By Austin Pellizzer
This week’s topic of Consent, Coercion, Acceptance gave us a chance to consider how gender, sexual identity, and other communal traits were used in perpetuating authoritarian and fascist regimes in Europe. Two articles, in particular, stuck out to me when looking at this phenomenon.
In the first example, we have Dan Healey’s article, Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag After Stalin. In this article, we get a historical account of how the establishment of the gulag work camps under Stalin in the 1930s (27) was not just a cruel way for Soviet citizens to be punished for going against party lines (27), but also a tool for the state to police peoples bodies and uphold their ‘socialist ideals’ (32). While it is true that even heterosexual sex was policed and discouraged in such spaces due to incurring “maintenance costs” if women were to become pregnant (30), it is interesting to see how homosexuals were the scapegoat and the threat to the ideal social order of the Communist society (32). However, this persecution did not end with Stalin’s death or when the institutions of gulags become phased out in the 1950s (38). Rather, this institutional homophobia in the Russian prison system was mixed with legal, medical, and experts hands (45) in perpetuating this discrimination throughout the rest of the Soviet regimes and even into the modern Russian prison system.
The second example in which this week highlights the way fascist and authoritarian regimes used minorities as scapegoats to push their agendas was within the fascist regime of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu’s Legion of Archangel Michael in Romania (352). This was seen in Valentin Sandulesu’s article Fascism and its Quest for the “New Man”: The Case of the Romanian Legendary Movement. Within this model of fascism in the 1930s, Codreanu’s Legendary movement used the Romanian Jewish population to push their agendas (352) and also construct the idea of the “new man” (351). It was the use of persecuting this religious minority with the idea of the Jews not working alongside their fellow Romanian, but rather, they were the agitators and the reasons for Romania’s troubles post World War One (359). The attacks also lead to the boycotts of Jewish products (353) and other discriminatory actions to get revenge on what the Legendaries saw as the problem in the nation, which was “the Jewish problem” (353).
It is with critically looking at both these cases that we can see how two nations with relatively different political constructs at this time used scapegoating towards their minorities to advocate the betterment of each utopian society.
Dan Healey, “Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag after Stalin” Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2017).
Valentin Sandulescu, “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61.