Nihil Obstat: Religion, Politics, and Social Change in East-Central Europe and Russia

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Nihil Obstat: Religion, Politics, and Social Change in East-Central Europe and Russia. By Sabrina P Ramet. (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. 1998. Pp. xi, 424. $69.95 hardcover; $23.95 paperback.)

Sabrina P Ramet, professor of international studies at the University of Washington, has written an interesting book on the relationship between church and state in communist and post-communist countries. The focus is on Christian churches in Russia, Ukraine,Yugoslavia, East Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania. The study demolishes a series of myths regarding religion in Russia and East Central Europe,which persist to this day. The author shows that the Communists failed to annihilate religion, that not all religious ministers were heroic characters, that the Communist governments geared religious policies to specific churches and conditions, and, finally, that not all Communist policies were bad for religion. The book examines at length the Evangelical Church in Germany; the Orthodox Churches in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria,Yugoslavia, Romania, and Albania; the Uniate Catholic Church in Ukraine; the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Albania; the new evangelism sweeping Eastern and Central Europe; and the political background of church-state relations throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. Ramet carefully describes religious-political interaction, explains the paradox of strong religious life in post-communist countries, and then reveals the dilemma and opportunity which churches now face: they no longer confront an easily identifiable demon in the Communist regimes and are free to expand, that :is, nothing stands in their way, but they find themselves facing a gray, amorphous reality of seemingly infinite moral complexity. …