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Cultural Memory of Dissent

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This module serves to introduce the key concepts, methods and means by which the culture of dissent is remembered and understood in Eastern Europe. Concepts like cultural opposition and non-activist opposition, non-conformism, underground, counterculture, or the grey zone will be discussed in class on a comparative basis. The module offers chances to discover the main patterns of memory politics with regard the communist past: how official policies have typically treated state socialism and its opposition from the period after the regime change up until today, when illiberal authoritarianism is on the rise again. Students will also get acquainted with the most significant private and state institutions, museums and archives that shape commemoration practices in the various countries of the region.




  • Skultans, V. (Ed.). (2007). Arguing with the KGB Archives: Archival and Narrative Memory in Post-Soviet Latvia. In Empathy and Healing (NED-New edition, 1, pp. 224–243). Berghahn Books.
  • Hron, M. (2007). The Czech Émigré Experience of Return after 1989. The Slavonic and East European Review, 85(1), 47–78.
  • Falk, B. J. (2008). Learning from History: Why We Need Dissent and Dissidents. International Journal, 64(1), 243–253.
  • Kopecek, M., & Wcislik, P. (2015). Thinking through transition : liberal democracy, authoritarian pasts, and intellectual history in East Central Europe after 1989 (5th floor / History 942./055 KOP). Budapest : Central European University Press, 2015.
  • Sarkisova, O., & Apor, P. (2013). Past for the Eyes : East European Representations of Communism in Cinema and Museums after 1989. Central European University Press.
  • Kopeček, M., & Wciślik, P. (Eds.). (2015). Thinking Through Transition (NED-New edition, 1). Central European University Press.
  • Wachtel, A. (2003). Writers and Society in Eastern Europe, 1989-2000: The End of the Golden Age. East European Politics & Societies, 17(4), 583–621.
  • Feinberg, J. G. (2008). The Unfinished Story of Central European Dissidence. Telos, 145, 47–66. a9h.
  • Petrescu, C. (n.d.). The Afterlife of the Securitate: On Moral Correctness in Postcommunist Romania. Dimou, Todorova, and Troebst, 385–416.
  • Petrescu, C., & Petrescu, D. (2009). Retribution, remembering, representation: on Romania’s incomplete break with the communist past. na.

Featured Items from COURAGE Registry (selection)

Related Collections from COURAGE Registry (selection)

Further Sources


In-class or short-term assignments
1) Browse through the list of events under "Further Sources", follow the links, and choose at least two events from the post-socialist which portray the cultural opposition during the socialist era. What perspectives and narratives about the cultural opposition are evident in the curation of these events? Do they change noticeably at different points (1999 vs 2009) or in different countries? Who is organizing these events and what is their goal in doing so?

2) Consider the practice of conducting an interview with members of the cultural opposition from the state socialist era. What obstacles would you see in carrying out this interview. If you have the language ability to watch any of the interviews in the COURAGE collection, observe how the interviewer guides the interviewee, how the questions are shaping the narrative, and any moments of discomfort of awkwardness during the interview/oral history. What accounts for these choices? What did you learn from the interview? What more would you have liked to learn?
Offsite, longer-term assignments
Oral History project: identify at least one member of a cultural opposition movement (either in Eastern Europe or closer to home) who would be willing to sit for an interview about his or her activities during the 1950s-1980s. After watching a few interviews in the COURAGE registry (or other sources that are appropriate), think about how you would like to shape your interview, what questions you would ask, and how you will establish a basic level of trust with your interviewee. Working closely with your instructor, contact the interviewee, request permission and consent to use the interview for educational purposes, and then carry out the interview. In addition to concrete information that you will gain from the interview, pay attention to the challenges and rewards of talking to someone about this period, and how this reflects on the larger practice of preserving and shaping cultural memory of dissent.


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