The book is based on lectures from the international symposium 1989-2009: Religion und Wende in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa, which took place in Vienna on 7-9 October 2009 at the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The main goal of the symposium was to analyse how believers behind the Iron Curtain paved the way for the political Turnaround of 1989 and how the religious communities in East Central and South Eastern Europe have coped with the problems that arose from this role.
The role of the churches and their believers in the stand against the communist regimes in the countries of East Central and South Eastern Europe—a resistance that erupted into open protest in the mass demonstration of Leipzig and contributed substantially to the peaceful proceeding of the political Turnaround in 1989—is often underestimated. It was not by accident that especially believers took an active role in fighting dictatorship and unfreedom – they suffered restraints of the freedom of worship under the communist regimes. Therefore, to understand the Turnaround of 1989 and the subsequent period it appeared necessary to analyse the role of religion in the political and societal transformation processes of the time. On the basis of the religious communities’ contribution to the Turnaround of 1989, the organisers of the symposium tried to map the communities’ development in the two decades following the turning point of 1989, to analyse which hopes have been answered, which deceived, and to identify perspectives for the future.
The foundation stone for the symposium and for this book was laid by three speakers of the symposium, Miklos Tomka (Hungary), Niko Tos (Slovenia) and Paul Zulehner (Austria), who analysed the situation of the religious communities of East Central and South Eastern Europe in their project Aufbruch (Departure) in 1997. Among the 25 speakers of the symposium, who came from 12 countries of the region, were prominent contemporary witnesses like Wladyslav Bartoszewski, state secretary and former foreign minister of the Republic of Poland; Frantisek Miklosko, member of the Slovak parliament and symbolic figure of the Christian resistance in former Czechoslovakia; and Jan Sokol, one of the first persons to sign Charta 77 and former minister for culture.