Through the theme proposed within the Centre for Imagination Studies from Cluj with the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness, we try to become part of the last hour researches on mentalities, which explain the worldwide traumas activated by the functioning of the two totalitarian directions. The project has as an initial goal the realization of an international symposium on the proposed theme, and, as a final goal, the realization of a database at a national and international level, necessary for the understanding of the complex issue of the consequences of political, racial, ethnic violence. The cultural interaction, the protection of the basic human rights, the fight against racism and intolerance, the building of a climate of understanding and reciprocal respect with regard to the cultural unity and diversity, the globalization of knowledge, the affirmation of the human freedom are other issues taken into debate by the submitted project. Finally yet importantly, it touches upon main thematic areas such as Romania?s external politics, models of European integration, the relationship between the Romanian culture and the European one, the relationship between national identity and European identity.           


The terms Gulag and Holocaust (another equivalent term for Holocaust is that of Shoah) became emblematic today for the idea aggressively materialized into left and right extremism. We are talking about some effigy terms, because their content changed from the original meaning. Thus, Gulag (the term is taken over from Russian where it meant the General Direction of Work Camps from USSR) is used terminologically to signify the prototypal space of communist detention under all its forms (work camp, prison, labour settlement, deportation). Holocaust (the term comes from Ancient Greek and it means Sacrifice) is used terminologically to specify the space and time (but also the method) in which the Jews, in principal, were exterminated at the time of the setting up of the Nazi type regimes, before and during the Second World War. If for the realization of the Gulag several methods were used, the Holocaust is particularized by the methods of extermination, especially of the Jews, through the means of gas chambers (hence the proposal of some scientists according to whom the term Holocaust meaning Sacrifice is inadequate because the Jews did not sacrifice themselves, but were sacrificed, and the proposition that the respective term should be replaced by the term Shoah, which means in Hebrew - Catastrophe).

            The parallel between Communism and Nazism is welcome in order to understand the totalitarian system and its consequences. The history of this parallelism is sinuous along the 20th and the 21st centuries. After the end of the Second World War, there was a similar eagerness in revealing facts about the two totalitarianisms but, at the half of the 20th century, the Holocaust was proclaimed the horror of the century, the parallelism between Gulag and Holocaust being considered inadequate. But since the publication of the Gulag Archipelago by Alexandr Soljenitin (1971) and then with the fall of Communism (1989), the terrorist nature of the Communist Establishment became very clear. At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st there started to appear researches that demonstrated that the two extremisms have more common points than differences. In this sense, it was claimed and demonstrated that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Stalinist soviet empire and the Nazi Germany was not only a coincidence, but it underlined precisely the affinities between the two isms and their twinning. This pact demonstrated a reciprocal mirroring of Communism and Nazism. The obsession for ideological or racial purity and the solution of liquidating the enemies referred, in one case as in the other, to the manufacturing of a new human being that both Communism and Nazism longed to get in the socio-political test-tube of those times.




