As a college professor, I occasionally receive solicitations by non-profits to bring their speakers or films to campus. Such organizations cover a broad range of ideologies and causes. Most recently, I received an interesting email from the College Programs Manager at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), which bills itself as a “501(c)3 founded by a unanimous act of Congress in 1993.” The email notes that the VOC “exists to educate individuals about the history, ideology, and legacy of communism” and that their efforts have “touched students in all 50 states on 100 different campuses.” Then I was encouraged to consider hosting an event in partnership with the VOC at my college, for which they offer film screenings, lectures, and panels.
I am not familiar with the VOC and so I would want to investigate the organization much more carefully before I would consider inviting them to campus, but on the surface, based on what little I know of them, I find their stated goals admirable. Many young students born after the fall of the Soviet Union have little idea of the impact communist ideology on various societies during the era of the Cold War. As a former Marine, coming from a family in which my father served in the Navy during the height of the Cold War and my brother served in the Marine Corps in the early 1980s, at a time when the propaganda war between the Soviet Union and the U.S. was at one of its high points, I have long been aware, on a somewhat personal level, of the threat communist ideologies once posed to the western world. We have all also became aware of the high level of Soviet communist penetration into many facets of U.S. society during the Cold War once it ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the release of previously secret sources that reflected the extent of that penetration. Moreover, while later completing my Ph.D. at the University of Florida under the direction of the great medieval historian Florin Curta, who himself grew up in the communist state of Romania, and was conscripted into its military where he served as a paratrooper in its army, I was introduced to the various hardships and depredations of such a system on a much more personal level through the eyes of my now friend Florin.
Based on his experiences living under communist rule, Continue reading