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In the research overview presented in this video DANIEL LEESE explains the dimensions of modern personality cults found in studies on states such as the Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, the Soviet Union, Vietnam and others. He outlines the elements modern personality cults have in common, their aims and functioning as well as their ideological self-justification.


Daniel Leese is a Junior Professor of Sinology at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg (Germany). In 2003, Leese received his PhD with distinction from the International University Bremen (Germany).

Leese’s research interest encapsulates China’s political, social, and cultural history, particularly in the 20th century. His monograph on the Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China’s Cultural Revolution, has been published by Cambridge University Press in 2011 in English, and awaits the publication in Chinese. For his research Leese was awarded the ERC Starting Grant, to further investigate the Maoist Legacy.


Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

Founded in the 15th century, the University of Freiburg has a long-standing reputation of excellence in academic teaching and research. Among the most renowned university members were the philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, the economist Walter Eucken, and such Nobel Prize winners as Hans Spemann, Hermann Staudinger, Georg von Hevesy, Friedrich August von Hayek and George Köhler. Today, with its mixture of traditional subjects and modern technology, the University of Freiburg is flourishing more than ever. The university and its hospital employ more than 19,000 staff members. Organized according to the classical model of a comprehensive university, it provides 25,000 students with a broad range of subjects – from applied information technology, the entire spectrum of medical specialities and natural sciences to the fields of humanities and social sciences. Freiburg’s research and teaching policies aim to overcome the barriers between individual disciplines to create opportunities for new perspectives on complex problems. By supporting collaborative research projects across boundaries and implementing centers of knowledge and interdisciplinary graduate colleges, the university provides the disciplines an effective means by which to benefit from each other’s knowledge. An added benefit that comes with such flexibility is an increased international interest for our university: We are pleased to have a significant number of scientists and students from all over the world, whose culture-specific views of scientific procedures and research approaches enrich the dialog with their German counterparts. 16% of the student body are from foreign countries. The general international exchange of scientific results and experiences also plays an important role at the University of Freiburg. More than 300 partner universities and programs on five continents, together with the alumni association, form a first-class international network. (Source: University of Freiburg)
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Original publication

The Cult of Personality and Symbolic Politics

Daniel Leese
The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, edited by Stephen A. Smith
Published in 2013

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Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China's Cultural Revolution

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The Leader Cult In Communist Dictatorships

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Personality Cults in Stalinism – Personenkulte im Stalinismus

Klaus Heller and Jan Plamper (Eds.)
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The Stalin Cult: A Study in the Alchemy of Power

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Communism and the Leader Cult

Kevin Morgan
Twentieth Century Communism
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