Why dictators start with culture

By Deal Hudson

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – In her 2012 study of the Soviet takeover of eight European countries after WWII, Anne Applebaum underscores how diligently the agents of Stalin, the Red Army, set out to transform the culture of every occupied nation (Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56).

Applebaum notes that after the initial Soviet takeover there was a short “liberal” period during which each nation’s cultural institutions were allowed to operate without interference.  But that laxity was allowed on the Soviet assumption that the citizenry would begin joining the Communist Party in droves. When they did not join in any significant numbers, the Soviets started to take over, or regulate, education, museums, music, publishing, cinema, civic associations, trade associations, businesses, property, religious groups, youth clubs, the military, and, most of all, the radio stations, which were the dominant form of mass media in the late 40s.
Integral to the Soviet cultural blitzkrieg was a targeting of ethnic groups, particularly Jews and Gypsies, for harassment, relocation, and worse.
The Soviets quickly learned to emulate what Hitler and his Nazis did to Germany in the late 20s and 30s: The entire culture had to be unified under a single message — peace and happiness can only be gained through participation in the Communist Party and allegiance to Stalin.
The eight countries that made up the “Eastern Bloc” were under Communist rule for over 40 years, but as Applebaum points out they never became a homogenized whole, in spite of the cultural hegemony practiced by the USSR. Centuries of national acculturation cannot be eliminated by propaganda, no matter how militant or how brutal.
Culture, as the Soviets found out, serves as a barrier to the sudden usurpation of power and imposition of group-think.  Perhaps, if the Soviets had had another 100 years, these countries would have yielded their souls, but thankfully they did not.
Eastern Bloc countries and their citizens were brutalized. In the process many a mind and heart were broken, but the Soviets never succeeded in extinguishing the national cultural memory of the occupied countries.  Why? Because those countries, in the midst of suffering, affirmed the crucial difference between what they were and what the Soviets were forcing them to be.
The questions we face are these: Are Americans aware of what is happening in our own backyard, our own culture? And, will they do anything about it other than complain at dinner parties and picnics?
American culture over the past 50 years has slowly been “occupied” by elites that don’t profess the same values of the Founders; or the religious groups who came here to freely practice their faith; or the men and women who fought and died in the two great wars.  The nation’s most historic and influential youth clubs, first the Girl Scouts and now the Boy Scouts, have become flagships for the “gay agenda,” which goes far beyond the issue of basic human rights.
There is no need to enumerate the major cultural institutions that have become voices for an ideology counter to the Christian, and other faiths. What we need to affirm, however, is that we never faced an army rolling down the street with tanks and machine guns. We have actually accepted and funded the cultural takeover, voluntarily.
1. Dictators seize control of the culture with the hope of winning people’s minds for their rule.
2. Hitler and Stalin used every mouthpiece of culture, especially education and media, to inculcate acceptance of their tyranny by the people.
3. Americans have done nothing to stand against the gradual takeover of our culture by the elites whose values are contrary to the traditions of our nation and our faiths.
© Deal W. Hudson
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson’s new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.


  1. Sally Frederick Tudor on January 15, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Sally's Political Blog.

  2. superjanjan on January 15, 2014 at 11:17 pm

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  4. JoeC on January 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    We may be a nation with a majority of Christians but we are not a Christian Nation. This is why the Founding Fathers used Creator instead of God in the Declaration of Independence and nowhere in the Constitution; you were either a deist or a theist back then. The government is to stay out of religion except to keep people from forcing their religion onto others.
    Regarding insurance companies covering contraception, to deny benefits based solely on religious doctrine is restricting the religious freedom of the individual. Under the Constitution, each individual has the right to follow their personal religious views. No organization (church or otherwise) should be allowed to over-ride these individual rights.
    Regarding same sex marriage, no one is being forced into a homosexual lifestyle. Our laws do state that you can not discriminate against someone based on age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability.