Turning Prayers into Protests

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

David Doellinger
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Turning Prayers into Protests
    Book Description:

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

    eISBN: 978-615-5225-79-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In George Orwell’s novelNineteen 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.¹ 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....

  6. Chapter 1 Catholics, Protestants, and the State
    (pp. 17-34)

    Dennison Rusinow’s 1983 analysis of church-state relations throughout the region categorizes the various policies and positions the regimes adopted toward religion. Within his typology, which classifies the status of religion into four categories based on the regimes’ policies, the Catholic Church in Poland had retained the highest level of institutional autonomy. In the second category, which included Yugoslavia and Hungary, the range of church activities permitted by the party-state had been broadened due to the regime’s reexamination of Marxism-Leninism. Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia belong to the next two categories, respectively. While believers in Bulgaria were genuinely tolerated because the party leadership...

  7. Chapter 2 Finding a Space to Think and Act Freely
    (pp. 35-78)

    In Czechoslovakia, where the party-state appeared to have a firm grip on religious institutions, Catholic activists faced the challenge of first building a structure independent of state control and second, using that structure to promote the spiritual development of Catholics. Protestant activists in the GDR did not face such a double burden. With the autonomy of the Evangelical Church already intact, they began using its support to promote a number of special interests, such as peace. Several streams of an independent peace movement in the GDR developed with the support of the Evangelical Church and each opposed the state’s military...

  8. Chapter 3 Independent Publishing and Communication Networks
    (pp. 79-100)

    In a letter to the editors ofKatolické noviny—the state approved and supported news periodical of the Catholic Church—in the late 1970s, Cardinal Tomášek criticized the weekly’s preoccupation with reports onPacem in Terris. Making a subtle critique ofPacem in Terris, he argued that this periodical neglected the real spiritual needs of Czechoslovakia’s believers. Cardinal Tomášek drew further attention to the poor quality of religious material available for Czechoslovakia’s believers by pointing out that of the 865 periodicals published in Czechoslovakia,Katolické noviny(only three pages in length) was the only religious periodical for the general public.¹...

  9. Chapter 4 Constructing New Public Spaces
    (pp. 101-144)

    In the first half of the 1980s, Slovaks and East Germans seeking to act independently of state control began moving their activities into the public sphere. This shift represents an expansion of preexisting spheres created by activists in the secret church and former Bausoldaten. Changes in the international context influenced the development of these new spaces. While the election of Pope John Paul II was critical turning point in Slovakia, the increased militarization of East German society and the stationing of intermediate range nuclear missiles provided the impetus. Slovaks and East Germans brought religious traditions and church services into public...

  10. Chapter 5 From Prayers to Protests
    (pp. 145-184)

    In 1976, Slovak Catholics printed and distributed 2,000 copies of a leaflet critical of the regime’s treatment of believers. Though the secret church had not yet developed its samizdat network to facilitate the distribution of this leaflet, several Western news organizations received copies. After condemning the regime’s atheistic policies and advising Catholics to create their own circles for worship if they did not have good priests or laymen to turn to for spiritual guidance, the authors concluded with the following appeal to Czechoslovakia’s believers: “Friends, get to know the laws of the ČSSR and stand up for their implementation with...

  11. Chapter 6 Archipelagos of Grassroots Activism
    (pp. 185-214)

    In September 1989, three sociologists in Bratislava, Martin Bútora, Vladimír Krivý, and Soňa Szomolányiová, prepared a paper examining what they described as the phenomena of “Islands of Positive Deviation” in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s. Two months later, the authors put aside their work on the article when they became active members of Public Against Violence during the Velvet Revolution. The analysis outlined in the unfinished draft of the article illustrates the success, potential and remaining problems facing Slovak social movements in the final years of Communism. The authors explained that “positive deviants,” instead of responding to existing conditions with...

  12. Chapter 7 The Revolutions of 1989
    (pp. 215-230)

    While Poland and Hungary experienced what Timothy Garton Ash has described as “refolutions” in 1989, the political leadership of Czechoslovakia and East Germany resisted the reform policies of glasnost and perestroika recommended by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.¹ As a result, the revolutions that destroyed the power of the party-state began in the streets in each country in the fall of 1989. This chapter examines the role of the secret church in Slovakia and the grassroots groups in Leipzig in the final confrontation with state power and the collapse of Communism.

    In Czechoslovakia, the Velvet Revolution began suddenly and unexpectedly with...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 231-242)

    If the transition from prayers to protests were compared to running a race, the Slovak activists ran a marathon and the East German activists ran a relay race. The secret church’s leadership in the late 1980s remained in the hands of Bishop Korec, Krčméry, and Jukl who valued endurance and since the 1940s and 1950s had dedicated their lives to building a protected space where Slovakia’s Catholics could continue their spiritual development in the context of state repression. In contrast, the events in Leipzig resemble a relay race, with each new group continuing, but also expanding, the accomplishments of its...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 243-256)

    In December 1989, after the collapse of the socialist state and shortly before he was sworn in as First Deputy Prime Minister, Ján Čarnogurský explained his political position to an Austrian reporter: “I am a convinced Christian Democrat, but at the moment I do not yet belong to any party.”¹ On November 30, 1989, Čarnogurský, along with Anton Selecký and Hana Ponická, had signed an appeal for the formation of several Christian Democratic clubs. Čarnogurský later explained that “the representatives of these clubs will decide in a free and democratic manner whether this organization will be transformed into a Christian...

  15. Glossary
    (pp. 257-266)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-278)
  17. Index
    (pp. 279-288)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 289-289)