Armenia & Poland & Russia & The Middle East

In Peter Gatrell’s article, Displacing and Re-Placing Population in the Two World Wars: Armenia and Russia, he argues that the two ethnic groups sought protection both Post-World War I and II in order to establish the legitimacy of their state; however, the Armenians supported Russian “protection” while the Poles chose to abandon their homeland because of ideological differences. Gatrell is a Professor of Economic History at the University of Manchester in the U.K. His specialty is analyzing the economic influence of refugees and their movement after both World Wars.

What Gatrell keyed in on in the article but did not specifically mention is larger state’s influence on the movement of refugee and migrant groups based on ethnicity. The Soviet influence on both states is critical to understanding how well each ethnic group functioned within its own nation-state: Poland dealing with a complex egalitarian relationship, while Armenia relied on Russia for the creation and establishment of their “republic”. The implications that Gatrell’s piece has for modern day politics is astonishing to me. How do we deal with the refugee crisis in regards to international politics, because like the article states, while each group had their “state”, there were many issues that they struggled with because of their benefactor’s own political agendas.

The Age of Propaganda


“Jap Trap,” World War II propaganda poster, United States Information Service, 1941–45. Densho Digital Archive,

“Propaganda can tip the scales,” claims Schivelbusch in regards to state influence in times of political turmoil in his Three New Deals. (85) The usual dialogue on the topic of interwar propaganda mostly elicits imagery associated with the USSR and Nazi regime, but what about the propaganda and control by the United States government? This is an example:

This blatantly racist imagery not only compares the Japanese to rats, it also depicts the rat with the physical stereotypes American’s gave the Japanese during the time. The squinted eyes, protruding teeth, and cartoonishly animated circular spectacles reappeared throughout anti-Japanese propaganda. The simple process of dehumanization of the enemy through animation also appears commonly in the anti-semitic propaganda perpetuated by the Nazis.


The Nazis as well as America assimilated the rat with their enemies. Rats are grotesque, parasitic, and carry disease. Essentially, they are an animal no one loves. It is certainly easier to identify propaganda that is new or foreign, however, after those images are presented repeatedly they become automatically associated with the intended concept and sink into the subconscious. This, in effect, is what makes it so powerful.

If an audience is being persuaded without realizing, can they stop it?



What is Fascism?

1) Political: Highly efficient but unilateral. Mussolini’s Fascism highly contrasts common democracy because it dismisses the ethical philosophy that the majority is always right due to it being the most beneficial for the greater good. Although decisions that are non-consensual to demographic representation are often interpreted as inherently chaotic, this type of government can accomplish its political agendas more efficiently due to less required processes.

2) Economic: The opposite of Marxian Socialism. The economic ideology of Mussolini’s original fascism revolves around the individuals motives for “heroism” rather than materialism. Therefore, workers who embrace this principle will discard their desire of upward class mobility and replace it with the intent to work for the power of the State, as “Fascism believes in…actions influenced by no economic motive.” This can potentially serve as a powerful incentive for production due to laborers impression that greatness is achieved through effort rather than status.

3) Military: Expansionist. Mussolini believed what marked a powerful nation was its momentum, and there was no better way to achieve this than through expansion and imperial prowess.

How did Fascism manifest itself given the cultural and political history of Italy? Would Fascism have arisen had Italy played a larger military role in World War I?

It is easy to understand why American’s view of Fascism is dark. “The pursuit of happiness” is an American phrase that is embedded in our Declaration of Independence, while fascism regards happiness as a “myth.”

Mussolini’s Fascism

In “What is Fascism” Benito Mussolini states his beliefs in the benefits of a fascist government, and argues why it would be fitting for Italy. Fascism, he argues, is quite different from democracy because it emphasizes sacrifice and struggle, and acknowledges that mankind is naturally unequal.  Fascism does not follow the opinions of the majority, but promotes authoritarian leadership. Mussolini then argued that Italy was more in need of an authoritarian figure than ever before, and that fascism would provide the stability that had been lacking throughout the early 1900s.

While Mussolini argued that Italian society should perceive life as a struggle to give back to the country, the majority did not have any control over human society.  It seems as though ruling with an iron fist was the only way that Mussolini felt that that Italy would regain balance, even if it meant sacrificing the contentment of society. He argues, “The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual,” however, he goes on to state that much of the freedom that individuals could potentially have would be “harmful.” In this way, Mussolini portrays a lack of freedom as ultimately beneficial to the state, even if it meant the exact opposite.

