CfP 7th Annual Postgraduate Conference on Central and Eastern

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CfP 7th Annual Postgraduate Conference on Central and Eastern

    The commemorated and the excluded: the reshaped pantheons in eastern Europe,


     Nikolai Vukov

     Assistant Professor, Dr., Institute for Folklore, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

     Academic Fellow, Department of Anthropology, New Bulgarian University


     Soon after the establishment of the communist power in eastern Europe after 1945, the ruling ideologies manifested an outlined attention to remember their „special‟ dead, to revive them

    through commemorative acts, and to sustain their vitality. Historiographic and propaganda materials, visual representations in monuments and memorial sites, commemorative ceremonies, and political rituals all abounded with explicit reminders that heroes had to receive veneration and eternal remembrance. Related to a wide network of activities (celebrations and mourning rituals, memorial sites, and interment in ossuaries, etc.), commemorations legitimised the right of the ideology‟s special personalities to stay permanently „alive‟ and „vital‟ and sustained the narratives

    of their „eternal presence.Playing a central role in construing the notions of collective

    remembrance after 1945, they challenged the previous patterns of commemorating the dead (most notably, the religious and traditional folk rituals), and introduced a novel discourse on death one

    rooted in an acclaimed atheistic doctrine and in the specific functions of memory that marked the post-war experience.

     The contours of the political commemorations and of their uses by the ruling ideologies in eastern 1Europe were set out already in the first years after the end of World War II and were laid firm with the ultimate success of the communist parties to usurp power and to form post-war communist governments. The mourning meetings dedicated to antifascist resistance fighters, the wave of monument construction in honour of the Red army, the unveiling of numerous brotherly mounds and memorial signs in the late 1940s and 1950s all they contributed to outlining the collective

    body of the sacred dead, whom the communist societies would venerate for decades afterwards. The selection of new figures appropriate for commemoration introduced particular lines of selection to the communist pantheons and configured new approaches to ensuring or refusing public remembrance. The aim of the current article is to reflect on the principles of inclusion and 2exclusion applied in the formation of the post-war pantheons after 1945 in eastern Europe, to

    address the means of approaching the dead in public commemorations, and to trace how this influenced memory preservation and public life in that period. Grounded in the notions of exclusion and inclusion provided by the history and anthropology of death, the article will view these notions as reflecting on the establishment of political legitimacy, and as conditioning the rewriting of history in ideological mode in eastern Europe after 1945.

     To appropriately represent the methodological grounds underlying the current text, two presuppositions need to be emphasised. Firstly, although the faces of communism in the different countries of the region were varied, they can still be regarded as falling into a common pattern, at least until the mid-1950s. The first decade after 1945 revealed a high level of similarity and unity in the structure of the public sphere and commemorative patterns in all countries of eastern Europe. While before the World War II and after the mid-1950s variations in the pattern had crucial significance in these countries‟ political affiliation into the communist bloc, their similarities and

    unity were what prevailed in the first post-war decade. They did not differ much in the choice of what to commemorate and how to commemorate, and they followed parallel lines of inclusion and exclusion in their public pantheons (e.g. Voukov 2002). As Krystyna Kersten notes, if one looks at


    these countries from the perspective of the year 1950, by which time all of them were securely fitted into the “camp” of people‟s democracies, … one would never guess how much of these

    countries‟ internal developments had differed throughout the decade prior to consolidation of Communist rule(Kersten 1991: x). Before their falling within the communist bloc, their wartime histories greatly varied - some were in the Axis camp, some with the Allies; some were occupied, some not, some experienced multiple occupations; some were dismembered, some had their territory expanded. Despite the differences in their pre-1945 roles and identities, after the war they were all on the side of the victors in the war against fascism, and were celebrating their „liberation‟ by the Red army. While before 1945 the map of eastern Europe followed lines of distinction and particularity, after the war it was largely marked by the unity of political identities they had embraced and by the established coherence of the historical narratives.

