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The Stalinist volonté générale: Legitimizing Communist Statehood (1935–1952): A Comparative Perspective on the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany

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The essay examines the attempts of communist regimes to legitimize their states and analyzes them within the framework of European Staatswissenschaft of the time. The discussion of the construction of Soviet statehood is compared with the communist nation-states founded during and in the aftermath of WWII. The essay argues that Stalin abandoned Lenin’s revolutionary order for the introduction of a Stalinist volonté générale in the 1936 constitution. During WWII, however, the Stalinist leadership ended the universalistic ambition of the USSR and fostered the formation of communist nation-states. The cases of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany show how communist statehood could be legitimized differently from the Soviet case and how it remained tied to national tradition. In a different manner such continuities even existed in Russia where Stalin created his own form of Scheinkonstitutionalismus. Yet, despite national peculiarities, from 1936 until their demise, European communists underlined that their states—unlike the liberal orders of the West—were supported by the volonté générale of their peoples.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Contemporary History, ZZF, Potsdam, Germany


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