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The Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarianism Studies e. V. at the TU Dresden (HAIT) explores the history of Nazism, Communism and the transformation after 1989, as well as manifestations of political extremism in history and the present. This work breaks down into three areas of research and one cross-sectional assignment:

  1. Dictatorships and autocracies in the 20th century and their study (short: dictatorship research)
  2. Transformation research from an internationally comparative perspective (short: transformation research)
  3. Comparative research into extremism and autocracies (short: extremism research)
  4. Cross-sectional assignment: Conceptual and intellectual-historical foundations

The common thread in HAIT's research fields is contemporary historical and politological research into dictatorships/autocracies and into the area of tension between democracy, political extremism and autocracy. In doing so, both the historical approach of dictatorship research and the politological one of autocracy research are taken up, which are essentially dedicated to the same objects of study but refer to them differently due to their own subject traditions. Studies of ideocracies, different variations of authoritarianism and extremism, of profound transformations of political and social systems as well as of new ruling methods of total control and surveillance carry on intellectual traditions and scientific paradigms which are rooted in the "totalitarian experience" of the 20th century.

Additionally, HAIT dedicates itself to exploring current challenges and threats to democracy caused both by autocratic and fundamentalist regimes as well as by extremist, racist and anti-Semitic attitudes and movements. Therefore, HAIT considers itself a point of intersection between regional, national and transnational spheres of experience of the Political in a time of necessary redefinition of liberal-democratic societal models.

HAIT's research is united by an interdisciplinary, innovative understanding of concepts and methods. This especially includes comparisons in international and transnational perspective as well as the integration of junior researchers' projects (qualifying theses, doctoral theses).

Additionally, a central part of the research activities at HAIT is the dissemination of research results to a wider public. This includes the cooperating with memorial sites and both governmental and non-governmental providers of political and civic education, advising on matters of regional and supra-regional contemporary history and collaborating with teacher training institutions and schools.