     Specificities did exist however, and they were linked to the experience that each of these countries had before and during the war: whether the lines of their policies followed collaboration or opposition to fascism, whether they were „victorious‟ or „defeated‟ at the end of the war, whether they had strong antifascist resistance or rather depended for their „liberation‟ exclusively on the 3Soviet army. However, all the various distinguishing markers were actively opposed by the communist propaganda and the consideration of the unifying framework under the spell of the

    communist ideas and within the patronizing glance of the Soviet Union were brought to attention.

    The latter became especially deepened after the Stalin-Tito split and the firm rejection of the distinctive national roads to communism that was embraced by all the remaining countries in the bloc already in 1947. Thus, despite the specificities that existed in the different countries and aside from the diverse launching points for public commemoration that they had after the war, it is still possible to apply a single interpretative model to the post-war pantheons in eastern Europe and to outline a general pattern of exclusion and inclusion that was followed in them all. Relying on an overarching framework across different countries from the former communist bloc, my article will view the historical experience of 1945-1956 as produced by a cross-national elaboration of techniques to structure memory and to turn the special dead into cornerstones of the ideological discourse on public life.

     The second presupposition that I raise here relates to death as an instance of „inclusion‟ and

    „exclusion‟ for the community. As anthropologists and historians have frequently emphasised,

    death attains a strong disintegrating potential, which threatens the cohesion of the social body and 4is necessarily counteracted by a set of funerary rituals and commemorative rites. To overcome this

    threat, many mortuary rituals are constituted by processes of „excluding‟ the former living into the society of the dead and „including‟ them in the world of ancestors. Mortuary practices inalterably comprise separation, transition, and new incorporation, whereby mourners undergo a path parallel 5to the journey of the soul (Hertz 1960). The process of entering the world of the dead is often seen

    as parallel to the process of entering the world of the living, and thus the exclusion of the dead from the community is logically followed by their symbolic reinstallation among the living (ibid. 79).

    The acceptance of the dead into the community of ancestors (and thus back again to the community of the living) bears crucial importance, since, if properly completed, the dead will be able to exercise patronage over the community of which they had once been part. Their acceptance also complements and transforms the world of the ancestors, putting the grounds for communal identification to changing grounds. The exclusion and inclusion of the dead (and most notably the „special‟ ones) therefore serve broad societal functions, reducing their hostility and turning them into symbolic means of attaining fertility and protection. In these symbolic procedures, the dead are revealed as able to restructure both the society of the living and of the ancestors, and as capable to


    trigger new processes of inclusion and exclusion, depending on their post-mortem affiliations (Metcalf & Huntington 1991: 83; Bloch & Parry 1982: 1-44; Seale 1998: 110).

     With an enormous role for religious systems and folklore traditions, these functions of the special dead have not lost their validity for the ideological discourse after 1945 in eastern Europe, where the processes of inclusion and exclusion operated in related terms. Who could be considered one of the special dead; who could provide an exemplary life to follow in the post-war years; whose life could be accepted as valid enough to remain in memory and to be claimed immortal these were

    questions with which the ideologies in power after 1945 were actively engaged, and they dedicated enormous energy to solving them. The reshaped pantheons after 1945 in eastern Europe were a major example of the strategies of inclusion and exclusion applied to the world of the dead in the new ideological context after the war. In the following pages, I will concentrate on who was selected to enter the post-war pantheons, and who was destined for neglect and oblivion; how were the celebrated heroes “incorporated” in the ideological discourse after 1945; and, lastly, what were the repercussions of the extensive commemoration of the special dead in the first post-war decade.

     The included and the excluded in post-war eastern Europe

     The logic of inclusion and exclusion was especially well-outlined in the very selection of those who would be worthy of commemoration. In all the countries of eastern Europe after 1945, the pantheons had sharply drawn contours and clearly identified special members the soldiers of the Red army, the emblematic figures of the regime, the partisans and antifascists.At least for the first

    decade after 1945, the main focus of public commemoration among them fell upon the Soviet soldiers. Appeals to eternalise their memory were addressed to all the countries of eastern Europe, committees for finding their graves and arranging their remains in special graveyards were 6established, and numerous monuments were created. The creation of monuments to the Red army took precedence over any other war memorial, and within a decade was the primary focus of 7monument-building activity in the countries under Soviet domination. As Anders Aman has

    pointed out, in the 1950s, in East Germany there were already about 200 such monuments, and in Poland more than 300 (Aman 1992: 37). By the end of the 1940s memorial references and monuments-ossuaries to Soviet soldiers were built in most cities in Bulgaria, where the Soviet 8army had passed, and in the early 1950s grand monuments appeared in all major towns. In

