Turning Prayers into Protests: Religious-Based Activism and Its Challenge to State Power in Socialist Slovakia and East Germany

Turning Prayers into Protests: Religious-Based Activism and Its Challenge to State Power in Socialist Slovakia and East Germany

Turning Prayers into Protests: Religious-Based Activism and Its Challenge to State Power in Socialist Slovakia and East Germany

Turning Prayers into Protests: Religious-Based Activism and Its Challenge to State Power in Socialist Slovakia and East Germany

Synopsis

Turning Prayers into Protests is comparative study of grass-roots religious activity in Slovakia and East Germany prior to 1989.

Excerpt

In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character Winston Smith discovered that by sitting in the space of a small alcove in his living room, he could escape the gaze of the telescreen and perform the punishable act of writing in his diary. in Orwell’s vision of life within a totalitarian state, that alcove represented a small physical space where activities could take place outside of the observation of the “Thought Police” and beyond the power of “Big Brother.” As Winston Smith discovered, it was possible to find a physical space for independent action even within an authoritarian system.

Throughout the Soviet bloc, finding an independent space became a challenge as the party-state began a process of extending its control over every element of political, economic, social, and cultural life after 1945. in Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the party-state successfully maintained political power until 1989, although nowhere in East Central Europe did it achieve the efficiency and control of Orwell’s ‘Thought Police’ and ‘Big Brother.’ This book is a comparative study of two distinct grassroots movements whose sustained challenges to state power successfully expanded spaces for action independent of state control in Socialist Czechoslovakia and the gdr. Challenges to

Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 7–8.

Some of the content in this book has been published previously. This book expands on my article on the secret church: “Prayers, Pilgrimages and Petitions: the Secret Church and the Growth of Civil Society in Slovakia,” Nationalities Papers 30, no. 2 (June 2002): 215–240. Content from “The 1985 Pilgrimage at Velehrad: Slovak Catholics and the Creation of a Public Space,” Slovakia 39, nos 72–73 (2007): 99–116 is reprinted by permission from this scholarly annual. Also, content from my article “Peace through Recon-

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