Understanding Political Violence and Repression in Our Times
The Work of Robert Conquest
About This Event

Robert Conquest has made an exceptional contribution to the world’s understanding of Soviet and other communist political systems. His work today continues to illuminate their origins, character, and institutional and moral failures. Conquest’s numerous studies also shed light on political violence and repression under various social and historical conditions. His emphasis on the connections between political beliefs and behaviors are particularly enlightening and relevant.

In honor of Robert Conquest’s work, participants at this conference will further explore the roots, manifestations, effects, and legitimations of political violence and repression in different historical and social settings. Topics include case studies of repression in the Soviet Union, post-communist Russia, China, Cuba, and postcolonial Africa; the role of intellectuals in interpreting and legitimizing political violence and repression; and comparisons of communist and contemporary Islamic political violence.

The conference presentations will be the basis of a forthcoming book on political violence and repression in our times.

November 6
8:45 a.m.
Registration and Breakfast
Christopher DeMuth, AEI
Daniel Schmidt, Bradley Foundation
Paul Hollander, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Panel I:
Soviet Communism and the Work of Robert Conquest
Joshua Rubenstein, Amnesty International and Harvard University
"The Reception of The Great Terror"
Mark Kramer, Harvard University
"Political Succession and Political Violence after Stalin’s Death"
Lee Edwards, Heritage Foundation
"The Mass Media in the Service of Communist Totalitarianism"
John Dunlop, Hoover Institution
"Post-Communist Political Violence and the Litvinenko Case"
Leon Aron, AEI
Question and Answer Session
12:00 p.m.
Luncheon and Special Remarks
Robert Conquest, Hoover Institution
Panel II:
Comparative Perspectives on Communist Political Violence and Repression
Norman Naimark, Stanford University
"Stalin and the Question of Genocide: Soviet and Nazi Comparisons"
Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI
"The Human Costs of Soviet and Chinese Repression"
Arthur Waldron, University of Pennsylvania
"Chinese Communist Mass Murders and Their Official Interpretation"
Maria Werlau, Cuba Archive Project
"The System of Political Repression in Cuba: Policies and Institutions"
Norman J. Ornstein, AEI
Question and Answer Session
November 7
8:45 a.m.
Registration and Breakfast
Paul Hollander, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Panel III:
Comparative Perspectives Continued
Mark Falcoff, AEI
"Revolutions and Revolutionary Ideologies in Latin America"
Anthony Daniels, City Journal
"Postcolonial Violence in Africa and Its Western Perceptions"
Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not a Muslim
"Apologists of Totalitarianism: From Communism to Islam"
Stephen P. Cohen, Institute for Middle East Peace and Development
"Differences and Similarities between Soviet Communism and Islamic Terror"
Paul Hollander, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Question and Answer Session
Concluding Remarks
Robert Conquest, Hoover Institution
Paul Hollander, University of Massachusetts Amherst
12:00 p.m.
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AEI Participants


  • Leon Aron is Resident Scholar and Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of three books and over 300 articles and essays. Since 1999, he has written Russian Outlook, a quarterly essay on economic, political, social and cultural aspects of Russia’s post-Soviet transition, published by the Institute. He is the author of the first full-scale scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006 (AEI Press, 2007); and, most recently, Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideas and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 (Yale University Press, 2012).

    Dr. Aron earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, has taught a graduate seminar at Georgetown University, and was awarded the Peace Fellowship at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has co-edited and contributed the opening chapter to The Emergence of Russian Foreign Policy, published by the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1994 and contributed an opening chapter to The New Russian Foreign Policy (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998).

    Dr. Aron has contributed numerous essays and articles to newspapers andmagazines, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, theWall Street Journal Foreign Policy, The NewRepublic, Weekly Standard, Commentary, New York Times Book Review, the TimesLiterary Supplement. A frequent guest of television and radio talkshows, he has commented on Russian affairs for, among others, 60 Minutes,The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, CNN International,C-Span, and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Talk of theNation.”

    From 1990 to 2004, he was a permanent discussant at the Voice of America’s radio and television show Gliadya iz Ameriki (“Looking from America”), which was broadcast to Russia every week.

    Follow Leon Aron on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5898
    Email: laron@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Katherine Earle
    Phone: 202-862-5872
    Email: katherine.earle@aei.org


  • Christopher DeMuth was president of AEI from December 1986 through December 2008. Previously, he was administrator for information and regulatory affairs in the Office of Management and Budget and executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief in the Reagan administration; taught economics, law, and regulatory policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; practiced regulatory, antitrust, and general corporate law; and worked on urban and environmental policy in the Nixon White House.


  • Phone: 2028625895
    Email: cdemuth@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Keriann Hopkins
    Phone: 2028625897
    Email: keriann.hopkins@aei.org


  • Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist and a demographer by training, is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He is the author of numerous monographs and articles on North and South Korea, East Asia, and countries of the former Soviet Union. His books range from The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999) to The Poverty of the Poverty Rate (AEI Press, 2008).


  • Phone: 202.862.5825
    Email: eberstadt@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alex Coblin
    Phone: 202.419.5215
    Email: alex.coblin@aei.org


Norman J.
  • Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic and is an election eve analyst for BBC News. He served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI's Election Watch series. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by The Economist "a classic"); and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books. It was named as one of 2012's best books on pollitics by The New Yorker and one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.
  • Phone: 202-862-5893
    Email: nornstein@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Jennifer Marsico
    Phone: 202-862-5899
    Email: jennifer.marsico@aei.org
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