    Romania, a wave of obelisks with the communist star upon was built in all larger towns and villages with an overt interntion to show loyalty to the new political power (e.g. Bucur 2004: 173). Most of them occupied central places on the maps and showed the intentions of the new authorities to shape historical memory through the appropriation of public space (e.g. Fowkes 2002; Reid &

    Crowley 2002). Heralded by the war memorials raised at the sites of the peaks of Soviet military activity in the end of the war (Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Kaliningrad, etc.), they marked the area liberated by the Soviets and symbolically claimed that territory as part of the Soviet zone of influence (e.g Fowkes 2004).

     The most outstanding monuments were logically built in the capitals and served as major manifestations of the newly established rule. The most representative monuments of the kind in Budapest for example was the Liberation monument at the top of Gellért hill. Inaugurated on 4 April 1947, it represented a female statue with a palm leaf, guarded by a Soviet soldier and with figures symbolizing progress and destruction. At the background of the post-war regarding of Hungary as a defeated enemy nation, the monument and its dominating role above Budapest served as an ostensible reminder of the Soviet victory (Fowkes 2002: 71). In Bucharest, the grandest monument to the Red army was a large statue situated on a tall square column inaugurated in 1947 at a major crossroad in the center of Bucharest and was a (e.g. Bucur 2004: 173). Well until its


    replacement in Ceausescu times to the edge of Bucharest, the monument served as a focal point for ideological activities and was an important site for public ceremonies, manifestations on major holidays, and communist countries delegations. As for the Bulgarian capital, the idea of raising a monument to the Soviet army was officially addressed in November 1947, and after a nation-wide 9fund raising campaign the construction began. The official unveiling of the monument in the thcenter of the city took place on the 10 anniversary of the Socialist revolution in Bulgaria (9 10September 1954) in the presence of chief party activists and a delegation from the Soviet Union.

    The monument represented a large memorial complex, which included a central sculpture composition of Soviet and Bulgarian fighters, and a large pedestal depicting scenes of the war struggles and the post-war support of the Soviet Union.

     Raised before any other permanent symbols of the new order existed, from today‟s perspective all

    these various memorial examples can be considered as victory monuments in the lands of the

    conquered (Aman 1992: 23). Following the primary purpose of honouring the wartime fallen, they were swiftly included within the glorification of the Soviet Union as a liberator and protector, and were turned into embodiments of the newly established order. At the background of the post-war occupation of East European countries, these monuments served as overt demonstrations of the established Soviet control of the conquered territory (Fowkes, 2002: 71; Blomqvist & Arvidson 1987) and the post-war “resurrection” under the Soviet patronage. Memorial sites and

    commemorations around them sought to convey the message of the „supreme goals‟ which the 11Soviet Union served (Syvetskata armia 1954: 3) and were thought to be a reflection of the Soviet

    state‟s power and its all-defeating ideology. They asserted the historical fate of the Soviet Union „as a protector of the great deed of the October revolution, as a saviour of mankind and human

    civilisation and a guardian of world peace‟ (ibid. 3).

     The propaganda meaning of these messages soon became especially explicit however with the

    gradual exhaustion of the commemorative attention to the war dead in the mid-1950s and with the gaining of a more overt understanding of what these monuments actually conveyed. The riots and uprisings against the communist rule in the 1950s, the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and its bloody suppression, the unconcealed emphases on the unbreakable political and military union of the countries in the communist bloc unavoidably turned these monuments into posts of foreign rule

    and evoked meanings that were different from solely the commemorative ones. Monuments to the Soviet army continued to be unveiled over the following several decades, but only occasionally, and this practice did not persist in any east European country except Bulgaria. In Yugoslavia the strong local tradition of partisan movement during the war and, especially the split from the communist bloc in 1948 prevented the raising of monuments of glory to the Soviet army. In East Germany, Poland, and Hungary after the mid-1950s (and in Czechoslovakia after the late 1960s), it was also impossible to raise new ones due to the implied meanings of occupation and military interference. Although solemn ceremonies around those sites on May 9 and on other holidays of the communist calendar unavoidably took place until the late 1990s, it was namely in the first post-war decade when the pattern of inclusion, as manifested in the Red army memorial ensembles, delivered to these special dead the central and most conspicuous place in the public pantheons.

