About Us (Overview)

We are an international academic community interested in cultural dissent under Socialism in Eastern Europe.

We think that culture in Eastern Europe before 1989 meant more than socialist realism and dull propaganda art: at certain times and places alternative cultural scenes flourished despite the strict controls of socialist regimes.

We do research that tackles this rich and colourful legacy of cultural opposition in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe by exploring and comparing collections on cultural opposition.

We tell stories of non-conformist avant-garde art, anti-establishment religious movements, civic initiatives for unofficial education and publication, dissident movements, underground punk and rock bands, alternative ways of life, even novel spiritual practices, and many more.

We create the first digital database of both online and offline private and public collections in Europe which testify to the survival of various forms of cultural opposition in the former socialist countries.

We show how these collections work, what functions they serve in their respective societies, and how they represent their holdings and findings to the national and international public.

We will recognize forms of dissent during the communist regimes and preserve these as part of our common European heritage.

We want to turn cultural dissent alive.

Join the  COURAGE registry! Submit your collection Contact

COURAGE (“Cultural Opposition – Understanding the CultuRal HeritAGE of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries”) is a three-year international research project funded by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Basic info
Cultural Opposition: Understanding the Cultural Heritage of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries

Grant agreement No: 692919
Project Website:
Starting Date of Action: 1 February 2016
End Date of Action: 31 January 2019
Number of Partners: 12
Estimated eligible costs (EUR): 2 484 917.50
Topic: Cultural opposition in the former socialist countries
Type of action: Research and Innovation action
Call: H2020-REFLECTIVE-2014-2015/H2020-REFLECTIVE-SOCIETY-2015
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 692919.


COURAGE will create a comprehensive online database (digital registry) of existing but scattered collections on the histories and forms of cultural opposition in the former socialist countries and thereby make them more accessible.

It will analyse these collections in their broader social, political and cultural contexts. The general aim of this analysis is to allow for the expanded outreach and increased impact of the collections by assessing the historical origins and legacies of various forms of cultural opposition.

COURAGE explores

  1. the genesis and trajectories of private and public collections on cultural opposition movements in former socialist countries in Europe, with particular consideration given to how their transition from opposition to mainstream and private to public occurred;
  2. the political and social roles and uses of the collections before 1989 and since, and the efforts that have been made by national governments to preserve, maintain or add to them;
  3. the role of exiles in supporting, preserving and disseminating these collections beyond the Iron Curtain and back home, and the uses of collections that were created by the exile community;
  4. material culture represented by these documents, objects and audio-visual footage: what was and was not regarded as worthy of collection and preservation, what objects were deemed important as potential historical sources or relics and what objects were omitted or discarded?;
  5. the organization and the order of the collections as they are represented, particularly in the dataset and reference systems: how is the material collected?;
  6. the social background and life trajectories of the working staff of the collections;
  7. the sociology of institutions, stakeholders, their legal frameworks, financial backgrounds, ownership and management, the social and cultural composition of their audiences and the uses to which the collections are put in historical studies and culture;
  8. the networking and cooperative capacity of different types of collections: what are the existing and possible forms of cooperation and public presentation, and how can we contribute to the development of strategies with which to strengthen cooperation among the collections?


MTA BTK– Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

IFIS PAN – Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences

TCD – Trinity College Dublin

IOS Regensburg – Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, University of Regensburg

MTA TK – Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

LII – Lithuanian Institute of History

CUNI – Charles University in Prague

UB – University of Bucharest

HIP – Croatian Institute of History

Comenius University in Bratislava

The University of Oxford

MTA SZTAKI – Institute for Computer Science and Control

Meetings (Events)

Resources (Deliverables)


Collections (Registry)

COURAGE means registry.

The online database of collections (registry) will provide an abundance of useful information on the most exciting collections and treasures of cultural opposition for the purposes of network building, learning and research.

COURAGE creates a registry of collections that relate to various forms of cultural opposition in a vast geographical area embracing all member and potential member states of the EU in the former socialist bloc. We produce standardized descriptions of the collections and tools that make the registry easily usable and searchable. The most innovative aspect of our approach lies in its inclusion of the social and cultural practices generated by the collections, which themselves represent measures of faith in the potential of the archive as a repository of the past.

