Jörg Baberowski

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Jörg Baberowski at the Leipzig Book Fair 2014

Jörg Baberowski (born March 24, 1961 in Radolfzell on Lake Constance ) is a German historian and researcher on violence . Since 2002 he has been professor of the history of Eastern Europe at the Humboldt University in Berlin . Baberowski specializes in the history of the Soviet Union and Stalinist terror .


Baberowski's paternal grandfather came from what is now Poland and came to Germany as a professional soldier in the late 19th century, where Baberowski's father grew up in the Rhineland . The family on the mother's side came from the strictly Catholic milieu of East Westphalia .

According to his own statement, he is married to a woman of Iranian origin who  fled to Europe and further to the Federal Republic of Germany from the  Islamic revolution in Iran in the 1980s.

As a student, Jörg Baberowski was involved in the Communist League of West Germany (KBW). After graduating from high school in 1982 at Liebigstrasse in Holzminden, Jörg Baberowski studied history and philosophy in Göttingen from 1982 to 1988 , among others with the Eastern European historian Manfred Hildermeier . Baberowski taught himself Russian in self-study. The topic of his master's thesis was " Political Justice in the outgoing Tsarist Empire 1864–1917".

From 1989 Baberowski was a research assistant at the seminar for Eastern European history at the Goethe University in Frankfurt . At the historical faculty there, he received his doctorate in the winter of 1993 with a thesis on autocracy and justice in the Russian Empire , supervised by Dietrich Beyrau and Manfred Hildermeier . In 1994 he moved to the Institute for Eastern European History and Regional Studies at the University of Tübingen as an assistant , where in July 2000 he started his work in search of uniqueness at the Faculty of History . Civilizing Mission, Nationalism and the Origins of Stalinism in Azerbajdžan 1828–1941 (book title: The enemy is everywhere. Stalinism in the Caucasus ). In 2001 he was awarded the Venia legendi for Eastern European History. In addition, he completed various research stays and carried out archive studies, including in Azerbaijan , Finland and Russia .

In April 2001 Jörg Baberowski took over a professorship for Eastern European History at the University of Leipzig . Since October 2002 he has held the chair for the history of Eastern Europe at the Institute for Historical Studies (IfG) at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where he was managing director from 2004 to February 2006 and 2008/09. From 2007 to 2013 he was the spokesman for the Collaborative Research Center 640 “Representations of Social Orders in Transition”. In 2008/09 he was vice dean and in 2009/10 dean of the Faculty of Philosophy I. He has been a member of the Forum Excellence Initiative since 2010, and from 2012 to 2015 he was chairman of the Forum for the humanities. From 2004 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2009 he was chairman of the friends' association of the Institute for Historical Studies.

He is a member of the scientific advisory boards of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial , the Center Against Expulsions and the Federal Foundation for Coming to terms with the SED dictatorship, as well as the Advisory Boards for Publications of the Goethe Institute , the Citizens' Committee on January 15 and Clio-online . He is also a member of the Working Group for Modern Social History , the Committee of the Association of Historians and the Research College “The First World War and the Conflicts of the European Post-War Order (1914–1923)” at the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the TU Berlin .

He is co-editor of the following series and journals: publications and research on the consequences of war by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for research on the consequences of war , studies on the history of violence in the 20th century , systems of order - studies on the history of ideas in modern times , contributions on the history of Eastern Europe, yearbook for historical research on communism , Yearbooks for the history of Eastern Europe , research on Eastern European history , journal for modern European history , contemporary historical research , Kritika - Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History and Own and Foreign Worlds - Representations of social order in comparison and Ab Imperio - Issledovanija po novoj imperskoj istorii i nacionalizmu v postsovetskom prostranstve .

Baberowski writes a column in the Basler Zeitung .

Together with Michael Wildt , he worked from 2017 to 2019 on the establishment of a center for dictatorship research at Humboldt University. To this end, in October 2017, together with and in the branch of the Federal Foundation for the Study of the SED Dictatorship, they organized the conference Dictatorships as Alternative Orders as the kick-off conference of the interdisciplinary network for comparative dictatorship research at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Since the law faculty of the university withdrew from the project in 2019 after negative reports by colleagues consulted, the conditions for its implementation were no longer given and, according to press reports, Baberowski withdrew his application. According to other reports, however, the application was not withdrawn by Baberowski, but rejected by the university administration, which in turn was linked to student protests against the center in the press.