     Emblematic figures of socialist ideology (founders of Marxism, prominent figures in the socialist movement, socialist leaders, etc.) were another focus of attention and celebration in the first post-war decade. In all countries of eastern European the tightened command over the public space was expressed by a wave of monuments to Lenin and Stalin, Marx and Engels, to communist 12tribunes, etc. Those who had once predicted the victory of socialist ideas with the successful establishment of the communist states would have their triumph signalled by the artistic representations of their images in town centres and squares, and a firm „presence‟ in public


    meetings, rituals and celebrations. The founders of the socialist ideology, the fathers of the socialist movement, and the leaders were „estranged‟ from death. Those figures entered the eternal present

    not through their deaths, but through the lives they „sacrificed‟ in the service of the people. Their portraits gained overpowering use at public meetings and holiday manifestations, and many schools, enterprises and factories were named after them and functioned under „their aegis.‟

     Expectedly, the peak of public veneration was directed to the communist leaders and to the most special among them, Stalin. Taking impetus from the celebration of his seventieth birthday in 1949, numerous grand monuments, mass-produced busts, and iconic portraits of Stalin appeared in all the countries of the bloc (Fowkes, 2002: 73). The largest of them were specially prepared as presents for the leader‟s birthday and turned emblematic for the period. Probably the best known among

    them was the monument to Stalin in Budapest, inaugurated in 1951, representing Stalin‟s bronze

    figure upon a large granite plinth with a richly decorated frieze. In similarity to all the other monuments of this type in other locations, it was a focal point for manifestations and mass celebrations, and turned into the symbol of the communist rule at the time. In the Hungarian 13revolution of 1956the monument in Budapest became a target of iconoclastic energies, to be

    followed (though with less pomp) by many other Stalin statues that were destroyed or replace across the region in the years of destalinization,

     Similar (though with enhanced mourning overtones) was the importance attributed to wartime partisans and antifascists, who, although hardly comparable to Red army soldiers or socialist leaders, had a significant share in post-war commemorations. Although it varied depending on the scale of antifascist resistance in the respective countries, preserving the memory of the dead in the partisan and antifascist movements was an impetus in all of them after 1945. Having enormous legitimating power for the communist rule, the commemoration of the dead in the resistance held a firm place in the post-war public meetings and manifestations, and was a regular refrain in the political trials against collaborators to fascism. In all of these countries, state commissions were created for the burial of the dead, and a proper remembrance of the fallen antifascists was of primary issue. The commemorative ceremonies were customarily accompanied with artistic and museum exhibitions, or by raising memorial signs to the dead. As a Bulgarian art historian remarked about such signs, their purpose was “those who remained alive, not to permit the return

    of the past and to guard the socialist motherland” (Mavrodinov 1955: 46). In similarity to the

    practices around monuments of the Soviet army in the first years after 1945, the antifascist monuments of the period relied strongly on the references to mortal remains and on their 14interpretation as a valuable sacrifice for the communist victory.

     The lines of excessive commemoration dedicated to these several groups of specially selected dead were paralleled by processes of systematic forgetting. While the death of the regime‟s heroes

    was honoured and commemorated, the discussion of other less acceptable forms of loss was silenced. The excess of memory about those who were outlined as heroes (antifascist fighters, partisans, and Soviet soldiers) minimized the references to other cases of death that occurred in the course of the war. The soldiers who died in action on the Soviet front or in camps as prisoners of wars during World War II; the death of those who fought against the Soviet army, of those whose perishing was not a truly „heroic‟ one – were all wrapped in silence. In addition to that, the terror of the post-war establishment of new power and the brutal treatment of the communist‟s political

    opponents were all overshadowed by the celebratory representation of victory and were symbolically „justified‟ in light of the recollection of the communist losses.

