History
Dissent on the Margins : How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It
Emily B. Baran

- Modifié le 27 septembre 2017

Emily B. Baran offers a gripping history of how a small, American-based religious community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, found its way into the Soviet Union after World War II, survived decades of brutal persecution, and emerged as one of the region’s fastest growing religions after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. In telling the story of this often misunderstood faith, Baran explores the shifting boundaries of religious dissent, non-conformity, and human rights in the Soviet Union and its successor states.

Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses are a fascinating case study of dissent beyond urban, intellectual nonconformists. Witnesses, who were generally rural, poorly educated, and utterly marginalized from society, resisted state pressure to conform. They instead constructed alternative communities based on adherence to religious principles established by the Witnesses’ international center in Brooklyn, New York. The Soviet state considered Witnesses to be the most reactionary of all underground religious movements, and used extraordinary measures to try to eliminate this threat. Yet Witnesses survived, while the Soviet system did not. After 1991, they faced continuing challenges to their right to practice their faith in post-Soviet states, as these states struggled to reconcile the proper limits on freedom of conscience with European norms and domestic concerns.

Dissent on the Margins provides a new and important perspective on one of America’s most understudied religious movements.

About the Author

Emily B. Baran is Assistant Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University. She specializes in the intersection of religion, modern state politics, and human rights in the postwar Soviet Union and its successor states. She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011.


“Dissent on the Margins offers an excellent contribution to religious studies and serves as a welcome new resource for those interested in the history of lived religion in the Soviet Union.”

— Kathleen Hiatt, Journal of Church and State

“Dissent on the Margins is an amazing piece of research and analysis : sophisticated in its conceptualization, exhaustive in its research (in hitherto-secret state, party, and even police archives), this study shows how a small religious group survived decades of Soviet repression, won legalization in 1991, and has since expanded its flock to several hundred thousand adherents. A must-read for historians, political scientists, and sociologists of religion.”

— Gregory L. Freeze, Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of History, Brandeis University

“This thoughtful and skillfully researched monograph tells the history of the Jehovah’s Witness in the Soviet Union and three of its successor states. It recounts the troubled relationship between state and ’sect,’ arguing that the survival of Witness communities shows the limits of state power even in a repressive country like the USSR. The historical sections draw on an impressive, and carefully referenced, body of archival material but Baran also takes her story forward into the first decade of the twenty-first century. It will appeal not only to students of Soviet history but also to all those following the religious situation in the post-Soviet space today.”

— Miriam Dobson, author of Khrushchev’s Cold Summer : Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform after Stalin

“This is the first comprehensive treatment in English of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Soviet Union.”

— Hiroaki Kuromiya, Nova Religio

Baran has produced an excellent work that analyzes the Soviet Union from the perspective of a marginal group while making it relevant to the Soviet story as a whole.

— Andrew Drozd, Slavic and East European Journal

Références :

Oxford University Press, New York, 400 p., 2014

ISBN : 978-0-19-994553-5 (relié)

Oxford University Press, New York, 402 p., 2016 (réédition)

ISBN : 978-0-19-049549-7 (broché)