Hannah Arendt (1951), in The Origins of Totalitarianism, was the first researcher to draw the parallel between Communism and Nazism, between Gulag and Holocaust, considering that these depended in a decisive way on pan Slavism, respectively on pan Germanism. Hannah Arendt deconstructed the structure of Communism and Nazism by means of several coefficients such as the existence of atomized masses, the functioning of the propaganda, the terror, the existence of the Single Party, the existence of a Leader as a totalitarian leader, the existence of the political police and the functioning of the concentration camps system. Other well-known analysts such as Alain Besancon (1980), Francois Furet (1995) and Ernst Nolte (1998) proceeded, at the end of the twentieth century, to similar parallelisms. Alain Besancon in The Misfortune of the Century. On Communism, Nazism and the Uniqueness of Shoah highlighted the fact that the deconstruction of Nazism benefited from an impressing bibliography at an international level, while that of Communism was rather scanty. Alain Besancon was interested in his comparative analysis by a detailed parallel between Communism and Nazism at the level of repression, the compared factors being: the victims? concentration in special spaces, the mobile killing operations, the massacre technique (promoted by the Leninist Stalinist Communism, as well as by Hitler?s Nazism), the deportation, the judiciary execution, the imposition of anonymity upon the victims and their reduction to the condition of a figure, the moral, mental and soul destruction of the victims. Another historian, Pierre Chaunu, claimed that Bolshevism and Nazism were heterozygote twins, and his assertion made a career in the history of adequate parallelism between the two extremisms. With regard to Francois Furet (the author of the work The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century) and Ernest Nolte (author of The Era of Fascism and the Uniqueness of Fascist Ideology), these two materialized a famous polemic on Communism and Nazism, published under the title Fascism and Communism. The polemic started from a statement made by Ernest Nolte, according to whom, Nazism had been only a strict reaction to Communism and that if Leninist-Stalinist Communism had not existed, Hitler?s Nazism would not have been born. Francois Furet vehemently denied this idea, specifying the fact that a historic catastrophe (such as Nazism) cannot be explained in terms of cause-effect relation through another historic catastrophe (Communism).

            At the beginning of the 21st century, another researcher, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (2001) published the work New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche to Stalinism, in which it is claimed that the philosophy of the superhuman (übermensch) (which was usually strictly attached to Nazism) is passable for Bolsheviks too, both Communism and Nazism manifesting a destructive enthusiasm at the level of society, by inculcating the idea of a new type of human being , ideologically induced, but also practised by force. In Romania, two periodicals above all published scientific texts of comparative politics on Communism and Nazism; these are the periodicals 22 and Observator Cultural. Besides these, I would mention the journals Memoria, Magazin istoric and last but not least Caietele Echinox (Echinox Journal). 22 review published, for instance, a translation, in 2003, of an essay authored by the researcher Martin Malia, taken over from The National Interest and titled precisely On Communism and Nazism. Martin Malia claimed that irrespective of ideology, genocide is genocide and that between Communism and Nazism there is a sign of equality in this respect. Among the Romanian researchers that gave their opinion on a parallel between Communism and Nazism, implicitly comparing the Holocaust and the Gulag (at the level of the memory of horror) we should especially mention Caius Dobrescu whose essay, titled exactly Holocaust and Gulag, published in 2004, in Observator Cultural, was welcome for the profound analysis implied at the mentality level. Caius Dobrescu was interested in his analysis, especially by the Western reception of the Holocaust (versus the lack of reception of the Gulag, only at a minimal level) and, in the looking glass, the reception of the Gulag in the Eastern Europe (versus the lack of reception of the Holocaust, only at a minimal level in the ex-communist countries). The tension born between the commemoration of the Holocaust, demonstrates Caius Dobrescu, and the commemoration of the Gulag is not only a superficial dysfunction, a momentary misunderstanding, but it reveals a profound difference of interior dispositions, of comprehensive models and of empathic identification pertaining to forms of society in which the secularization developed differently. What divides the two positions is the modality in which the provoked suffering was conceived, rememorized and relived until today. 

            Through the theme proposed within the Centre for Imagination Studies from Cluj with the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness, we try to become part of the last hour researches on mentalities, which explain the worldwide traumas activated by the functioning of the two totalitarian directions.



Previous contributions (in the past 5 years) of the research team related to the thematic areas similar to the subject proposed


The research team of the Centre for Imagination Studies from Cluj has been functioning for four years and it has already materialized researches on topics adjacent to the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness. Firstly, the two developing research programmes, namely The Image of the Western World in the Romanian Mass-Media during the Cold War and The Image of the Western World in the Romanian Post-Communism, are worth mentioning. Caietele Echinox (Echinox Journal), the academic journal of the Centre for Imagination Studies published in this respect several issues on this topic. The ones I refer to are the monographic volumes on Postcolonialism and Postcommunism (volume 1/2001), Restrictions and Censorship (volume 4/2003), Literature and Totalitarianism (volume 4/2004).