     Although here, the cases of exclusion and forgetting also varied among the different countries, the principal logic of avoiding topics, events, and personalities that were inappropriate for the ideological discourse was shared by them all. No doubt, the remembrance of all those who were


    collaborators to the fascists and who died in fight against the Soviet army was impossible in all the countries without exception. The line of exclusion, however, was extended to all those who bore affiliation with the governments that ruled before the end of the war, to those, who died without being active fighters on the „correct side‟ and those who had not declared firmly their support to the

    socialist ideas. Figures that had joined the antifascist resistance as social democrats or as representatives of parties different from the communist ones were either spared from mentioning in the post-war commemorations, or had their identities inscribed along the lines of communist affiliation. Yet, aside from the fighters, all those who suffered death or were victims of the Soviet army soldiers, had their memory about their suffering silenced. Well until the late 1990s, the public discussion about the civil victims of torture, violence, and rape, caused by Soviet soldiers, as well as about Nazi collaborators (actual and presumed), who died in concentration camps run by Soviet authorities remained a taboo (e.g. Farmer 1995; von Ancum 1995). An especially telling example

    about concealing the truth and propagating a version that contradicted all factual evidence was the massacre of the Polish officers in the Katyn forest, for whose death the Soviet Union denied 15responsibility yet until the late 1980s.

     The lines of exclusion spanned however well beyond the narrow contours of the war experience. In light of the pervasive narrative of antifascism which the regimes retained at the centre of their discourse, the general absence of heroes from national history in east European post-war pantheons can hardly be a surprise. For at least a decade after 1945, events and figures unrelated to the development and realisation of socialist ideas fell out of attention. The national history traditions that shaped the profiles of all the countries under concern in the interwar period were swiftly overrun by the wave of internationalism that the post-war ideological imperative imposed. Whether in East Germany or Bulgaria, in Romania or Poland, in Hungary or Czechoslovakia, the references to the „national history‟ bore a direct association to declaring a status of independence

    from the communist bloc. The reasons for this neglect were various, but they all had at their core a symbolic value that entered in competition with the ideals approved by the ideological discourse after 1945. The centuries-long state tradition and royal glory in some of these countries, the long-term traditions of enmity and fight with Russia, the uprisings leading to national independence, the traumatic memory of the World War I and the nationalistic overtones in the interwar period all these appeared largely inconvenient in the post-war context, where the friendship with the Soviet Union, the social rebels, and the disregard for the national identity were propagated.

     Preserving the memory of the socialists, partisans, antifascists, and Soviet soldiers expelled historical knowledge of almost all pre-socialist figures to the margins, hardly leaving opportunities even for those who might be considered „predecessors‟ to socialist ideas. In fact, it was only in late

    1960s, when figures from national history started acquiring increased public attention in most 16countries of eastern Europe, and this was due to the processes of incorporating communist 17ideology within the age-long frameworks of national history. The memory of the dead in the

    World War I was also largely displaced by the victorious narratives of the World War II experience, and the monuments which had been raised in the interwar period were paid little attention by the communist regimes. Although they were among the few monumental types inherited from the pre-communist times that were spared destruction with the transformation of memorial landscapes after 1945 (e.g. Fowkes 2002: 70), generally they remained outside the system of politically sanctioned commemorations that accompanied the other memorial sites. With the exception mostly of Romania (where due to the symbolic importance of the Great War in the national unification) the remembrance of these dead did not suffer disregard, in all the other countries there was a


    process of decreasing the symbolic attention of World War I and of subsuming its commemorative sites within the meanings conveyed by the World War II experience.