How do Mussolini’s ideas about Italian society making sacrifices for the state relate to the eugenics movement?

Disillusionment and Fear Following WWI

Following the First World War, a sense of disillusionment fell over Europe, and Germany especially. In his 1920 film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene depicts the bewilderment of the German people after losing the war, as well as a general apprehension about change in the world. On the surface, Wiene’s film may seem like merely a horror movie, but it is, like all art, influenced by the ideas and events of the time, giving us a glimpse of interwar thinking.

In the early 19th century, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of science and attempting to play God. Bertrand Russell discusses the dangers of science, as well, in Icarus or The Future of Science, in 1924, a century after Shelley. At this point, technological advances are occurring in many fields, such as manufacturing and science. Russell warns, “physiology will in time find ways of controlling emotion, which it is scarcely possible to doubt.” He fears that someday people will be able to control others with hormone injections, and make them do their bidding. This fear is brought to life in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Dr. Caligari is a physiologist who controls one of his patients by keeping him asleep through hypnosis, then waking him and forcing him to murder people. Not only does this show the evil of playing God, in the end, the whole story was just the main character’s hallucination, who is himself an inmate at a mental institution. This represents the disenchantment of the time, especially in Germany. The German people thought that President Wilson’s Fourteen Points would be the basis of the peace treaty, but instead all of the guilt and economic burden of the war are placed on Germany’s shoulders, while at the same time, Germany is being stripped of her economic resources.

The time period after World War One was an awakening. The war had caused destruction and death of an unprecedented amount.  To express disillusionment with the world, many people turned to the arts. Why the arts? Why, especially, film? Why was and is film such a strong medium for conveying ideas? What is it about film that makes it so powerful? Or is film not powerful, and some other form of art is the best form of self and ideological expression? Why?

Eugenics in Interwar Europe

“Eugenics is the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage,” states Francis Galton in his article, Eugenics: It’s Definition, Scope, and Aims in July 1904. Eugenic ideas spread through out Europe following the First World War. While eugenics is supposed to be about race quality, it became prevalent in interwar Europe mainly due to fear, and the need to transfer blame.

In National Self-Sufficiency, John Maynard Keynes states that England’s vast trading network was “the explanation before man and the justification before Heaven of her economic supremacy.” This statement reflects the views of most European countries; their respective races were superiorto all others. After WWI, Europe began to lose control of its colonies. For example, the British were facing resistance to their rule in India. In addition to this, natives of those colonies were immigrating to the mother nations; there were Algerians in France and Chinese in England, to name a few. To nations that had been mainly of homogenous race up to this point, this immigration was a shock and an unwelcome change. Fear began to spread among whites of these people with different skin color, culture and language. Whites needed a way to establish themselves as the superior race and to keep their race pure. Thus, they turned to eugenics.

Not only was Europe physically destroyed by WWI, the global economic crisis of 1929 ruined its still weak economies. A general sense that someone needed to be blamed was felt through out the continent; who better to blame than these new races or less superior races within European nations? Especially in Germany, who shouldered the majority of the blame, according to the Treaty of Versailles, for WWI, this need was felt; the blame was placed mainly the Jews. During WWI, Jews held the majority of the seats in German parliament, and were the ones who agreed to a cease-fire. After the war, German officers came forward and said that they could have won if it weren’t for the armistice. This fueled hatred for the Jews. Eugenics became popular as a scientific way to justify this hatred. In this German eugenics propaganda poster, Germans are being told that they must take the burden for degenerates and those who are not as genetically fit. Taking these attitudes into account, it is not surprising that the Holocaust occurred.

Eugenics was a recognized science in Europe during the interwar period. Eugenists and those who supported eugenics were not extremists, but were close to mainstream thought. Eugenics was driven by fear and the search for an outlet for blame, and was itself an underlying factor in the Second World War.

source for picture:


A Critical Summary of Mazower’s “Dark Continent”, Chapters 1-4

In the first four chapters of his text Dark Continent, Mark Mazower not only elaborates on the events of Europe’s interwar period, going into detail about the reasons for the development of these events, he also gives his readers an objective and analytical view on the continent as a whole. As opposed to going through Europe’s interwar period country by country, Mazower structures his chapters around the main issues and developments that affected all of Europe. Mazower pushes the idea that the countries of Europe progressed simultaneously with different ideological goals, but using similar means to achieve these goals. While Mazower occasionally strays away from his main points and sites more secondary sources than primary ones, he gives a new prospective on Europe at a volatile point in its history, explaining how even those countries that seem extreme in hindsight, differed in their methodology and ideology only slightly from the rest of the continent.

