Visiting Scholar Lecture by Nicholas Werth

“Soviet Society at War”


Wednesday, 20 February 2013 • 4-5 p.m. (Reception begins at 3:30 p.m.)

Glasscock Center Library, Room 311, Glasscock Building
The lecture is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Research Director, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
Senior Fellow, Institute of Contemporary History (IHTP), Paris


Nicolas Werth is a French historian and is internationally recognized as an expert on communist studies. Werth is the Research Director at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Contemporary History (IHTP), Paris. He has served as a cultural attaché of the Embassy of France in Moscow (1985-1989). Werth is co-author of The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Harvard University Press, 1999) and is author of numerous works on communism and the history of the Soviet Union. In 2007, he was the historic consultant for the French television documentary Staline: le tryan rouge.

In his talk, Werth will explore the legacy of World War II in the Soviet culture. Soviet society was decimated by total war, an “exterminationist” war without precedent unleashed by the Nazis. More than twenty million Soviet citizens, of whom more than half were civilians, were killed. Another 65 million Soviet citizens experienced Nazi occupation; 30 million more were mobilized; 17 million were uprooted and evacuated to places thousands of kilometers from their homes; 12 million, for the first time in their lives, were exiled beyond the borders of their own country. The trauma of war completely transformed Soviet society, a society which was nevertheless ideologically ready for war. But for what kind of war? The war waged by Germany defied imagination and radically challenged any propagandistic preparation for it. How was the Stalinist regime able to mobilize the majority of the population as well as the majority of the resources needed for it? The formidable effort of total war, of mobilization, and evacuation was certainly facilitated by the fact that the Soviet economy was a “war time economy sui generis” which had functioned since the 1930s. However, after the shock of a “near defeat” in the summer and fall of 1941, the victorious resistance of the Red Army, and other victories in the field facilitated consensus for the war. Eventually conceived of as a “sacred war,” the Great Patriotic War played a fundamental role in restructuring social identities and in producing real popular support for the regime. Following all of that, was the Soviet society ready to accept a return to the status quo ante bellum?

Related Event: Seminar on Stalinism

Thursday, 21 February 2013 • 3-5 p.m.
Glasscock Center Library, Room 311, Glasscock Building
The lecture is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Lecture supported in part by the France/Texas A&M University Institute (Centre Pluridisciplinaire).