Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe

By Roger D. Petersen | Go to book overview
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Preface

This book endeavors to explain how ordinary men and women, in the face of enormous risks, resist and sometimes violently rebel against powerful regimes. Theoretically, the work seeks to identify sequences of mechanisms that combine to produce these phenomena. Empirically, the book devotes the bulk of its pages to four episodes of Lithuanian anti-Soviet resistance (1940–1941, 1944–1950, 1987–1988, and January 1991). The Lithuanian case serves as a base line for comparisons with several other cases of antiSoviet, anti-Communist, and anti-Nazi resistance.

In an important sense, this book began in the mid-1980s, before I started graduate school. At that time, I was selling housewares to Yugoslavian immigrants in Chicago. In the course of this work, conversation would often turn to the violent events that occurred in Yugoslavia during the Second World War. These conversations led to two insights crucial to this book. First, the memories of survivors of this period were extremely vivid and could be usefully tapped to recreate the social life of the wartime years. Second, it seemed clear that participants in the anti-German resistance and the underlying Chetnik-Partisan conflict did not usually become involved because of ideological or political reasons; rather, they were pulled in through their social networks. There was a connection between participation in resistance and local social norms a theme pursued throughout this book.

As a graduate student in the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, I wished to capitalize on my previous experience to write about 1940s Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia. I began seriously planning my research in 1990. Needless to say, events overtook me. For a variety of reasons, research on 1940s Yugoslavia became less feasible. Still wanting to research the local roots of sustained rebellion, I turned to the best available alternative: Lithuania. The Lithuanian center of North American immigration, Chicago's Marquette Park neighborhood, lay only a few miles from the Uni

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