Criticism of the subject of Eastern European history

In 1998 he concluded the subject of Eastern European History. After the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact , he saw an opportunity to overcome what, in his opinion, were numerous deficits, the isolation of the subject and what he saw as backward methods by reintegrating them into the corresponding modern currents of modern and contemporary history. A controversial debate arose around the article, particularly in the journal Osteuropa about the position of Eastern European research in Germany. Contributions to the debate were published in the anthology Wohin ist die Osteuropforschung? released.

Theory of modernity

Jörg Baberowski's main scientific topic is the Stalinist tyranny in the Soviet Union . To this end, he put first - in his as the enemy is everywhere published Habilitationsschrift about Stalinism in the Caucasus as well as in its first overall interpretation of the history of Stalinism, The Red Terror (both 2003) - a mainly to Zygmunt Bauman's theory of modernity before oriented interpretation . In his influential book Modernism and Ambivalence, Bauman traced the excesses of violence of the 20th century , especially the Holocaust , back to a modern tendency to want to create uniqueness in a social world that was fundamentally ambivalent, complex and diverse. Contrary to earlier theories of modernization , Bauman did not understand modernity as a fundamental positive history of progress and consequently did not understand the violence that spreads within it as a relapse or aberration. Rather, violence and intolerance are the logical consequence of a modern age that seeks to bring about radically clear orders.

With this approach, among other things, Baberowski explained the Stalinist reign of terror: “The Stalinist violence came from the desire to establish clarity and to overcome ambivalence. Like the enlightened modernizers in the tsarist ministries, the Bolsheviks dreamed of clear orders from which any ambiguity was burned out. For them, the state was a gardener who turned wild landscapes into symmetrical parks. […] Socialism had nothing to complain about in the project of modernity, on the contrary, it considered itself to be its actual completion. "

In this explanatory framework, the ideology of communism, interpreted here as being emphatically modern, necessarily played a strong role. The excesses of violence of Stalinism consequently resulted precisely from the communist ideology of the Bolsheviks . However, Baberowski also emphasized the origin of many important rulers - not least of all Stalin himself - from a culture of violence as well as the constant perpetuation of this culture in the living environment, symbolism and style of rule of the rulers. In contrast to Stéphane Courtois, he pointed out that "not every form of communist rule [...] was terrorist".

Violence theory

In the years after The Red Terror , a fundamental shift in emphasis can be seen in Baberowski's declarations of Stalinist violence. The focus moved away from communist ideology and turned more than before to a theory of violence . In the years of Stalinist rule, violence was "the real communication medium of the Bolshevik leadership". Baberowski also emphasized the role of space in the exercise of violence and located Stalinist violence in areas remote from the state . These dreams of violence, however, Baberowski now emphasized, were “not modern”: “Stalin and Mao not only dreamed of the brave new world, they came from the old world and they acted as one might expect from premodern rulers. Their rule was neither bureaucratic nor orderly. One could also say that the monumental facades that gave the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century a 'tidy' face only masked the fact that pre-modern wars were waged behind these facades ”.

The theory of violence that Baberowski now unfolded, along with Wolfgang Sofsky and other violence theorists, assumed that violence is always available to people as a possibility for action - as an anthropological constant. Ideologies - and thus also the ideology (s) of modernity - now appeared as (subsequent) strategies of justification for violence, no longer as its motive or trigger. Instead, the focus was now on concrete violent situations, dynamics and areas of action; Last but not least, Baberowski hoped for dense descriptions as a method of researching violence .

In 2012, Baberowski published the study Scorched Earth. Stalin's rule of violence , which he explicitly wanted to be understood as a revision of his book The Red Terror . Instead of communist ideology, he now underlined the importance of Stalin's psychopathic personality and physical violence for the practice of Stalinist rule. The book was widely discussed, including among a wider public, and Baberowski won the Leipzig Book Fair prize in the non-fiction / essay category . Scientifically it was discussed controversially, e.g. B. by the authors of a special edition of the journal Eastern Europe .

Public controversy

In several articles on the refugee crisis in Europe in 2015, Baberowski criticized Angela Merkel's policy and a one-sided focus on the welcoming culture of German civil society . He called for a more restrictive asylum policy .

He also criticizes alleged “left-wing elites who would decide in western Europe” “what should be said” and allegedly tried “to persuade the citizens that they have to take the uncertainty caused by globalization, mass immigration and crime” “as a price for an open society ”. He went on to say that those alleged left-wing elites “fail to understand why some prefer order to limitlessness,” as did the people of Eastern Europe who experienced violence and disorder in the 1990s.

