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Introduction: Resistance and Collaboration from Today’s Observation Post

  • Barbara Thériault and
  • Lucian Turcescu

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  • Barbara Thériault
    Université de Montréal

  • Lucian Turcescu
    Concordia University

Article body

When we started thinking about the present issue of Eurostudia we had a theme in mind, resistance and collaboration in Romania and in a select number of countries located in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (the former Czechoslovakia, German Democratic Republic and Republic of Tajikistan) after World War II. At the center of our attention were the collaboration and resistance of religious groups’ members and leaders with political authorities such as Communist Party structures, but also the police and secret police forces. From a project proposal, to a workshop held at the Université de Montréal on 27 February 2015, to numerous face-to-face and epistolary exchanges until the publication of this special issue, we realized the importance of the present in understanding the past or how resistance and collaboration have been interwoven into the politics of memory of actors and observers who study them. Of course, changes of regimes twisted roles and moral positions and, in turn, the way we think and write about changes and people’s involvement in them. Acknowledging our discussions and the articles present in this issue, we titled it “From Today’s Observation Post: Collaboration and Resistance under Communism.”

Exploring the “present of things past” required placing oneself outside of the current public debates in order to comprehend better how they influence the understanding of things past. It also raises conceptual and methodological issues, as well as moral dilemmas. In working together, the participants in the workshop—political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and religious scholars—made the initial object turn so as to exhibit its many facets. On the conceptual level, they address the following questions: How is one to assess resistance and collaboration? Should we take the motives underlying action or the consequence of actions as starting points? Are resistance and collaboration, concepts embedded in political debates, still appropriate concepts to grasp what is at play? Should we talk, as Hélène Thibault suggests, of “accommodation” instead of resistance or resignation? The authors tackle empirical questions too: What is the role of anti-communist armed resistance in the politics of memory (Monica Ciobanu)? How do politically uninvolved actors such as pilgrims unwittingly play a role in Romania’s new ideological landscape (Monica Grigore)? On the methodological level, the authors ask: How do we aptly deal with the sensitive material stored by repressive political police forces? How much credit should we give to secret information that cannot be corroborated from other sources? How to read the Securitate files, especially when they deal with a past that strikes close to home (Cristina Plamadeala)? How does what we do with our informants as sociologists relates with the work of secret agents (Barbara Thériault)? As it turns out, the methodological questions often turn into moral dilemmas.

Having arrived at the publication stage, the two editors sit down to reflect on the texts presented here and to discuss aspects pertaining to the issue as a whole. And before sending the texts to the publisher, they want to take the opportunity to thank all the participants in the workshop for their contributions, although not all of them were able to submit their contributions to Eurostudia. A special thank-you should go to Monica Grigore, for commenting on all the articles, besides the other reviewers.

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