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Supported by Moscow: Communism in Iceland

The Icelandic Research Centre for Innovation and Economic Growth (RNH) has highlighted Russia’s influence on Iceland during Soviet times. This analysis is part of the joint project with AECR on "Europe of the Victims: Remembering Communism" in 2015.

Even if the Icelanders did not suffer under any direct totalitarian rule, it is important for them to remember Soviet totalitarianism, if only for a strong tendency amongst Icelandic historians to dismiss accounts of it as either irrelevant or exaggerated.

The communist movement in Iceland was much stronger than in the Scandinavian or Anglo-Saxon countries. The communists and later the pro-Soviet socialists were dominant in the labour movement and also in the cultural sector, and their political party commanded almost 20% of the total vote.

It has lately come to light that this was not least because the Icelandic communists received generous support from Moscow. For example, from 1929 to 1938, 23 Icelanders were trained in the secret Comintern (Communist International) schools in Moscow, whereas 89 Norwegians were trained there, even though the population of Norway at that time was about 27 times that of Iceland. It has also been calculated that from 1940 to 1970, the communist movement in Iceland received at least the equivalent of $3.5 million from Moscow.

RNH’s Academic Director, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson (University of Iceland), analysed Icelandic communism in his publications and also translated “The Black Book of Communism.” Last year, he has been actively involved in the work of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience.

RNH and Almenna bokafelagid also republished a detailed memoir of Europe between the wars, by former Comintern agent Jan Valtin (real name: Richard Krebs). Moreover, RNH published three anti-totalitarian books, Bertrand Russell’s articles on communism, memoirs of Stalin’s prison camps by Elinor Lipper and Aino Kuusinen, as well as a new book by Icelandic journalist Bogi Arason on the youth and formative influences of some 20th century despots, including Stalin, Hitler and Mao.

AECR has proudly supported these publications of anti-totalitarian literature, which are accessible free of charge online now.