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Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe

Religious history more generally has experienced an exciting revival over the past few years, with new methodological and theoretical approaches invigorating the field. The time has definitely come for this "new religious history" to arrive in Eastern Europe. This book explores the influence of the Christian churches in Eastern Europe's social, cultural, and political history. Drawing upon archival sources, the work fills a vacuum as few scholars have systematically explored the history of Christianity in the region.

The result of a three-year project, this collective work challenges readers with questions like: Is secularization a useful concept in understanding the long-term dynamics of religiosity in Eastern Europe? Is the picture of oppression and resistance an accurate way to characterize religious life under communism, or did Christians and communists find ways to co-exist on the local level prior to 1989? And what role did Christians actually play in dissident movements under communism? Perhaps most important is the question: what does the study of Eastern Europe contribute to the broader study of modern Christian history, and what can we learn from the interpretative problems that arise, uniquely, from this region?

About the Authors

Bruce Berglund is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Calvin College.  Brian Porter-Szűcs is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.


The strongest aspect of the volume is that it problematizes such clichés in connection with Eastern Europe, as for instance the image of homogenous Catholic Poland and the church-destroyer communist Romania. The methodological approaches are various, and often multidisciplinary: Galia Valtchinova applies anthropological viewpoints; the inquiry by Katharina Kunther involves theological aspects and the essay by Bruce R. Berglund intersects with geography. In the contributions which focus on "bottom up" topics, like the essays of Natalia Schlikhta, David Doellinger and Anca Sincan, oral history as a device also plays a role. A valuable volume of thought-provoking contributions. The richness and diversity of the studied topics testifies to the wide range of opportunities in researching Eastern Europe which have not been paid enough attention so far."—Journal of Religion in Europe

"Taken as a whole and as individual pieces, the book's essays are impressive; they make thought-provoking contributions to the modern religious history of Eastern Europe. The editors and sponsors are to be commended for coordinating the project and bringing it to the attention of English-speaking audiences in a well-edited and engaging collection. This book deserves a wide readership; it will benefit advanced undergraduates as well as specialists in the field. Anyone interested in approaching the complex, intertwined history of Christianity, modernity, and Eastern Europe should read this volume."—H-Net/Habsburg

"Of the various dimensions of the 'European project,' the role of religion is one of the more controversial. East European religious traditions are often at odds with those in Western Europe, with lagging modernity and the fifty-year crucible of Communism cited as explanations for the asymmetries. Its borderland function and the challenges posed by European Union enlargement further heighten the relevance of these differences. The present volume aims to enhance the understanding of this religious legacy in Eastern Europe, with some tentative implication for Europe as a whole. The high standard of historical scholarship, the variety of cases, and its interdisciplinary emphasis make the volume quite rewarding for the academic and lay reader alike."—Austrian History Yearbook

"The main goal of the volume is to unpack the complexities of Christians' actions and those of the Christian clergy and officials in twentieth-century eastern Europe. The second goal is to bring this research to the attention of two audiences: English-language eastern European specialists who, in their opinion, are not doing enough to integrate Christianity into the region's social and cultural history; and scholars of religious history generally, who discount eastern Europe in their discussions of 'European' Christianity. Berglund and Porter-Szucs mounted an admirable international collaborative effort to produce this cohesive and effective book. A well-crafted and pathbreaking volume. The editors and contributors do a noteworthy job of decentering the nation from their investigations of Christianity's engagement with modernity in eastern Europe, presenting Christianity and nationhood in an 'overlapping, horizontal relationship, rather than a causal, vertical one'. This volume should inspire new and innovative English-language research and writing on Christianity and Christians in eastern Europe specifically, and in Europe generally. It also should provoke scholars of religion generally to engage with eastern European Christianity in new ways."—Slavic Review
Central European University Press

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