Towards a conceptual history of canonization in totalitarian societies



Publicado 31-10-2016
Kirill Postoutenko


Although totalitarian societies, by and large, have uneasy relationships with religion, they tend to produce their own "Messiahs" (people whose knowledge of the future is free from all kinds of uncertainty) and "Bibles" (texts containing explanations for each and every context imaginable). This removal of contingency is accompanied by a reduction of a living being (for example, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin) to his portraits and quotations: in the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, the Soviet dictator is often featured alongside his oversized portraits, and every fourth reference to him is actually a reference to his slogans and speeches. The article compares such a canonization in Soviet Union with parallel processes in Nazi Germany (where Adolf Hitler and his texts are revered to a much lesser degree) and United States of America (where this development is missing altogether despite Franklin D. Roosevelt unprecedented media exposure). It turns out that Stalin's discursive canonization has multiple reasons including his reliance on rigid radial networks of power and communication (as opposed to rotation of political and social roles in democracies), his interactional detachment from listeners and, last but not least, his remarkable passivity in political rituals (echoed by the media).

Cómo citar

Postoutenko, K. (2016) «Towards a conceptual history of canonization in totalitarian societies», Ariadna Histórica. Lenguajes, conceptos, metáforas, (5), pp. 197–209. Disponible en: (Accedido: 25 septiembre 2023).
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Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt, canonización, historia de la comunicación