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.


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: http://cultural-opposition.eu/
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)


COURAGE will develop an innovative range of activities:

We create an online database

We launch a web portal to enhance the cooperative capacity of the collections

We generate online teaching material

We publish a handbook

We curate exhibitions

We organize film festivals

We train stakeholders, experts, and scholars on how to use and how to join the registry

We cooperate with projects such as…

CoHERE (Critical Heritages: Performing & Representing Identities in Europe)

DANDELION (Promoting EU funded projects of inclusive, innovative and reflective societies)

NEP4DISSENT (New Exploratory Phase in Research on East European Cultures of Dissent)

LAB1100, developers of the web-based data management, network analysis & visualisation environment Nodegoat

TRACES (Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts)

UNREST (Unsettling Remembering and Social Cohesion in Transnational Europe)

Arches (Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems)

Voices (Voices of the 20th Century Archive and Research Group)

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!


virtual exhibition:


COURAGE – Risk Factors

Exhibition opening at the Fuga Center of Architecture

1052 Budapest, Petőfi Sándor u. 5.

14 June 2018, 7 p.m.

opening speech by Zsófia Bán

the exhibition will be open from June 14th till July 15th 2018

Further stations of the traveling exhibition:

Warsaw: Reduta Banku Polskiego 25 August – 9 September

Prague: Národní památník na Vítkove 19 September – 14 October

Bratislava: Pisztory Palace 5 – 21 November

Bucharest: Sighet Memorial 28 November 2018 – 9 January 2019

Country reports

[Full PDF]

Short Version of Country Reports

Policy Brief


Ulf Brunnbauer; Anelia Kassabova: BULGARIA

Saulius Grybkauskas; Vladas Sirutavičius: THE BALTIC STATES (LITHUANIA, LATVIA, ESTONIA)

Josip Mihaljević; Teodora Shek Brnardić: CROATIA AND SLOVENIA

Miroslav Michela; Michaela Kůželová : CZECH REPUBLIC

Laura Demeter: GERMANY

Péter Apor: HUNGARY

Andrei Cusco: MOLDOVA

Barbara Tołłoczko-Suchańska: POLAND

Cristina Petrescu: ROMANIA


Magdaléna Stýblová; Vladimír Zvara: SLOVAKIA

Orysia Maria Kulick: UKRAINE


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.

COURAGE-PAREVO International Documentary Film Festival


Counterculture, Dissent and Cultural Opposition in the Former Socialist Countries in Eastern Europe

COURAGE presents a cross-Europe documentary film festival series.


Stops of the Film Festival:

Budapest, 1-2 June 2018

Prague, 30 Sept-5 Oct 2018

Warsaw, 7-9 Sept 2018

Greifswald, 16-24 Oct, 2018

Zagreb, 19-21 Oct 2018

Bratislava, 7-10 Nov 2018

Bucharest, 16-17 Nov 2018

Film screening in the building of the European Research Council in Brussels: 

A Journey to the Eastern European Underground with Award Winner Films.

Brussels, 28 January 2019




Trailer of the Film Festival:


Nenad Puhovski │ Generation ‘68 │ 2016 │ 85 min │ HRV

Homage to a generation. The creator still shares the youthful enthusiasm of his generation, and he nurtures the idea of a revolution that will change the world. A revolution that remains “realistic and demands the impossible”. The Croatian film poses the question: how did the events of the era affect ordinary lives and society, and it shows what later generations can do with this legacy.

Stephan Coates & Paul Heartfield│ Roentgenizdat│ 2017 │ 25 min │ RUS/USA

Cold War era Leningrad: Soviet Russia has declared jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and other genres of music illegal, but the people have responded. Giving blood every week to earn enough money to buy a recording machine, Rudy Fuchs began copying forbidden records to be sold on street corners by shady dealers…

Mirosław Dembiński│ Orange Alternative│ 1988 │ 22 min │ POL

In 1982, graffiti images of orange dwarfs appeared on the walls of buildings in Wrocław. They “migrated” to other cities too. These dwarfs emerged as the symbol of the countercultural formation “Pomar Alternativa” (Orange Alternative).

Miroslav Janek │ Olga │ 2014 │ 84 min │ CZE

The police couldn’t break her, the castle didn’t change her: the remarkable story of Václav Havel’s reluctant first lady. Olga was a key intellectual in the 1950s and 1960s, who read his husband’s texts with a critical eye, and supported him in the hardest times. The documentary sheds light on the era in which Olga lived and on Olga herself presenting her highly original thoughts and memorable way of speaking.

Mária Takács │ Hot Men Cold Dictatorships │ 2015 │ 88 min │ HUN

What was it like to be a gay man before the regime change? Where and how could one get to know others? Were gay men kept under surveillance by the system? How did groups of friends develop in the decades? How did the regime change usher in change, and how did gay movement rise in Hungary? To find answers to thee questions, four young gay men hit the road.

Nenad Milošević│ The Other Line│ 2016 │ 108 min │ SRB

Why were the most creative and progressive artists in Yugoslavia silenced? Why are they still silenced today? The answers presented in this film are the results of ten years of hard work. They show us the exceptional avant-garde art scene of Novi Sad (concept art, experimental music, poetry) which emerged during the late 1960s and 1970s as a cultural melting pot of innovative Yugoslav nonconformist culture.

