February 1, 2017 Print

Totalitarian governments claimed countless lives during the 20th century. In its role as a member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, Atlas Network partner the Icelandic Research Centre for Innovation and Economic Growth (RNH) seeks to “keep alive the memory of the victims of totalitarianism in Europe” by publishing a series of books in Icelandic that were part of the historic fight against totalitarian governments. The books are available both in print and in free online editions hosted by Google Books.

The five anti-totalitarian books all include an introduction and notes by Prof. Hannes H. Gissurarson, a political science professor and researcher with RNH. They include a translation of Khruschev’s Secret Speech on Stalin; El Campesino, by Valentín González and Julián Gorkin, about the Spanish Civil War and the Gulag; Baltic Eclipse, by Ants Oras, and Estonia: A Study in Imperialism, by Andres Küng, both about Soviet oppression in the Baltic countries; and Service, Servitude, Escape, by Aatami Kuortti, the first book published in Icelandic by a Gulag prisoner. Gissurarson also wrote The Icelandic Fisheries: Sustainable and Profitable, the first book in a new RNH series exploring ideas in libertarian policy and thought. Both book series are funded in part with a grant from Atlas Network.

RNH also published three more Icelandic translations of books in its anti-totalitarian series during 2015: Articles on Communism, by philosopher Bertrand Russell; Women in Stalin’s Slave Camps, by Elinor Lipper and Aino Kuusinen; and Out of the Night, by Jan Valtin.

“The most difficult challenge has not been to produce the material, but to reach out to students and others to make them aware of the existence of this material,” Gissurarson said. “Often the teachers are hostile to libertarian and anti-totalitarian works. Therefore a way has to be found around them, to the students. We are still planning this. Meanwhile, we continue to increase the number of works made available online.”

To date, the two books about Soviet oppression in Baltic countries have received the most attention, bolstered by an Aug. 26 book launch that included speeches by Member of the European Parliament Tunne Kelam, who had been a leader of the struggle for freedom in Estonia during Soviet rule, and former Icelandic Prime Minister David Oddsson.

“Hitler and Stalin decided in the secret part of their August 1939 Non-Aggression Pact that the Baltic countries and Finland would fall under Stalin’s control whereas Hitler would seize the Western part of Poland,” RNH reported, paraphrasing Kelam’s remarks. “When Hitler subsequently attacked Poland, the Second World War broke out. Kelam said that Putin’s Russia was now behaving aggressively and that Western democracies had to unite in preserving the independence of the Baltic countries which were an integral part of the West.”

Gissurarson’s book about introducing property rights in Icelandic fisheries also caught the attention of policymakers in the United Kingdom, because its “Brexit” from the European Union means that it will abandon the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Gissurarson was invited to discuss his research at an Institute of Economic Affairs seminar in the fall, as well as to participate in an Adam Smith Institute special luncheon and a meeting with the U.K. fisheries minister.

Jonas Sigurgeirsson, director of the RBH Public Book Club, shows some of the organization’s anti-totalitarian book translations to Einar Gudfinnsson, speaker of the Icelandic Parliament.