In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2013. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, pp. 17-38.
The Communist International (Comintern) has been a prominent topic of research in the wake of the »archival revolution«. Only very few questions are left considering this unique international organisation, and even the most clandestine aspects of its activity are being dealt with by historical research. But what should be made of Bolshevik activists in distant Russian provinces praising the »new International« in their resolutions and personal diaries, of Red Army units carrying the International on their battle flags, and of rank-and-file sympathisers of the Left Opposition addressing the Comintern with their hopes to change the party line? Based on Max Weber’s concept of charisma and its institutionalisation, the following article strives to assess the Comintern not just as an organisation, but as a political symbol and a charismatic force in the early Soviet society. By taking into account a broad variety of sources, including Bolshevik internal and public documents detailing policy-making, the press, letters »from below« and ego documents, the article strives to reconstruct the images of the Comintern that were created by the Party and shaped the imagination of the rank and file as well as reaching beyond the party membership. The International as a potent symbol is being assessed already before the Comintern’s official formation in 1919, and its transformations are followed through into the onset of Stalinism.