The submitter of the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness, Ruxandra Cesereanu is the organizer of eight documentary trips (beginning with 2000) with the students of the Faculty of Political Science (the department of Journalism) and of The Faculty of Letters to the Memorial of the Victims of Communism from Sighet. Ruxandra Cesereanu holds a permanent university course, unique in Romania, dedicated to the Romanian Gulag. As part of this course, meetings with former political prisoners, researchers, journalists, politicians took place, within which they discussed together with the students the necessity to recuperate the memory and to investigate the recent past (among the important guests that attended so far the course Marius Oprea, Ana Blandiana, Doina Jela, Vasile Paraschiv, Nicu Ionita, Ion Gavrila Ogoranu, Doina Cornea, Adrian Marino, Lucretia Jurj, Romulus Rusan have to be mentioned). The submitter of the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness coordinated a students? team that realized a website on this topic,, unique for its innovative information and design. Last but not least, Ruxandra Cesereanu is one of the experts in the presidential Committee (coordinated by political analyst Vladimir Tismaneanu, created in April 2006) which will write the Official Report on Communism and Repression in Romania. Ruxandra Cesereanu is also the author of five thematic books from this field. They focus on the analysis of the political violence: Calatorie spre centrul infernului (Journey to the Centre of Inferno) (1998), Panopticum. Tortura politica in secolul XX (Panopticon. The Political Torture in the 20th Century) (2001), Imaginarul violent al romanilor (Romanians? Violent Imagination) (2003), Decembrie 1989. Deconstructia unei revolutii (December 1989. The Deconstruction of a Revolution) (2004), Gulagul in constiinta romaneasca. Memorialistica si literatura inchisorilor si lagarelor comuniste (The Gulag in the Romanian Consciousness. The Memoirs and the Literature of the Communist Prisons and Concentration Camps) (2005).

            While attending for several times  the Sighet Symposiums - focused on the analysis of the communist period in all Moscow?s satellite countries - the initiator of the project came into contact with researchers from this field, the most important one being Stephane Courtois author of The Black Book of Communism and director of the National Centre of Scientific Research from Paris (France). He delegated Ruxandra Cesereanu to realize and to coordinate for the year 2007 a monographic volume dedicated entirely to Communism and Repression in Romania during 1944-1989, volume that is to be published in French in the journal called Communisme (published by the prestigious publishing house L?Age d?Homme) for French and Westerner researchers in the field. The respective issue will complete the monographic issues already realized by Ruxandra Cesereanu, in English and French, in the Romanian Review, respectively Revue Roumaine, edited at Bucharest by the Editorial Board of Publications for Abroad and dedicated to the Romanian Gulag (the issues 356-357-358 and 361, 1998) or the essay on repression in communist Romania, published in English in journals such as Intermarium. Journal for the East Central European Post-War History and Politics, Pro-Europa, Philobiblon.

            We should also mention some of the public conferences held by Ruxandra Cesereanu on the same themes, such as the ones which took place at Harriman Institute (University of Columbia, New York, 2000), Goethe Institute, Bucharest (2002) and at the Memorial from Sighet (2001, 2003, 2005). Beside Ruxandra Cesereanu other researchers distinguished themselves on the topic of the Gulag and the Holocaust, they being members of the proposed team for the present project from the Centre for Imagination Studies: Doru Radosav, Sanda Cordos, Stefan Borbely, Ovidiu Pecican, Marius Jucan, Doru Pop. They have a permanent tenure at different faculties from Babes-Bolyai University such as the Faculty of Letters, the Faculty of European Studies, the Faculty of History and Philosophy, the Faculty of Theatre and Media. The project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness also has in view the formation of a new generation of researchers. An interdisciplinary type of research is promoted through a comparative analysis meant to highlight Romania?s position in a European and international context, disseminating the Romanian experience in highly appreciated academic journals. Echinox Journal, the academic journal of the Centre of Imagination Studies will publish two monographic issues focused on the Gulag and the Holocaust. A volume will cover the papers of the international symposium intended to take place in Cluj, in May 2007, and the other volume will cover the two workshops carried out with the students and the MA students and PhD candidates. The series will be opened by the monographic volume on Communism and Repression in Romania, which is to be published in French in Communisme (among the outstanding collaborators that are to work for this issue, we mention: Adrian Cioroianu, Ana Blandiana, Smaranda Vultur, Romulus Rusan, Ion Vianu, Doina Jela, Marius Oprea, Stejarel Olaru, Dorin Dobrincu, Doru Radosav, Ioan Ciupea, Ioan Stanomir, and finally yet importantly Stephane Courtois).