     An indicative example in this respect is the case of Neue Wache in Berlin a building, which was 18dedicated in 1931 to „those killed through war and violence, and which was transformed by the

    Nazis into a shrine celebrating the „undefeated heroes‟ of the World War I whom the Nazi

    movement claimed as their immediate ancestors. In 1945 the Soviet administration closed the hall but prevented its destruction, and in 1951 the East German government initiated its turning into the state‟s central memorial “To the victims of militarism and fascism.” As Alf Lüdtke remarks, „[i]t

    was here that the German Democratic Republic presented a symbol of its claim to be the “better part” of German history, linking the past with the glorious present and the promised future of

    socialism‟ (Lüdtke 1997: 149). Though with lesser degree, such symbolic transformations of some World War I monuments occurred in the other countries of the region as well. As many of these were small-size memorial signs in rural areas, the most frequent change involved adding the names of the antifascist resistance fighters to the list of the dead in the Great War, extending thus the communal commemoration across several decades. While at many instances crosses and other forms of religious imagery were removed from the monument bodies, listing the names of the antifascist fighters to the memorial plaques promptly required the adding of a red star upon.

     The decreased importance of the World War I commemoration was logical in light of the transformations that occurred with the institutions authorized for carrying out collective remembrance, and the ensuing disruption of the previous forms of commemoration. The abolishment of the heroes‟ cult organizations, which had a well established presence in these

    countries in the interwar period; the limitations and exclusion of the Church (whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant) and other religious organizations from public life; the suppression of the religion-related forms of commemorations and their substitution with secularized ritual expressions were all important elements that led to the marginalization of World War I memory after 1945. The disruption of the religious network of commemoration was particularly crucial, as it was namely the church, which overtook the commemoration of World War I dead and which surrounded the memory practices with religious language, imagery, and ritual expressions. As Maria Bucur points out in relation to World War I memory practices in Romania, “[t]he language

    used in the official calls for commemorative gatherings was always imbued with religious terms and concepts of Christian piety and faith” (2004: 167). War soldiers were commemorated on

    religious holidays, their graves or collective memorial signs were raised in cemeteries or in proximity to church temples, and the commemorative occasions to them were structured around the existing religious rituals, church services, and ritual processions. The dissolution of this cultural framework in line with the atheistic propaganda after 1945 posed the patterns of remembrance about the war on problematic grounds.

     In addition to this, the purges of the former military officials, the entire change of the army command in the first post-1945 years, and the substitution of the former military ceremonies by ideologized visions of political representation also had their contribution in the marginalization of the Great War theme. Communist military parades, political manifestations, and celebrations of the communist victory systematically displaced the army ceremonies, religious commemorations and the other memorial activities to World War I. Yet, the changes of the special days in the public calendar and the shift of the days set for commemorating the national heroes (from days of great battles in World War I or religious holidays of commemorating the dead to dates reminding of

    communist victories or to special figures in the communist pantheon) furthermore manifested the decreased role of the World War I dead in the heroes‟ pantheon and the general reshaping of

    heroism along the communist antifascist experience.


     The most notable missing among post-war eastern Europe‟s special dead were however the

    victims of the Holocaust, who were either spared explicit mentioning, or were subsumed within the pattern of the antifascist resistance. The latter was claimed as embodied primarily by the Communist Party and the martyrdom of its leaders, just as victory in war was the result of the exploits of the Soviet army and the Communist Party members (Young 1993: 73). In none of the countries of soviet bloc over the first post-war decade was the commemoration of the Holocaust 19attributed relevant attention. On the contrary, it was either ignored as conveying appropriate

    ideological meanings, or was rather interpreted through the prism of class related postulates. The polar nature of interpreting the special dead after the war either as fighters, or enemies made it

    impossible to ensure proper commemoration for the Holocaust victims (as well as for the other victims of mass destruction in World War II), who fell in neither of these two groups. The sole way to include them in commemorative procedures was to label them with the signs of communist 20affiliation and to shape their identity along the heroism of the socialists and antifascists. No

    surprise, then, that the memorial signs at concentration camps and sites of destruction that were raised after the war in eastern Europe either re-inscribed the Jewish identities of the victims into socialist and antifascist ones, or served as a backstage for celebrating the socialist victory over 21fascism.