Since Baberowski invited the British historian and Trotsky biographer Robert Service to give a lecture at his chair in 2014 , he has been in a conflict with the Trotskyist splinter party Socialist Equality Party (SGP) and its university group IYSSE in Berlin, which gave him a large number of lectures and events accuses revisionist and right-wing extremist positions. In November 2017, Baberowski lost a trial at the Hamburg Regional Court against the SGP, which Baberowski can continue to accuse of “falsifying history”, as this assessment falls within the scope of freedom of expression.

In the first half of 2017, the media also reported on a conflict between Baberowski and representatives of the General Student Committee (AStA) at the University of Bremen . After he protested against a lecture by Baberowski and accused him of racism and right-wing radicalism in leaflets and on the Internet , Baberowski sued some of the statements made by the AStA. He obtained a preliminary injunction and initially won, after an objection by the AStA, on March 15, 2017 in the first instance at the Cologne Regional Court . When it became clear that the Cologne Higher Regional Court would be the next instance to rule against him, Baberowski withdrew his application on June 2, 2017. The Presidium and Dean's Office of the Philosophical Faculty I of the Humboldt University stood behind Jörg Baberowski after the judgment in the first instance and again after the hearing before the Higher Regional Court. His integrity is beyond doubt, his scientific statements are quite controversial, but by no means right-wing radical. A number of professors, the majority from the Institute for Historical Studies (IfG) at Humboldt University, agreed to this declaration. The legal dispute met with a divided response. In the Frankfurter Rundschau , Andreas Fischer-Lescano defended the assessment that Baberowski was a right-wing radical; Among other things, he downplayed the former in a "disgusting" way in a comparison of Hitler and Stalin and called for acts of violence in the current refugee debate. In contrast, Götz Aly reiterated the view in the Stuttgarter Zeitung that Baberowski was the victim of an “opinion police” of “chronic right-wingers like Fischer-Lescano”.

When professors at Humboldt University in 2019 criticized a proposal by Baberowski to set up an "interdisciplinary center for comparative research on dictatorship", the latter withdrew his proposal, publicly claiming that Humboldt University had "long since abandoned the principle of academic freedom", and insulted some of his critics as "left-wing extremist fanatics". In particular, Baberowski's allegations regarding academic freedom were rejected by the Dean's office and colleagues.


Fonts (selection)


  • Autocracy and justice. On the relationship between the rule of law and backwardness in the ending tsarist empire 1864–1914 (= studies on European legal history. 78). Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-465-02832-5 .
  • The red terror. The history of Stalinism. DVA, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-421-05486-X ( Federal Agency for Civic Education 2007).
  • The enemy is everywhere. Stalinism in the Caucasus. DVA, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-421-05622-6 .
  • The meaning of the story. Theories of history from Hegel to Foucault (= Beck series. 1623). CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52793-0 .
  • with Anselm Doering-Manteuffel : Order through terror. Excessive violence and extermination in the National Socialist and Stalinist empires. [Dietrich Beyrau on his 65th birthday]. Dietz, Bonn 2006, ISBN 3-8012-0368-9 .
  • Burned earth. Stalin's rule of violence. CH Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-63254-9 .
  • Spaces of violence. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-10-004818-9 (Federal Agency for Civic Education 2016).


  • Modern times?. War, revolution and violence in the 20th century. With 5 tables. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-525-36735-X (Federal Agency for Civic Education 2006).
  • with Hartmut Kaelble , Jürgen Schriewer: Self-images and external images. Representation of changing social orders (= own and foreign worlds. Volume 1). Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2008, ISBN 978-3-593-38016-2 .
  • with David Feest, Maike Lehmann: Meeting the other. Own and foreign representations in social communities (= own and foreign worlds. Volume 10). Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2008, ISBN 978-3-593-38722-2 .
  • with David Feest, Christoph Gumb: Imperial rule in the province. Representations of political power in the late tsarist empire (= own and foreign worlds. Volume 11). Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2008, ISBN 978-3-593-38721-5 .
  • Work on the story. How much theory does history need? (= Own and strange worlds. Volume 18). Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2010, ISBN 978-3-593-39149-6 .
  • with Gabriele Metzler : Dreams of Violence. Social orders in a state of emergency (= own and foreign worlds. Volume 20). Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2012, ISBN 978-3-593-39231-8 .
  • What is trust An interdisciplinary conversation (= own and strange worlds. Volume 30). Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2014, ISBN 978-3-593-50062-1 .
  • with Robert Kindler: Power without limits. Rule and Terror in Stalinism. Campus, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2014, ISBN 978-3-593-50164-2 .