The examining of Europe as an entity, and not each individual European country during the Interwar period, really adds to the ingenuity Mazower’s text. He showed the developments throughout Europe that led to such events as the rise of Nazi Germany and the Russian Revolution, and that the formation of these governments was not as sudden or surprising as is commonly thought. For example, Eugenics, invoking such tactics as sterilization, was alive in the majority of European countries, as well as The United States, at the time; the Nazis just took the next step in purifying their population by killing those that they deemed undesirable (97). As for the Bolsheviks, Lenin introduced a “New Economic Policy” in the 1920’s that allowed from some forms of capitalism, such as private business, in Russia (117).

In the back of his text, Mazower lists his sources, as well as providing the reader with charts and maps that help to clarify his relatively dense writing. Maps, for example, that show the countries of European before and after the First World War, giving the reader a better idea of what he is discussing, such as invasions and minority issues within countries. In his bibliography, Mazower sites numerous sources, ranging in date from before the First World War to the 1990’s. While this use of sources from through out the twentieth century brings the perspectives of different time periods into the text, Mazower uses more secondary sources than primary ones, which effectually distances his text from the historical evens themselves.

While Mazower’s writing can become dense and hard to follow at times, for the most part, this text is clear and accessible to undergraduate students. A basic knowledge of European history would improve a reader’s comprehension of this text because major events and facts are skimmed over, so as to focus on the details and driving forces behind these events more intently. Mazower’s method of examining Europe as a whole sheds new light on a complicated and significant period in history, showing connections and common themes between countries that have been previously overlooked.

Comparison of Chapter One from “Dark Continent” and the Film “October” [Revised]


‘Dark Continent” was written by Mark Mazower in 1998, about interwar Europe. “October: 10 Days that Shook the World” is a 1928 Russian movie commemorating the October 1917 Revolution in Russia. After giving a brief introduction about Russia in World War One, the February Revolution, and the provisional government that ensued, it goes on to show the conditions under the new government, the heroism of the Bolsheviks and finally the popular victory of Lenin, communism and the proletariat. However, while watching the movie, one must remember that it was a piece of propaganda designed to promote the communist government, and hence is biased towards the communist ‘victors’.

In an initial scene, the movie depicts the early enthusiasm that greeted the fall of the monarchy and the rise of the provisional government, which promised the people a greater say in the political running of the country. However, this enthusiasm soon fades as the War continues and people are seen to be starving as the rationing of bread drops from a pound a person to a quarter pound in a matter of seconds on-screen. This disillusionment with forms of post-war democracy is reflected in the writings of Mazower, who says that early liberal [i.e. pro-democracy] policy makers in Europe did not seem to realize that the people primarily needed security of life and land, rather than the immediate ability to determine their long-term political fate (p.11). In comparison, the right and left wing politicians promoted the idea of ‘bread, land and peace’, which can clearly be seen in several scenes in the movie, notably when Lenin returns to Russia.

However, the scene when the peaceful proletarian rioters are attacked by the upper class aristocrats, who were enjoying ‘leisurely’ activities at the time, stinks of propaganda and the advocacy of the working-class communist government, who are coincidently in power in 1928. Mazower confirms that this attack by democrats on the normal people is absurd when he says that they mostly lost power because they lost touch with the people (p.27), not because they attacked them in the street.

Another, slightly subtler, form of propaganda arrives in the scene when the Bolsheviks are deciding whether to stage a revolution or not. Trotsky initially states they should wait, which is followed by an impassioned speech by Lenin stating that to wait is tantamount to giving up any chance at a revolution. At the end of the scene the Bolsheviks take a vote (subtly hinting again that everything in the state is done to the peoples’ wishes) and completely decide on supporting Lenin. This scene was most probably worked in to gain support for Stalin’s eventual decision to exile Trotsky, and to confirm his rightful position of head of the Soviet Union. Another subtle put down is when the movie refuses to acknowledge that Trotsky was in charge of the Red Guard and was largely responsible for the successful capture of Petrograd (p.11).

While “October” may have certain historical discrepancies, it is a useful movie to understand both the timeline of 1917 Russia and the evolution of mass propaganda in an interwar European dictatorship during the early age of film.