The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century | Wilson Center
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The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

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Webcast Recap

Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor of comparative politics at the University of Maryland College Park, will discuss his latest book The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century which examines the relationship between communism and fascism.

Reflecting Vladimir Tismaneanu's personal experiences within communist totalitarianism, The Devil in History is about political passions, radicalism, utopian ideals, and their catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century’s experiments in social engineering. Tismaneanu compares communism and fascism as competing, sometimes overlapping, and occasionally strikingly similar systems of political totalitarianism. He examines the inherent ideological appeal of these radical, revolutionary political movements, the visions of salvation and revolution they pursued, the value and types of charisma of leaders within these political movements, the place of violence within these systems, and their legacies in contemporary politics.

The Devil in History explores thinkers who have shaped contemporary understanding of totalitarian movements—such as: Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, François Furet, Tony Judt, Ian Kershaw, Leszek Kolakowski, Richard Pipes, and Robert C. Tucker. As much a theoretical analysis of the practical philosophies of Marxism-Leninism and Fascism as it is a political biography of particular figures, The Devil in History deals with the incarnation of diabolically nihilistic principles of human subjugation and conditioning in the name of presumably pure and purifying goals.

Ultimately, Tismaneanu argues that no ideological commitment, no matter how absorbing, should ever prevail over the sanctity of human life. He comes to the conclusion that no party, movement, or leader holds the right to dictate to the followers to renounce their critical faculties and to embrace a pseudo-miraculous, a mystically self-centered, delusional vision of mandatory happiness.

Joining Tismaneanu on the panel is Wilson Center Fellow Charles King and former CWIHP Senior Scholar Dennis J. Deletant.

Nida Gelazis, Senior Associate with the European Studies Program, will chair the event.

To purchase the book visit the University of California Press website.




  • Vladimir Tismaneanu

    Former Wilson Center Fellow and Director, Center for the Study of Post-Communist Societies, University of Maryland
  • Nida Gelazis

    Former Senior Associate
  • Charles King

    Professor of International Affairs and Government, Georgetown University, and former Title VIII-Supported Short-Term Research Scholar, Kennan Institute
  • Dennis Deletant

    Former CWIHP Senior Scholar
    Visiting Ratiu Professor of Romanian Studies