Thus, the project goes far beyond the mere creation of a registry of the collections on cultural opposition. It will further a more nuanced understanding of how these collections work, what functions they serve in their respective societies, and how they represent their holdings and findings to the national and international public. The general aim of this analysis is to expand the outreach and increase the impact of these collections by assessing the historical origins and legacies of the various forms of cultural opposition.

Do you think a fascinating collection is missing from the registry?

JOIN the COURAGE registry!


COURAGE means exhibition.

The exhibition will give access to the hitherto less known masterpieces of cultural opposition as well as the interesting ways of life of its members through fascinating visual footage and freshly disclosed archival documents.

COURAGE will produce both an online and an offline (travelling) exhibition for the general public. The exhibitions will highlight the “secret paths” of opposition culture: transnational linkages, ways of East-West communication and entangled subcultures (punks, hippies, hobos, jazz tours and Church camps). We will reach out to young, politically engaged urban subcultures and develop innovative methods to mobilize collections and collection holders. We will encourage witnesses and contemporaries, local communities and private owners to include their collections make them part of the exhibitions.


COURAGE means new policy.

Policy documents will help decision makers and funders to recognize the social impact and use of the collections of cultural opposition, and will provide a forum for them to discuss projects of common interest.
Country reports for policy makers will address how the concepts and institutions that govern the collections were established and how they have evolved from the late socialist period to the present day. Major actors, hopes and strategies will be mapped, and major changes put in the context of the political, legal, financial and cultural conditions of the collections.

COURAGE will prepare a set of recommendations for policy makers addressing crucial questions pertaining to the future of the collections. The recommendations will suggest potential uses of the heritage of cultural opposition—in particular, an exhibition in the House of European History.


COURAGE means research.

Research activities will bring the top experts of the former cultural opposition together to produce high quality and relevant knowledge in the form of an innovative, abundantly detailed handbook.

The goal of the handbook is to create, for researchers and stakeholders of the collections, a set of analyses that compare the genesis, institutional framing and social uses of the collections on cultural opposition in the former socialist countries.

Education (Curriculum)

COURAGE means education.

The online education material will bring to light the hidden and lesser known cultural life of the former socialist countries and will facilitate teaching and learning about the period.

COURAGE will develop online teaching material (a curriculum) for students and teachers that can be used effectively in various contexts. COURAGE will connect the opposition movements’ values and history to personal milieus, locations and social groups. It will link these to the families and social histories of contemporary youth.


COURAGE means know-how.

Training days will provide opportunities for new network developments among stakeholders of the collections, experts and scholars; training days will also give them the opportunity to learn about the uses of COURAGE registry.

This training will provide

  • information and advice on how to use the COURAGE register
  • how to use the collections in a more effective way for pedagogical purposes,
  • how the stakeholders of the collections can represent their collections more effectively with the assistance of international and national cultural and scientific funds and through international exhibitions.

Film festival

COURAGE means care.

The documentary festivals will be events in which visual experience brings contemporary youth culture together with experts and former dissidents. We encourage younger generations to care about the past, and to realize that cultural opposition matters.

COURAGE will organize a series of thematic documentary film festivals and connected round-tables about cultural opposition in the former socialist countries. These documentary festivals will be held in Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Bucharest. The festivals will also promote the collections of cultural opposition by including guest speakers who will be invited to comment upon how their holdings relate to the themes of the films.




COURAGE presented in Brussels at the conference Understanding Europe – Promoting the European Public and Cultural Space

2016.10.12. 14:25

17 October 2016, Brussels The conference Understanding Europe – Promoting the European Public and Cultural Space addresses the key issues […]


Target Groups

The primary target group of COURAGE is the professional staff and stakeholders of the collections.
Collections Policy Training days

COURAGE will strengthen their standing by making the collections readily accessible to the wider national and international public. The second target group is the global community of academics and teachers.
Collections Policy Research

For them, the online database will serve both as an instructional tool and as a gateway for further research. The third target group includes policy makers at the local and national levels, and the European Commission and other European institutions.
Collections Policy

COURAGE will produce a set of policy recommendations concerning the use of collections for research and education. The fourth target group is the young generation (school classes, students, young professionals).
Exhibition Education Film festival

Through attractive audio-visual tools, interactive activities and contemporary social media, COURAGE will transform the values and legacy of cultural opposition into a personal experience for them.