Secret Police and State ViolenceBack to modules »
Eastern Europe, not including Russia and Belarus, provides insights to the mechanisms of state surveillance and violence of which no other region is capable. When the entire region transformed its political system at roughly the same time at the turn of the 1990s, the new regimes revealed relatively recent files of the secret police on a mass scale: the extent of this surveillance has been unparalleled in the world. At the same time, one needs to be cautious with these type of archival sources. While the files often provide unique insights to underground events and help us to understand cultural dynamics that would have been difficult to decipher from other sources, these files carry the vocabularies and perspectives of the secret police interested in fabricating the "opposition," partly, for reasons of self-legitimization. The archives themselves often took on active political roles as well, by seemingly catering to the public need for retroactive justice, an agenda that can be easily hijacked and used as a subtext for targeting political rivals. This module encourages class discussions about the complex nature of state surveillance and normalization of state violence under Communism.