Keeping Faith with the Party: Communist Believers Return from the Gulag

By Nanci Adler | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Enduring Repression

One of the paradoxes of Soviet Communism was that a system of governance that enforced its ideology by executing, imprisoning, and exploiting the labor of groups or classes of undesirables, dissenters, alleged dissenters, and alleged associates of dissenters nevertheless retained the allegiance of some of its victims. It also maintained the conformity of the mass of its citizenry. While most secular repressive regimes do not last very long, the Soviet government did hold on to power for seventy years. Judged in terms of durability, the regime’s domestic practices, including repression, could be considered to have been functional for the state. Using functionality as an informing guideline, we will assume that in some way and for some reasons the enduring allegiance of some survivors was likewise functional for them. We will look at why and how the functioning of the state and individual merged—and endured. There can be no single answer and no best perspective for understanding this complex question, but some insights may be gained by examining the individual and collective experiences of Gulag survivors. There may be similar explanations for both the regime’s endurance and the steadfast loyalty of some of its victims.

The materials, including firsthand accounts, that have become available suggest a number of hypotheses regarding why some survivors remained advocates of a political system that had victimized them. The range of explanations includes the functioning of Communism/patriotism as a faith-based belief system or as a psychological defense mechanism; cognitive dissonance; functionalism; and the “traumatic bond,” also labeled Stockholm syndrome. What was uniform about the repression was that these psychological and social influences affected all the

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