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Underground Education

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Universities in Eastern Europe under Communism had to conform to official ideologies, and the level of relative independence they gained were subject to a wide array of factors. This could range from their geographic location and their political stance, to the status and lobbying potential of the rectors, deans and department heads at a given moment. There were certain themes, approaches and, at times, entire disciplines that were totally outcast from official education. Intellectuals, then, turned to other means to continue discussion and spread knowledge on taboo themes. Underground education has a long history in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland. Such practices were revived and contributed to the emergence of a "second public sphere." This module lets students to get an insight into this less explored territory of the history of dissidence and education.


  • Bacevic, J. (2014). Vocationalizing Education: Conflict, Cohesion, and Dissent in Socialist Yugoslavia. In From Class to Identity: The Politics of Education Reforms in Former Yugoslavia (NED-New edition, 1, pp. 27–78). Central European University Press. Retrieved from
  • Øyen, Ø. (1995). Like the Phoenix from Its Ashes: The Inter‐University Centre of Dubrovnik. Higher Education in Europe, 20(3), 138–142.
  • Shore, M. (2012). “A Spectre is Haunting Europe…”: In B. C. Iacob (Ed.), The End and the Beginning (NED-New edition, 1, pp. 465–494). Central European University Press. Retrieved from
  • de Weydenthal, J. B. (1974). Academic Dissent as a Catalyst for Political Crisis in a Communist System. The Polish Review, 19(1), 17–40. Retrieved from

Related Collections from COURAGE Registry (selection)


In-class or short-term assignments
1) Based on the COURAGE Registry and any other source identify a few environments where alternative forms of education took place. Were these groups and circles isolated, or were there contacts between them? If there were no, why was that, and if there were, what kind of contacts were these?

2) What do you think what were the main risks of organizing a flying university under Communism?
Offsite, longer-term assignments
1) Identify as many lecturers at the fora of alternative education in Eastern Europe as you can by using all available sources. Sketch their short biographies. What this tells about their age, social composition, later career? Work in groups! 


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