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COURAGE Report Summary

Project ID: 692919
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COURAGE (Cultural Opposition: Understanding the Cultural Heritage of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2017-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Many historical documents and objects testify to cultural movements and forms of dissent against communism in Europe. Arguably, some of these movements contributed to the fall of socialist regimes in Europe. But the collections in which the documents and objects created as part of these movements are scattered and largely unfamiliar to the wider public.
The EU-funded COURAGE project is compiling information on as many of the collections of the artefacts of the cultural resistance movements and initiatives as possible in an online registry and database. The database will be both user-friendly and searchable.
The collections contain artefacts from an array of initiatives that were in some form hostile to or questioning of the ideology of the regimes, including (but not limited to) non-conformist avant-garde art; anti-establishment religious movements; civic initiatives for unofficial education and publication; underground punk and rock bands; and novel spiritual practices.
The works will be analysed in their broader social, political, and cultural contexts by the project consortium, who will create country-specific reports, online curricula and digital educational content, and a set of recommendations on how to exhibit artefacts from cultural opposition movements in former socialist countries.
COURAGE will disseminate information about the online collection through initiatives such as a documentary film festival, travelling and online exhibitions, and local media events in the former socialist countries of Europe.
The project outcomes will help shed light on the transition of the cultural opposition movements from dissent to mainstream, and they will highlight positive aspects of these movements, such as their emphasis on democratic participation, autonomy, and cultural plurality.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In the first period of the project (February 1, 2016 - January 31, 2017), Courage produced a functioning Online Registry based on pilot studies in ten countries. The Registry is a systematic database of information on collections. The information has been divided into six categories. The analytical data in these categories provide answers to the research questions and provide other WPs with research data to be used in the subsequent phases of the project.
The project created an initial list of collections both in Eastern Europe and in diaspora communities abroad. These collections, which represent a variety of cultural opposition movements, enable us to identify different categories of collections and historical agents in each of the target countries. This list is a living document, and researchers can select from the collections to be studied.
Courage researchers have described and entered the data concerning a first set of 139 representative collections in the Registry, which illustrate the history and social roles of cultural opposition in sixteen Eastern European countries. This body of data, which constitutes the first item of contents in the Registry, provides insight into the types and composition of collections, thereby representing the ways in which the heritage of cultural opposition has been preserved.
The Action raised awareness of the project, both among specialists in the field (through organised workshops and presentations at conferences) and among the general public (via the project website, which is available in 13 languages, social media sites and groups, and the press). By reaching out to an array of diverse audiences, Courage is fostering interest in and the visibility of the values of cultural opposition, including civic autonomy and independent criticism.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

COURAGE launched the first digital database on the collections on cultural opposition in the former socialist countries. The 139 collections in the registry (the descriptions of which are underway) call attention to the importance of the comparative study of cultural dissent in Eastern Europe. While debates over the roles of opposition movements, the persecution of these movements by the communist authorities, and the nature of state oppression in general have fascinated both post-communist societies and the wider world, it is surprising how little has been written both on the nature of the forms of cultural dissent during the communist-era and the processes through which post-communist societies have sought to make sense of what opposition and resistance were and how they should be understood in the present. The launch of the Courage registry creates new perspectives from which and new resources with which to study the material of these collections as problematic sources, which do not simply “reveal” the truth of the past. The material which the registry will make accessible helps distance audiences (and historical scholarship) from the “investigative” narrative mode (which rests on the renascence of the totalitarian paradigm) and create new, firmly established scientific frameworks for historical analyses.
To complete the registry, in later phases of the project Courage will create a handbook, develop education material, hold an online exhibition, and offer policy recommendations. In doing so, we will demonstrate, through case studies of individual collections, movements, and works-of-art, how these documents can be used to produce more subtle social and cultural histories of the socialist dictatorships. By covering an array of categories of cultural opposition and widely divergent social milieus across East Central Europe, this project will provide a comparative account of cultural dissent with a range hitherto unavailable.
Thus, this project will go well beyond the current state of affairs. So far, the heritage of cultural opposition is not a subject of international discussion or even inquiry. Courage will change this situation fundamentally by the end of the project period. The project will reframe cultural opposition as an international issue in at least three ways:
· it will make the heritage of cultural opposition in the former socialist countries part of pan-European public culture;
· it will foster cooperation among the individual collections and create an international chain of collections to enhance the autonomy of the collections;
it will create new ways in which to appropriate and research the records of the cultural opposition.
The project will have a long-term sustainable social impact. The registry will remain on the webpage dedicated to it, and parts of the registry will be published as Linked Open Data, enabling third party use and text mining. This Linked Data will be downloadable from the project portal, making the preservation of the results even more robust. The online exhibition will be available on the portal of COURAGE and will be integrated into the permanent portal of the MTA BTK too, both in order to ensure backup and to attract additional, potentially interested audiences. The curators’ mission for the offline exhibition is to integrate it into the collections of one or more permanent museums. The curricula and all of the educational material will be available on the project partners’ websites (in addition to the courage website) and will be advertised widely among interested groups all over Europe.

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