What are the salient features of communism

11.12.1998 14:08

Eastern expert Prof. Wolfgang Leonhard receives an honorary doctorate from the TU Chemnitz

Dipl.-Ing. Mario Steinebach Press office and cross-media editing
Chemnitz University of Technology

He predicted the fall of communism as early as 1984
The Eastern expert Prof. Wolfgang Leonhard receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Chemnitz

He is probably the most competent expert when it comes to the ideology and history of communism: Prof. Wolfgang Leonhard. Now the globally respected historian, recognized book and newspaper author and advisor to entire generations of German politicians is receiving a special honor, and that in the very place that was once - even if only for 36 years - the name "Karl-Marx-Stadt" . On Wednesday, December 16, 1998, the Chemnitz University of Technology awarded the scholar an honorary doctorate - for "his outstanding achievements in researching communist ideology and in recognition of his services to convey the essence of communist dictatorships".

The academic ceremony begins at 5 p.m. in lecture hall 114 of the new lecture hall building of Chemnitz University, which opened just a few weeks ago, at Reichenhainer Straße 70, in the presence of numerous celebrities. The laudation will be given by the Chemnitz political scientist Prof. Beate Neuss, Prof. Leonhard himself will speak on the topic "Is there a structural change in Russia? Causes of the current crisis". We would like to invite you to a press conference with Prof. Leonhard on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. in the Old Senate Hall, main university building, Street of the Nations 62, 1st floor.

Most people from Chemnitz know Leonhard from last year when he was visiting professor at the university. Hundreds of Chemnitz citizens, not just students, crowded into his lectures at that time, which had to be moved several times to ever larger lecture halls.

For decades Leonhard has observed the countries under the rule of communism, expertly commented and interpreted their policies, and predicted developments. Even if he was wrong sometimes, his prophecies were often surprisingly accurate. Leonhard said at the end of 1984 - Gorbachev was still a simple member of the Politburo and no one in the West could relate to terms like "perestroika" or "glasnost" - a profound liberalization of the Soviet Union that would soon begin, a coup by opponents of reform and a breakup of the Soviet Union in individual states ahead.

Leonhard owes the accuracy of his analyzes to his knowledge of communism from within. After all, he himself had once belonged, if not to the inner, at least to the outer circle of power in the Soviet zone of occupation, the later GDR. In April 1945, before the German surrender, the then 24-year-old had returned to Berlin with the "Ulbricht Group". Born on April 16, 1921 in Vienna, Wolfgang Leonhard fled with his communist mother in 1935 from Hitler to the Soviet Union, where he also became a staunch communist. He was educated and trained first at the University of Foreign Languages ​​in Moscow, then at the Comintern School, the most important ideological and political training center for foreign communists in the USSR. There he was in a group with Markus Wolf, who later became the GDR spy chief. In early post-war Germany, Leonhard was initially an employee of the Central Committee of the SED, then a teacher at the Karl Marx party college. Not yet 30 years old, he obviously had a steep political career ahead of him.

Soon, however, Leonhard began to have doubts about the practice of Soviet-style communism. In March 1949 he fled to Yugoslavia, where the former partisan Tito had just renounced Stalin and embarked on a reform-socialist path. At the end of 1950 Wolfgang Leonhard came to the Federal Republic. There he initially worked in a small independent Marxist association. It was not until 1955 that he finally managed to break away from communism. He was helped by writing a book in which he processed his experiences - "The Revolution releases its children" became a world bestseller and was even made into a film in the 1960s. He went to Oxford and New York's Columbia University as a professor at the top US university Yale.

His intimate knowledge of the Soviet Union and communism made him far superior to all other "Kremlin astrologers" - that was the name of the often self-appointed experts on the East who were taken from the order in which the Politburo members were listed in the party newspaper "Pravda" or from their position in the stands the parade on the anniversary of the October Revolution inferred subtle changes in power structures and politics. He has remained a sought-after interlocutor for newspapers, magazines and television stations. And there is hardly a German post-war politician of any kind who has not taken advice from him at some point.

In the GDR and the Soviet Union, of course, Leonhard was regarded as a renegade, as a non-person, even more as a traitor - his life was seriously endangered until well into the 1960s. He was only able to visit these countries again after the turnaround and collapse. The now 77-year-old still travels to Russia or another of the former Soviet republics on average twice a year. He was there six times alone on behalf of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as an international election observer. That he is always informed first hand is also thanks to the antenna dishes on the roof of his house in a small town in the Eifel, where he can receive several Russian programs at the same time.

Further information: Chemnitz University of Technology, Philosophical Faculty, Department of Political Science, Reichenhainer Str. 41, 09126 Chemnitz, Prof. Dr. Beate Neuss, Tel. 0371 / 531-4926, Fax 0371 / 531-4092, e-mail: [email protected]

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