The Birth of Right-Wing Terrorism: Historical Perspectives on Political Assassinations by the Far Right in Eastern and Western Europe until the Second World War
Terrorism seems to be almost omnipresent in the media these days. Given this ubiquity, it is hardly surprising that there also has been a surge of scholarly interest into the phenomenon. Topics of research not only include the comparatively recent phenomenon of Islamist terrorism, but also the history of terrorism since the 19th century. In the last couple of years, numerous studies have been published on the origins of terrorism, the uses of terrorist methods of combat among national liberation movements and the history of left-wing terrorism since the 19th century. Among all the different forms of terrorism, however, right-wing terrorism has received least attention, both in terrorism studies in general and in historiography in particular.
The planned conference will focus on the origins of right-wing terrorism in Western and Eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. We aim to shed new light on the connections between the emergence of right-wing extremist ideologies and politically motivated acts of violence. The focus lies on the history of right-wing violence in the Russian Empire in the context of the Revolution of 1905 and in Western and Eastern Europe in the interwar period. Not only the ideology and motivations of the assassins will be examined, but also the supportive environment of the assassins – including sympathizers in the political and social elites –, the reaction of the press as well as the responses of the political and general public.
Guiding questions include:
- How relevant is ideology for the explanation of right-wing terrorism? Were there masterminds or strategic thinkers who influenced the perpetrators of violence with their writings and speeches? How did right-wing ideologists, including fascist groups, debate the legitimacy of violence as a political instrument?
- How was right-wing terrorism related to other forms of violence, including pogroms, mob violence, gang crime, vigilantism or paramilitary actions? Who supported the assassins, and what role did state institutions such as the secret services or the army play? How did right-wing terrorism and state terror interrelate, how did they differ and where did they overlap?
- Which differences and similarities did contemporaries – including the protagonists themselves as well as the media – recognize between right-wing violence and attacks of national liberation movements, for example in Ukraine, Armenia and Ireland?
- Did contemporaries perceive of right-wing attacks as a new form of violence? To what extent did the press and the public recognize a connection between attacks by right-wing groups and the hitherto known forms of terrorism perpetrated by anarchist groups or national liberation movements?
- What can we say about the sociology of right-wing terrorism (esp. categories class and gender)? Talking about the victims of right-wing terrorism, were there groups of people who were more often than others attacked by right-wing terrorists? What role did enmity towards specific groups, racism and anti-Semitism play?
- What was the political impact of right-wing terrorism in the context of the escalation of violence of the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the First World War, the civil wars in Eastern Europe, and the political violence in the interwar period?
The conference aims to stimulate a debate on genealogies and variations of right-wing terrorism in Eastern and Western Europe and to thereby contribute to a better understanding of what right-wing terrorism is. In fact, since the definition of “right-wing terrorism” remains controversial, we welcome contributions on all types of right-wing violence that can nowadays be classified or used to be classified by contemporaries as “terrorist”. We would like to stimulate a debate on the characteristics of different types of violence perpetrated by right-wing extremists, groups or individuals. As a side-effect, we hope to clarify the specific nature of right-wing terrorism in comparison to Islamic, nationalist and left-wing terrorism.