Ellin Hare│ From Us to Me: Life in East Germany Then and Now│ 2016 │ 87 min │ UK

In 1987, a British film crew gained unprecedented access and was able to film everyday life inside the GDR – but only the side of life that the state let them see. 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall the crew returned to the places and people they had visited at the time to see how their lives have changed and how they recall the “workers’ paradise”.

Keith Jones│ Vinyl Generation│ 2016 │ 72 min │ CZE/USA

In 1980s communist Czechoslovakia an emerging generation took inspiration from alternative culture, including punk rock and the neo-avantgarde, to create their own worldview, politics, and, eventually, a revolution leading to regime change. 25 years later, this unique generational perspective, more relevant than ever, is explored for the first time.

Slavomír Zrebný│Footprints in the Snow│ 2015 │ 53 min │ SVK/CZE

Harmless tourists or enemies of the system? The documentary is an exciting inquiry into how forbidden literature was smuggled to Czechoslovakia under the communist dictatorship. Why did people put their own freedom at risk in order to help preserve the inner freedom of others?

Ekaterina Minkova│ Next Stop: Odeon Cinema│ 2015 │ 69 min │ BGR

Sofia, Odeon Cinema: a legendary place. The city’s only archive cinema opened in 1961. Who were the guests of Odeon over the course of its existence? How did film censorship work under communism? The documentary opens a window to the Bulgarian urban culture of the past six decades.

Eszter Turán & Anna Koltay│ BP Underground│ 2017 │ 52 min │ HUN

Budapest around 1989: concerts in stuffy basements and ruined “houses of culture” filled with sweaty youngsters in search of meaning in their lives. This film recalls the golden age of the Hungarian hardcore/punk subculture, and it asks what happened to this culture. How did the scene affect society, and what role did Budapest play in the history of punk? Which were the best bands, clothing shops, cultic pubs? What ideas did this environment creat and how have these ideas shaped thinking in Hungary up to the present day?

Andrzej Wolski│ Józef Czapski: Witness of the Century, 1896-1993│ 2016 │ 58 min │ POL

Painter and writer Józef Czapski was a towering figure of Polish exile. Once a follower of Cézanne, he witnessed the Russian Revolution, fought for the Polish case, was taken as a POW, and lived in post-war Paris, where he edited the most significant Polish émigré journal, Kultura. Take a journey through European history by learning about his extraordinary life.

Ilinca Calugareanu│ Chuck Norris vs Communism│ 2015 │ 80 min │ ROM/UK

The illegal importation of American action and religious films on VHS cassettes was a common practice in Romania during the Ceaușescu era. Since there was no official dubding, all the actors had the same voice. The most famous voice of these dubbed films was Irina Margareta Nistor, who was the voice in Romanian of an array of American stars. This film recreates the epoch’s depressing and, at the same time, sweet-and-sour atmosphere.

Rossen Elezov│ Colors of the Voice│ 2015 │ 88 min │ BGR

A polyphonic sound captivates listeners. But what if an acappella choral performance is the work of a single person – the great jazz singer Yildiz Ibrahimova? Through the dramatic twist and turns of her life and music, we see shocking footage of the expulsion of the Bulgarian Turks across the border and the tragedy of their ruined lives.

Giedre Zickyte│ Master and Tatyana│ 2015 │ 78 min │ LIT

A story about a rebellious genius of photography, Vitas Luckus, and his passionate love for Tatyana Luckiene. Vitas was an extremely colourful personality: he kept a live lion in his apartment and he was among the first to document the flawed realities of the Soviet Union. A story about love and infidelity, freedom and conformity, hope and frustration, lies and the search for truth.





Exhibition opening: Risk factors, MTA TK, 27 September 2019., 2pm

2019.09.16. 11:42

Under the title “Risk factors” new COURAGE exhibition will open at the MTA TK (MTA TK, 27 September 2019, 2 […]


UNEARTHING THE MUSIC – Sound and Creative Experimentation in non-democratic countries

2019.09.10. 14:02

  UNEARTHING THE MUSIC is a follow-up program of COURAGE and as collaborative project, it unites five organizations from five […]


COURAGE Film screenings and discussions in Brussels

2019.02.01. 00:38

Film screenings and discussions were held in the building of the European Research Council in Brussels on 28 January 2019. […]


COURAGE on Euronews

2019.01.22. 00:33

A short documentary on the COURAGE project was shot by Euronews. The documentary about the project has been broadcast in […]


Book launch of The Handbook of COURAGE in Bucharest

2019.01.18. 00:38

The Handbook of COURAGE was presented (The Handbook of COURAGE: Cultural Opposition and Its Heritage in Eastern Europe) by Cristina […]


Target Groups

The primary target group of COURAGE is the professional staff and stakeholders of the collections. COURAGE will strengthen their standing by making the collections readily accessible to the wider national and international public.

Collections Policy Training days

The second target group is the global community of academics and teachers. For them, the online database will serve both as an instructional tool and as a gateway for further research.

Collections Policy Research

The third target group includes policy makers at the local and national levels, and the European Commission and other European institutions. COURAGE will produce a set of policy recommendations concerning the use of collections for research and education.

Collections Policy

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.


You can contact us