     All these features of the post-war commemorative pattern testified to a peculiar relationship between memories and amnesia. On the one hand, there was a powerful and all-encompassing imperative to remember the sacrifices of the socialist heroes; on the other, there was a persistent erasure of realms of memory, which fell outside what was ideologically relevant. The marginalization of the World War I dead; the lack of mentioning about all those who fell on the side of the opponents to the Soviet regime and to the establishment of the communist rule; the silence about the Holocaust victims; the disregard about the victims of the communists themselves, etc. were no doubt logical in light of the other silences that were imposed: about the show trials of the 1940s, the execution of regimes‟ opponents, the political repressions, etc. The excessive

    commemoration of the regimes‟ special dead and the silence about other less acceptable cases of

    death revealed a firm distinction from previous historical experiences, where the dividing line between remembered and forgotten was rarely so rigid and uncompromising. While in World War 22I, for example, the pantheons were shaped by the welcoming bodies of the national state, and

     none of the dead were deprived from the right of being a hero, commemoration after World War IIwas shaped by divisions between whom to remember and whom to deprive of attention. The community of the special dead after 1945 was traversed by ruptures of ideological belonging, by 23clearly-cut classifications along ideological lines. This was a matter of a new sensitivity to the

    dead, requiring special legitimising narratives to be provided, and regulating inclusion and exclusion on the basis of sacrifice to a particular set of „immortal‟ ideas.

     Processes of inclusion, means of incorporation

     Having outlined the major groups which formed the core of the post-war pantheons in eastern Europe, several words are necessary about the processes of inclusion and the means of incorporation applied by the regimes in power. Propaganda work related to the newly-formed pantheons of the special dead began almost immediately after the war; and was enhanced especially after 1948 when communist governments were already established in all the countries of the region. The special attention to heroes received one of its first explicit formulations in the plans for the work of the so called fronts for national liberation after the war and of the first entirely communist ministries. Together with the „new revolutionary tasks‟ (strengthening and developing the socialist state, preparing the preconditions for the construction of socialist society, etc.), a


    significant part of these plans concerned preserving the memory of the fallen. This was carried out through various agitation forms (lectures, common meetings, manifestations, appeals, slogans, the use of radio and press, etc.), and in school and factory political education groups for studying Marxist-Leninist philosophy, the history of the Party and the history of the youth revolutionary movement. Parallel to these ran activities for increasing the cultural level and aesthetic education of the people, which directly addressed the topic of the socialist movement‟s heroic past. In fact, by

    the end of the 1940s, hardly any public or artistic expression was possible without drawing a direct reference to the exploits of those who sacrificed themselves for the building of the communist society.

     The process attains various implications, but they all fall generally in two main groups: the rooting out and marginalization of the previous forms of public rituals and references of commemorative occasions; and, the elaboration of an entire system of educating in the new principles and core messages that the ruling ideology imposed to the public. With respect to the first issue, the main target in all these countries was religion with its institutions, internal

    organization, clergy, educational system, social practices, etc. With varying degree, but without exception, in all the countries of the bloc the assault on religion, its institutions, and its practices was a firm distinguishing mark of the newly established socialist order. Although in none of the countries the militant atheism was as strong as in the Soviet Union, in all of them a number of the religious temples were closed, religious institutions were deprived of their property, their press activity was disrupted, and the churches‟ autonomy and freedom of action was strongly limited.

    Many of the monastic orders were dissolved, and the monks and nuns evicted from their cloisters. While public manifestations of religious faith were subject to prohibitions and persecutions, worship and the study of religion were restricted to the home or to buildings specifically intended for these purposes (e.g. Hutchins 1975: 315). Many of the major religious figures (Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague, Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary, Cardinal Wyszynski in Poland to name

    only a few), and high rank churchmen and many ordinary priests were arrested, put to humiliating trials, imprisoned or banished to provincial regions. Yet, the new appointments to ecclesiastical office required the unconditional approval of the state.

