communists because they were putting at risk their jobs, healthcare, education and the fact that they all had to conform to this totalitarian way of life, made me think of the lifestyle where my family had to endure in Vietnam,” Nguyen said.
“It is a way of life no one should ever have to live.”
There were other students, such as political science junior Crystal Sowemimo, who were fascinated by the stories Applebaum injected throughout her lecture as well.
“One thing that I took away from her lecture was the post war reaction of Poland and the story on the polish man, who she was friends with, who kept complaining about his government, even though there was this new democracy,” Sowemimo said.
“However, he didn’t identify with it because of what happened in the past, and it made me relate it to today in which American society today complains about certain policy issues but never does anything about it either.”