According to Freedom House, nearly half of the countries of the world are "unfree": that is, they are governed by totalitarian regimes of greater or lesser brutality. Today these regimes and their successors (including Putin's Russia, the countries of the Arab Spring, the Iranian theocracy, and communist rule in China) present major puzzles for Western policy.
We cannot understand the present without understanding the past. Organized by Hoover research fellow Paul R. Gregory, the Hoover Institution Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes studies the history and development of totalitarian regimes to understand why they came into being, how they have worked, and what allows them to persist. By bringing scholars together who are studying the different regimes, the workshop promotes comparative studies of modes of personal dictatorship, of institutions of coercion and repression, and of the economic and social consequences of totalitarian rule, including comparisons of Soviet and Chinese reforms, repression by the Stasi and the Ba'ath Party, and famines and forced labor systems under communism.
The workshop's principal resources are the unique and fast-growing holdings of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. Founded by Herbert Hoover, the Hoover Institution Archives holds one of the world's largest and richest private collections of material on totalitarian regimes in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The workshop was organized a decade ago to study the Soviet Union, and has now expanded to include China and Taiwan, Iraq, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Baltic States; its intention is to encompass other totalitarian regimes, such as Vietnam and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Workshop participants have worked productively in a number of Hoover collections including the records of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, records of the Lithuanian section of the Soviet KGB , the Radio Free Europe–Radio Liberty Collection, the Chiang Kai-Shek Diaries, the records of the Chinese KMT Party, the Archive of the Chief Administration of Labor Camps (GULAG) of the Soviet Union, and the Ba'ath Party Papers from the Iraq Memory Foundation Collection.
Participants of the Hoover Institution Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes carry out their research year- round. The Hoover Institution and Stanford University contain some of the world's top experts on totalitarian regimes. The workshop brings them together with prominent scholars from around the world for two weeks every summer to study using Hoover's unique archival holdings, present their work at daily lunchtime seminars, and exchange ideas informally over dinner. Participation is by invitation.
During the ten years since its first meeting in 2003, the workshop has brought together more than seventy-five scholars from a dozen countries, working on Russia/Soviet Union, China, and other totalitarian regimes.
The workshop's output consists of many articles and books written by its members. . These include scholarly monographs published or forthcoming in the Yale-Hoover series on Stalin, Stalinism, and Cold War, books at the Hoover Press and other publishers, and articles in scholarly journals, including Policy Review, and the Hoover Digest.
During each session the workshop typically holds two public lectures. Past speakers, to full auditoriums, have included Anne Applebaum, Stephen Kotkin (Princeton), Robert Service (Oxford and Hoover), Amir Weiner (Stanford), and Paul Gregory (workshop coordinator).