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The Soviet Style of Power in Eastern Germany: Some Notes On the See1

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The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was "democratic" only in the very specific, Soviet-communist interpretation of that term: So-called "democratic centralism" was in reality more centralist than democratic, a dictatorship from above rather than government consent from below. "But to recognize that the GDR was a dictatorship is not to say very much about the specific character of this dictatorship," as Mary Fulbrook wrote.2 "The focus on repression is not actually very revealing. It does not tell us very much about degrees of political compliance, or acquiescence in their own domination, to be found among the East German population."3 In this essay two methods of rule will be analyzed and the question raised: Can one draw conclusions about the logic of the Soviet style of power in Eastern Germany by considering changes in such a system's methods of rule, particularly their specific blend of repression and tolerance? An examination of the ways that forms of repression and tolerance in the GDR changed over time can offer us insights into Soviet-communist societies both in general terms and in detail. The GDR was unique in having more than 300,000 Soviet troops stationed on its soil; it was also unique in representing the front line of the Cold War.

Affiliations: 1: (University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany


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