CfP: Communism as Faith (GSA Seminar)

Stefanie Eisenhuth's picture
Call for Papers
January 26, 2017
Georgia, United States
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Eastern Europe History / Studies, European History / Studies, German History / Studies, Russian or Soviet History / Studies

Call for Participants: GSA Seminar "Communism as Faith"

The 41st GSA Conference in Atlanta, Georgia (5-8 October 2017), will continue to host a series of seminars in addition to its regular conference sessions and roundtables. We would like to cordially invite you to participate in the seminar "Communism as Faith".


Seminar Description:

By treating Communism as a rational outgrowth of enlightenment ideas of social progress, the conventional analysis of its ideology and implementation misses its quasi-religious character. For many members the utopia of a classless society was a matter of faith that had Judeo-Christian aspects of salvation through revolution. Membership in the party was akin to church membership, with a period of probation preceding induction into a community of shared belief. In the same direction point features of the communist movement as the adoration of communist leaders, the “belief in truth”, the missionary dimension, and the dogmatization and bible-like use of Marxist phrases. Due to the discrepancy between the ideal and practice, Communist intellectuals experienced repeated crises of faith, wondering whether to continue to believe. In addition to endless schisms, deviations, and interpretative quarrels, the behavior of the accused during show trials makes only sense if one assumes that true believers wanted to hang onto the faith at the price of their own lives. Finally, the post-Communist search for reasons of the failure reinforces the impression that believers were ready to sacrifice the actual practice in order to hang onto the faith of a rebirth of the movement in the future.

Each participant will be asked to prepare a short statement explaining how his or her research relates to the seminar. Each statement should also address a set of shared questions from the conveners. In addition, the participants will read a handful of key texts (sources or analyses) circulated in advance by the conveners, who will also invite the posting of papers by the participants on a jointly used online platform.


Prof. Konrad H. Jarausch (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) 
Prof. Martin Sabrow (Center for Contemporary History Potsdam & Humboldt University, Berlin)
Stefanie Eisenhuth (Humboldt University, Berlin)

General Information:

Seminars meet for all three days of the conference. They explore new avenues of academic exchange and foster extended discussion, rigorous intellectual debate, and intensified networking. Seminars are led by up to three convenors and they consist of approximately 12 to 20 participants, including representation from different disciplines, a representative number of graduate students, and faculty of different ranks.
If you wish to participate in this seminar, please visit the GSA Website and apply electronically by January 26, 2017 at: Please note that you have to be a member in order to submit an application. The login information for this site is your GSA website username and password.
The GSA Seminar Committee will inform seminar conveners and applicants on February 5, 2017, about the final makeup of the seminars.
You may also choose to be a silent auditor in a seminar. Slots for auditors are limited; the enrollment process for interested auditors will only take place after the entire GSA program is set.
For detailed descriptions and the names and email addresses of the conveners, please see the seminar listing at


Contact Info: 

Stefanie Eisenhuth
Humboldt-University, Berlin

Contact Email: