The Soviet Block : Protest

After Prague 1968, it was widely perceived that open protest did not help. Those who tried - Czech intellectuals (CHARTA 77), Polish SOLIDARNOSZ (solidarity) 1979ff quickly experienced that they faced diffame, arrest, and maltreatment.
Solidarnosz chose to continue offering resistance from the underground; they developed underground publications, even had their own underground mail system. The Polish state was unable to break the movement; if state pressure had an effect, it only made Solidarnosz stronger.
In other countries, such as Czechoslovakia, the GDR, Russia, large groups of the population had accepted the system and learnt to live with its flaws. Groups standing out as critical were primarily the CHURCHES, which were merely tolerated in the states which defined themselves as atheistic, and writers, such as novelist VACLAV HAVEL. Both priests and writers addressed the problems without openly demanding these to be tackled; they made the church visitors/their readership think. They were walking a thin line; in case they crossed it, they could be forbidden to preach resp. their works would be sold no more in the east.
It was much easier for poets such as WOLF BIERMANN (GDR) to publish in the west than to publish in his own country. CENSORSHIP was exercised; Biermann (GDR) and SOLZHENITSYN (USSR) were deprived of their citizenship while travelling abroad.
There were other ways to express criticism without giving the censors evidence for what could be regarded as "counterrevolutionary activity". Among these was CABARET, which was not televised and thus reached only a limited audience. GDR folk singers sang songs of German emigrants of the 1840es, in which they lament over the little money they are paid for their property, the miserable treatment they were given by the authorities - singers and their audience were well aware that the same conditions applied to the GDR in the 1980es.

Similar to developments in the west, the young generation expressed their dissatisfaction with the system by breaking with conventions. Bathing in the nude came up in the 1950es; long hair became popular in the late 1960es.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 18th 2001, last revised on November 11th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics