Three Views of Dissent: Discourses on Politics, Society, and History in the Czech, Slovak, and East German Dissident Movements in the 1970s and 1980s Cover Image

Disent v trojí perspektivě. Diskurzy o politice, společnosti a dějinách v českém, slovenském a východoněmeckém disentu v 70. a 80. letech
Three Views of Dissent: Discourses on Politics, Society, and History in the Czech, Slovak, and East German Dissident Movements in the 1970s and 1980s

Author(s): Jan Pauer
Subject(s): History
Published by: Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR

Summary/Abstract: In this article the author has undertaken a summarizing comparison of dissidents and dissent in Czechoslovakia and East Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, pointing out their similarities and differences, which he endeavours to explain. He points out the asymmetry of the cases he compares, which stems from the nature and scope of the source material, the current state of historical research, and the results that have been achieved, as well as the terminology used. He also offers a more precise definition of dissent and dissidents, which he then employs. He also reminds his reader how dissent and dissidents in the Bohemian Lands, which arose after the defeat of the 1968 Prague Spring reform movement, separated into Reform- -Communist, Christian, liberal, cultural, and sub-culture branches. This pluralism was linked together by the establishment of an umbrella organization, Charter 77, eventually also developing into other groups (občanské iniciativy) of Czechoslovak citizens seeking to act independently of Party and State control. In Slovakia, where Charter 77 never really took root, dissent was expressed in religious, national, and, from the mid-1980s, environmentalist terms. In East Germany in the 1970s, voices of Marxist dissent were sporadically heard and the socialist orientation was also particular to the independent alternative movements (Bürgerinitiative) that emerged in the 1980s and developed as a peace movement in the Protestant Church. East German dissent and dissidents, unlike Czech and Slovak, were characterized by some generational and ideological homogeneity. They did not have at their disposal internationally recognized intellectual authorities who would symbolize civil protest. And they lacked a programme that would help them to put down roots. They derived their legitimacy from the rhetoric of antimilitarism rather than from human-rights discourse. Of key importance to the different nature of the dissident movement in East Germany were the existence of another German state next door and, related to that, the massive defection to West Germany, the different status of the churches, and the attitude towards a national tradition burdened with the legacy of Nazism, which, unlike in Czechoslovakia, severely hampered the expression of different points of view about the past.

  • Issue Year: XIX/2012
  • Issue No: 01
  • Page Range: 71-81
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: Czech