Web links

Commons : Jörg Baberowski  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Mariam Lau : These radical students: The history of the Federal Republic is reflected in the dispute over the historian Jörg Baberowski. About the amazing encounter with a hunted man . In: The time . No. 16 , April 12, 2017, p. 37 ( zeit.de ).
  2. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xlJ4bmDLCFQ&t=4349s Youtube: ÖIF discussion with Jörg Baberowski (minute 43:53)
  3. Dirk Kurbjuweit : Contemporary history: The change of the past . In: Der Spiegel . No. 7 , 2014 ( online - February 10, 2014 ). Simon Strauss: Of course, an illiterate person can also have a reason for asylum. In: FAZ.net , September 20, 2015.
  4. ↑ List of articles by Jörg Baberowski. In: Basler Zeitung . Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  5. ^ Dictatorships as an alternative order. Kick-off conference of the interdisciplinary network for comparative dictatorship research at the Humboldt University in Berlin Berlin. In: H-Soz-Kult .
  6. Conference on comparative dictatorship research.
  7. Frank Bachner, Inga Barthels: How far the freedom of expression at German universities goes. Der Tagesspiegel from November 6, 2019, accessed on November 8, 2019.
  8. Tobias Wenzel: The optimization of the assistant. In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur. 7th August 2019.
  9. Baberowski: The End of Eastern European History: Comments on the Situation of a Historical Discipline, in: Eastern Europe, Volume 48, August / September 1998, pp. 784–799, JSTOR 44920338 (first page).
  10. ^ Rainer Lindner , Eastern European history as cultural history. In: Digital Handbook on the History and Culture of Russia and Eastern Europe. Volume 6, 2004 ( epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de ); first in: Eastern Europe. Volume 53, December 2003, pp. 1757-1771.
  11. Günter Schödl: Research on the history of the Habsburg Monarchy and East Central Europe since the 1980s. Notes on priorities and trends. In: Dittmar Dahlmann (Ed.): Hundred Years of Eastern European History. Franz Steiner, 2005, p. 124 f.
  12. Martin Schulze-Wessel: Geography is patient. Debate about the future of the subject of Eastern European history. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , No. 46, February 24, 1999.
  13. ^ Baberowski: The end of Eastern Europe and the subject of Eastern European history. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , 13./14. November 1999, p. 57.
  14. Stefan Creuzberger, Ingo Mannteufel, Alexander Steininger, Jurra Unser (eds.): Where is Eastern European research heading? A discussion. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 2000. The triggering article by Baberowski is reprinted there, pp. 27–42.
  15. Zygmunt Bauman: Modernity and Ambivalence. The end of the uniqueness. Junius, Hamburg 1992.
  16. Jörg Baberowski: The red terror. The history of Stalinism. License issue for the Federal Agency for Civic Education , Bonn 2007, p. 12 f.
  17. See for example Jörg Baberowski: Civilization of violence. The cultural origins of Stalinism. Humboldt University of Berlin: Inaugural lecture on July 10, 2003. Berlin 2005 ( edoc.hu-berlin.de [PDF; 731 kB]).
  18. Jörg Baberowski: The red terror. The history of Stalinism. License issue for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2007, p. 8.
  19. Jörg Baberowski: Civilization of violence. The cultural origins of Stalinism . In: Historische Zeitschrift , Volume 281, Issue 1 (August 2005), pp. 59–102, here p. 87.
  20. ^ Jörg Baberowski: Wars in areas remote from the state: Russia and the Soviet Union 1905–1950. In: Dietrich Beyrau , Michael Hochgeschwender , Dieter Langewiesche (eds.): Forms of war. From antiquity to the present. Paderborn 2007, pp. 291-310.
  21. Jörg Baberowski: Modern times? Introductory remarks. In: Jörg Baberowski (Ed.): Modern times? War, revolution and violence in the 20th century. Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2006, pp. 7–11, here p. 8 f.
  22. Jörg Baberowski: Understanding violence. In: Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History. 5, 2008, no. 1, pp. 5–17 ( zeithistorische-forschungen.de ).
  23. Jörg Baberowski: Scorched Earth. Stalin's rule of violence. Munich 2012, pp. 9–11.
  24. Osteuropa , Vol. 62, Issue 4, April 2012. Table of contents: dl.oe.dgo-online.org ( Memento from October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 41 kB). This issue contains a total of eight reviews of his Stalin biography, seven of which are fundamentally critical.
