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date: 27 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The convergence of terror and revolution has been noted from the time of the French and Russian revolutions. This article lays out the ways in which the concept of extreme political violence in communist revolution from Russia to Cambodia continues to be both politicized and resistant to agreement about such basics as definition, scale, and numbers of victims. There is particular disagreement about whether to count as victims of terror those who were the collateral damage from poorly conceived and brutally implemented policies such as collectivization and the Great Leap Forward alongside terror deliberately inflicted upon particularly targeted individuals and groups. The article suggests that whether deliberate or incidental, terror in communist systems is best understood as proactive and reactive campaigns to ensure regime security by mobilizing the bureaucracy and engaging in a display of communicative theatre with mass populations through such forms as mass trials.

Keywords: terror, victims, Russian Revolution, Cambodia, campaigns, collectivization, communicative theatre

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