What are characteristics of totalitarianism?


Quick Answer

Characteristics of totalitarianism include total state control of the economy, military and news media, police who use terrorism as a tactic and rule by a single party. Some totalitarian states tortured people and committed mass murder.

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Full Answer

Examples of totalitarian states include Germany under the Nazis in the 1930s until World War II ended in 1945 and the Soviet Union in the years after the 1917 Russian Revolution until 1991.

Adolph Hitler was appointed German chancellor in 1933 and quickly took more power than the law allowed. He soon controlled the national and local governments. If a citizen dissented and the Nazi government found out, he could be arrested and sent to a concentration camp. These camps were places of slave labor and murder where Nazis sent people they considered undesirable, including members of ethnic groups.

The Nazis indoctrinated young people into their system and required artists to portray Nazi values. Nazis banned jazz music and burned books they considered repugnant. The SS police terrorized the population. The regime had a propaganda ministry that lionized Hitler and tightly controlled newspapers and broadcasts. Hitler started World War II with the goal of ruling the world.

In the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin created a totalitarian state after taking power through blackmail when Vladimir Lenin died in 1924. Stalin was accused of killing his rival Leon Trotsky. Artists and writers glorified Stalin. Images of him were everywhere, including in people's homes. Stalin had near-total control of the country, including the slave-labor camps. Endemic violence, extreme weather, malnutrition, hard labor and unsanitary conditions resulted in a high death rate in the camps. The Soviets sent not only criminals to these camps, but also political prisoners.

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