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Cultural opposition in the former socialist countries


Specific challenge: Numerous documents and objects in various collections testify to the rich variation of independent cultural movements and activities against the regimes in the former socialist countries in Europe. These documents of an era, which shaped - and still influences - the attitude of several generations of today’s EU citizens towards their political and social participation, understanding of the new democratic reality and formulation of the new societal identity, are however widely dispersed and fragmented and as such often unknown to or neglected by the general public.

Scope: The comparative research will firstly examine various types of collections witnessing the widest possible spectrum of the cultural opposition movements and activities in former socialist countries – today’s and potential future Member States of the EU and in exile, supporting these cultural movements. It should analyse to what extent and how the documents/objects in these collections - be it various types of independent literature or documents witnessing opposition expressed through visual or performing arts, religious and other activities - are known and used for informing EU citizens, and especially the young people of the EU, on the anti-communist past. In order to fulfil this task, the collections in various countries should be identified and their electronic register created. The register should provide a standardized, researchable and reusable dataset and tools should be developed to explore it. Historical circumstances influencing the creation of documents/objects they contain should be clarified and various types and features of those objects should be analysed.

Secondly, various types of the country-specific cultural opposition movements in the former socialist countries and in exile should be analysed and ways how their activities reflected diverse alternatives to the oppressive communist regime should be investigated. Finally, the question whether, to what extent and how such movements contributed to the fall of socialist regimes and to the creation of the modern diverse societies, should be addressed. To support this investigation, the archives of the secret police and other oppression bodies of the socialist state could also be explored in order to understand the position of the communist regime vis-à-vis the outputs of the researched cultural opposition movements.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1.5 and 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: The research will have multiple impacts. Firstly, the developed register of these collections will contribute to their better promotion as an important testimony to anti-communist opposition in Europe and will foster cooperation among institutions holding them. The tools developed to explore it will serve to enhance the quality of research and facilitate the innovative exploitation of the documents/objects it contains in education and cultural heritage sectors.

Secondly, a set of recommendations based on such research findings will propose methods for a preservation of these, future cultural heritage, objects and will give guidance on the role of the European Union in this respect. The findings from the analysis of country-specific anti-communist cultural movements will, among others, be of use for pedagogical processes. Finally, the guidance on how the collections and the results of the analytical part of the research should be used will focus on raising awareness and preserving memories in the EU on lessons learned from the socialist past of today’s and potential future EU members.

Type of action: Research and innovation actions