  25. Jörg Baberowski: Uncontrolled immigration, Europe is no community of values. In: FAZ.net , September 14, 2015; Simon Strauss: Jörg Baberowski on violence “Of course, an illiterate person can also have a reason for asylum”. In: FAZ.net , September 20, 2015; Jörg Baberowski: The external point of view. Germany is turning into a virtuous republic. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , September 27, 2015; The sentences that break the spell. In: Basler Zeitung , December 24, 2016. On this Christoph David Piorkowski: The professor as an angry citizen. Jörg Baberowski, historian at Berlin's Humboldt University, has been massively criticized from the left. What is the truth of the charge that he is right-wing extremist? An analysis. In: Der Tagesspiegel , April 28, 2017.
  26. Man cannot be prepared at will. Interview with the NZZ , September 30, 2018.
  27. Isabelle-Christine Panreck: Left-wing extremism in the German party landscape . In: Federal Agency for Civic Education (online), February 5, 2018.
  28. Martin Beglinger, Peer Teuwsen : Let's get the opinion police! In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung , June 24, 2017, accessed on December 12, 2017.
  29. ^ Mariam Lau: These radical students: In the dispute over the historian Jörg Baberowski, the history of the Federal Republic is reflected. About the amazing encounter with a hunted man . In: The time . No. 16 , April 12, 2017, p. 37 ( zeit.de ). Jasper Riemann: Trotskyists versus Professor: The Baberowski Affair. In: Unauf. Student newspaper of the Humboldt University. May 13, 2015; Katrin Schmermund: “Nobody wants to swim against the current anymore”: A professor defends himself against the accusation of being right-wing extremists . An interview with Jörg Baberowski. In: Research & Teaching . 24th year, no.
     5 , May 2017, p. 398–400 ( forschung-und-lehre.de ( memento from May 17, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) [accessed on May 20, 2017]).
  30. Eckhard Stengel: HU professor can be accused of "falsifying history". In: Der Tagesspiegel , November 12, 2017, accessed on November 12, 2017.
  31. Jean-Philipp Baeck: Baberowski in the right light: According to the Cologne Regional Court, the Bremen Asta can call the historian Jörg Baberowski “right-wing radical”, but not “racist”. Shortened quotes are also not okay . In: The daily newspaper . March 23, 2017, p. 45 ( taz.de - Bremen Aktuell). Karolina Meyer-Schilf: Bremer Asta versus culture of debate: Nobody wants to talk anymore . In: taz.die daily newspaper . October 20, 2016, p.
     45 ( taz.de - Bremen Aktuell). Karolina Meyer-Schilf: People's Commissars for Science: The Asta gets Trotskyist support for the fight against the Eastern European historian Jörg Baberowski . In: taz.die daily newspaper . February 4, 2017, p.
     62 ( taz.de - Bremen Aktuell).
  32. Jean-Philipp Baeck: Baberowski in the right light: According to the Cologne Regional Court, the Bremen Asta can call the historian Jörg Baberowski “right-wing radical”, but not “racist”. Shortened quotes are also not okay . In: taz.die daily newspaper . March 23, 2017, p. 45 ( taz.de - Bremen Aktuell). Regional court Cologne, 28 O 324/16 - reasons for the decision.
  33. ^ Presidium and Dean's Office of the Philosophical Faculty I of the Humboldt University: HU statement on the judgment of the Cologne Regional Court. In: Humboldt University websites. March 30, 2017, accessed October 17, 2019 (press release updated June 2017).
  34. Eckhard Stengel: HU professor defeated against the Bremen Asta . In: Der Tagesspiegel , June 5, 2017; University professor against AStA. Urgent proceedings ended by withdrawal of the application ( Memento from August 19, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 88 kB), press release of the Cologne Higher Regional Court, June 2, 2017; Wolfgang Benz : Dispute over theses on migration: Professoral populism. In: Der Tagesspiegel , June 21, 2017; Regina Mönch : The best antidote are smart students. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , July 7, 2017.
  35. ^ Andreas Fischer-Lescano : Jörg Baberowski. The self-presentation of a right. In: Frankfurter Rundschau , June 12, 2017
  36. ^ Column by Götz Aly: Assistance for Professor Baberowski. In: Stuttgarter Zeitung , June 19, 2017
  37. Jörg Baberowski takes on Humboldt-Uni , Inga Barthels, Tagesspiegel, August 26, 2019
  38. ^ Humboldt University press release , Jörg Baberowski receives prize from the Leipzig Book Fair.