     With the exception mainly of Poland (where the assault on the church was done more slowly and cautiously), in all the other countries of the area, the rupture between church institutions and the communist states started within the first three years after 1945. In Romania in 1947, the Party admonished its members not to take a passive attitude towards religion, but to recognize it as a serious obstacle to the attainment of Communism and to „unmask‟ its true character by promoting a „scientific‟ understanding of natural and social phenomena (e.g. Hutchins 1975: 315). The State

    decided to treat the Church like the school or the labor union, all of which were enlisted in the struggle for building communism. The regime continued to condemn religion and

    „otherworldliness‟ as being out of step with the times (ibid. 316). In Bulgaria, the entire period

    from 1948 through 1952 was marked by systematic measures against the Orthodox Church, which ranged from the enactment of the Law on Religious Denominations to trials, executions and, in the case of the religious minorities, mass deportations (Pundeff 1975: 328). In Czechoslovakia, administrative organs for church and religious affairs within the system of the national committee were created. They acquired the authority to deal with both substantive and procedural matters of religious activities in the country, and this incurred not only limitations upon religious instruction, but also the merging of various parochial youth organizations into state-sponsored youth organizations (Toma & Reban 1975: 278). Furthermore, the regime introduced the movement of so-called patriotic priests propagating the idea of a synthesis of Christianity and Marxism.


     The policy of the Party towards religion at this time had a twofold aim: to separate the Church completely from the State; and to end the Church-school relationship; that is, to separate education from religion. While the former virtually eliminated any participation and initiative of the church in public affairs and posed religious institutions in the position of „non-interference‟; the latter

    abolished religious instruction in state schools, substituted it with courses in historical materialism, secularizing thus the education of youth and turning it the sole responsibility of the State. In its fight with religious practices and religious education, the ideology frequently introduced special mobilizing and propaganda tools. In East Germany for example, a Youth Dedication (Jugendweihe)

    program was created with the special purpose to serve as a secular substitute for church information. As confirmation prepares one for membership in the Church, the year of study culminated in the ceremony of Youth Dedication with the express goal of preparing the children to become activists in the new social order. The children were given a scientific and materialistic explanation of the origin of the world and the development of the process of history. It was impressed upon them that the victory of a communism was inevitable (Brand 1975: 264).

     In the stead of the systematic agenda of „rooting out‟ religious rituals, a set of „new traditions‟ and

    quasi-religious practices were implanted in the everyday of the socialist citizens. Already in the first years after 1945, secular weddings were introduced in all the communist countries of the region, and were soon followed by secular patters for all the other private and communal rituals. This was especially valid for the especially significant moments in human life such as birth, marriage, and funeral (e.g. Baum 1996; Monticone 1986), though the tendency of substituting previous calendar and family rituals by secular ones was also explicit. The intervention of the ideology in these ritual occasions was more than explicit. While the baptizing of the newly born babies, the church marriage (and even the funerary ritual in church), were criticized by Party authorities, their secular equivalents or substitutions of their religious elements with secularized 24ones were strongly encouraged. Despite the resistance and opposition of religious institutions and organizations, the imposition of the secular ritual patterns was turned into an overwhelming requirement until early 1950s and was an effective instrument for the restrictions against religion in general. In addition to this, while many of the religious holidays were disclaimed from legitimacy and were attacked by the regimes‟ anti-religious propaganda, on their days were frequently

    established professional holidays (e.g. Petrov 2003) or were organized political manifestations, so that to keep public attention on the ideological messages. More importantly, in each of the countries of the communist bloc, the main emphases in the communist calendars fell upon the dates commemorating the heroes.

     Propagating the necessity to remember the dead did not aim just at a short-term effect of artistic impression and commemorative celebration. Also of major importance was the strategy to implant the younger generation with the habits of commemorating and paying respect to the heroes. The necessity of communist education for young people and students was emphasised in the communist government‟s first appeals, and, until the end of the 1940s, campaigns to reform the education system according to the requirements of the new communist order was enforced. The emphasis was placed on integrating the youth into the new social and political system at the earliest possible age, and in relation to the regimes‟ antireligious propaganda – the materialistic world-view and an

    atheistic explanation of the social order guided this approach. In each of the countries, youth organizations were created along the pattern of the Komsomol in the Soviet Union and, recognizing the leading role of the Party, they had to apply its main policies. In relation to the Free German Youth (F.D.J.) in East Germany for example, Walter Ulbricht spoke of it as a mass organization that encompassed all freedom-loving and democratically-minded German youth‟

    (Brand 1975: 259). Party officials were instructed to impress upon the young that it was their duty


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