Visual Persuasion and Politics: Ideology and Symbols of the Totalitarian Regimes’ – Case Study: Hammer and Sickle

Nikša Sviličić, Pero Maldini


Unlike all other autocracies, authoritarian regimes are, as the ultimate form of authoritarianism, a distinct phenomenon of the modern era. Caused by the crisis of liberal democracy and industrial capitalism of the early twentieth century, and led by radical populist political movements/parties and their leaders, they established themselves as the regimes which marked one of the greatest degrees of unfreedom. The article analyzes the specific sociostructural, sociocultural and sociopsychological aspects of the formation of totalitarian regimes (particularly communism), as well as their political system, ideological foundations and modus operandi. In doing so, it particularly emphasizes the dissolution of civil society and its substitution by a political society as a key structural determinant, authoritarianism and fear as a sociopsychological basis, and repression as the functional basis of operation for totalitarian regimes. In that context, it analyzes the political, anthropological and visual aspects of the symbols of totalitarian regimes, their archetypal (mythological, religious, ethnic, cultural, historical) meaning, and explains their function (political, anthropological, sociocultural, and sociopsychological) in the development and preservation of totalitarian regimes. Using the example of the hammer and sickle, a typical symbol of communism, it shows a substantial and communicational (particularly visual) dimension of symbol, by breakdown by the elements of semiotics (signum, designatum, interpretant) and its sub-disciplines (semantics, pragmatics, sintactics). On this basis, it tries to show the decisive power of political symbols over the political perceptions and political behavior of individuals and entire social groups, i.e. their manipulative power by meanings assigned to them by totalitarian authorities and forms of their communication, with the goal of preserving the totalitarian regime.


political anthropology, social anthropology, visual anthropology, totalitarian regime, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, ideology, communism, political symbols, heraldry

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