            The East-European countries, to which Romania also belongs, are still in a transitional period, lacking firm socio-political guide marks. This fact is possible due to the absence of a large-scale monitoring of the recent past and history. The ideological messages of the 20th century caused not only manipulations, but also mass massacres, with a devastating effect upon the collective mentality. The research occasioned by the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness has as its mission the realization of a large-scale monitoring of the Romanian mentality, through the means of a parallelism and a spectral analysis, which will allow for a quantification of the differences. Which are Romanians? reactions to the Gulag and Holocaust? Which are the tensions raised by the genocide produced by Communism and Nazism? What makes some peoples accept totalitarianism and be obedient to it, and what makes others reject it? Only a comparative and adequate research such as the one proposed by the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness can offer answers to these questions. The Romanian transition should count on the integration into a European society based on an adequate understanding of its recent history. The project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness is thus part of a complex challenge even at an ethical level.




The countries from Eastern Europe (Romania included) are still in a process of transition, without social-political clear references. This fact is made possible because of the absence of a large view of the past and current history. The ideological messages of the twentieth century caused not only manipulations, but also mass masacres, with a devastating effect on the colectiv mentality. This is the reason why the goal of the project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness is to fulfill, at the level of the Romanian mentalities, a paralelism and a spectral analysis which will allow a quantization of the differences between Gulag and Holocaust.

          Symposiums on the Romanian Gulag take place yearly at Sighet (since 1995), being organized by the Civic Academy and by the Sighet Memorial of the Victims of Communism, against an adequate background for an individual research, but not for an academic one. Symposiums on the Holocaust took place only at a minimal level in Romania and at a small scale. The project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness proposes for the first time in Romania an international symposium within which the parallel between the two horrors of the 20th century will be X-rayed at a national as well as international level. It will be a national premiere at an academic as well as at a centre of excellence level. The approach, in its turn, will be innovating, counting on a comparative transborder research. The topic proposed for research has thus the advantage of using existent theories and methods, but to employ them in a new application. The international symposium will be seconded by the publication in English and French of two monographic volumes on the Gulag and the Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness, covering the papers held within the symposium and the results of the two workshops realized with the MA students and the PhD. candidates. The respective issues will be distributed mainly abroad. Finally yet importantly, we intend to realize a video tape of a documentary material with the Romanian witnesses of the Gulag and the Holocaust, a material that could enter the international filmotheque dedicated to this topic.

        The project Truth and Memory ? Gulag & Holocaust in the Romanian Consciousness is interested also by connecting to the high level research in mentalities, such research beeing able to explain the traumas provided by the functionning of the totalitarianism with it?s two faces. The Center for Imagination Studies created an original and innovating method in the field. Ruxandra Cesereanu, Stefan Borbely, Sanda Cordos, Ovidiu Pecican, Doru Pop, Marius Jucan and others members of the Center proposed, inside the Center Scientific Debates, a series of concepts and hermeneutics applicable to the Communist imaginary, such as deprogramming the brain, memory spaces, surviving by culture and so on. Such methods allow a new approach of the totalitarian systems, on the basis of analysing the social imaginary. Compared with historical, politological or military studies of our days, the present project discusses immages and collective phantasmas of individuals and people.