Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe

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Publication date: 
380 pages

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?  

List of Maps
List of Tables
Hugh McLeod
Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: Christianity, Christians, and the Story of Modernity in Eastern Europe
Brian Porter-Szűcs
Religion in Everyday Urban Life: Shaping Modernity in Łódź and Manchester, 1820–1914
Andreas Kossert
Christianity, Nation, State: The Case of Christian Hungary
Paul Hanebrink
Searching for a “Fourth Path”: Czech Catholicism between Liberalism, Communism, and Nazism
Martin C. Putna
The Roman Catholic Church Navigates the New Slovakia, 1945–1948
James Ramon Felak
Bulwark or Patchwork? Religious Exceptionalism and Regional Diversity in Postwar Poland
James Bjork
Competing Concepts of “Reunification” behind the Liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Natalia Shlikhta
From Bottom to the Top and Back: On How to Build a Church in Communist Romania
Anca Şincan
Human Rights as a Theological and Political Controversy among East German and Czech Protestants
Katharina Kunter
State Management of the Seer Vanga: Power, Medicine, and the “Remaking” of Religion in Socialist Bulgaria
Galia Valtchinova
Constructing Peace in the GDR: Conscientious Objection and Compromise among Christians, 1962–1989
David Doellinger
On the Ruin of Christendom: Religious Politics and the Challenge of Islam in the New West
Patrick Hyder Patterson
Drafting a Historical Geography of East European Christianity
Bruce R. Berglund

List of Contributors

"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."
"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.”
"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."
"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... more