Under the power's custody. Churches in Slovakia in the years 1953 - 1970. Co. Ed. Pešek J.
In terms of the contents and methodology this book is a follow-up of "The state power and Churches in Slovakia in the years 1948 - 1953" (Bratislava 1997), the previous work of the same authors. The relation of the State and Churches after 1953 was not as sharply antagonist as in the previous period when the state power virtually tried to break down the resistance of Churches in defence against the restriction of religious freedom and against the State's interference. The Churches were now under the power's custody and the state administration subjected the activities of Churches to systemic checking while in case of necessity it was always ready to step in take a firm line with the particular Church.
Relation of the State to Churches entered a new stage at the turn of 1952 - 1953 after breaking down resistance of Churches and subduing them to the State's supervision. The typical feature of this relation was the struggle for the believers while on side of the State it was connected with "overcoming the religious prejudice". The power interventions were not rare either but the mainstream activities of the State's and Party's structure was secularisation of the society and atheistic campaigns accompanied by an effort to reduce the activities of Churches and to push them progressively into the background.
Churches could not defend themselves against this combined pressure apart from belief otherwise than by inner activation and unity of clergy and its adhesion to the believers. This stage lasted practically until the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989 with certain break by the end of the sixties related to the attempt at social reform.
The study period (1953 - 1970) includes approximately a half of the mentioned stage. It was the period of dynamic development in which priorities of the state power and the particular methods of handling the Churches were changing. The pressure of persecution became stronger especially by the end of the 50's and the beginning of the 60's while after 1963 certain liberalisation of the regime was observable and was reflected in the State's church policy, which paradoxically created favourable atmosphere for later mobilisation of the Churches. The 1968 attempt at social reform the same as "normalisation" though in negative sense influenced the action of Churches. Normalisation started in the Church policy by the end of 1969 and by the end of 1970 the Churches were again pacified and pushed back into their pre-January (1968) position within the State and society.
The authors focused their attention to the issue of the State/Churches relation or the church policy of the State ruled by the Communist Party and the questions of reaction of the Churches to this policy or their attitude to the state power. Meanwhile, the same as in case of the previous book "The state power and Churches in Slovakia in the years 1948 - 1953" the authors treated the Churches above all as the associations of spiritual persons (clergy of all ranks) who naturally leaned on the masses of believers. Such approach allowed them to concentrate their attention to the sphere where the State/Churches relations were formed. Situation in the Protestant Churches in difference from other Churches in this sense was a bit more complex as they are run not only by clerical but also lay officials. The authors could not pay attention to all Churches, denominations, and sects in spite of the fact that they precisely were the ones who provoked an increasing concern (Jehovah's Witnesses) of the Party and state administration in the sixties. The authors deal mostly with larger Churches with bigger congregations (and influence) thus representing a problem worthwhile to be dealt with by the regime. This was the case of the Catholic Church (Roman and Greek rites), the Protestant Churches (Evangelical and Calvinist), and the Orthodox Church.
The subject of the relations of the authorities of the totalitarian State and Churches in Slovakia in the mentioned period was not duly processed so far, apart from several studies mostly in form of memoirs (see the References), which while being of some importance can not replace historical study based in research of the original files. The situation is even less favourable in Slovakia than in Czechia, where the historians paid more attention to the subject naturally with stress on the decision-making centre and the Czech-Moravian territory of the former Czechoslovakia. Some sounding out was done in the period of the late sixties (the attempt at social reform and its frustration), the part of the modern Slovak history, which enjoys an increased interest as the one most deformed by the official ideology in the seventies and eighties.
Lack of studies of the Church issue of this period, absence of basic data on the State's church policy and the inner life of Churches compelled the authors to dedicate plenty of time to the study of files and published sources including the press of the period in order to be able to reconstruct the events and historical processes. This fact has influenced to certain extent the nature of the book, which is above all factographic and contains numerous notes. The authors are aware that the publication is rather overburdened with materials and factography but they could not avoid it. One has to know any event or developmental trend before one can evaluate it. The aim of the authors was, as a matter of fact, to gather as much knowledge as possible on the study problem. They laid the main stress on producing an answer to the question how it was and less to evaluations or answers to the question why was it so or what were the consequences. Further investigation will perhaps proceed in a way, which would remove this weak spot also thanks to this work.
The authors carried out an extensive basic research in archives of the Slovak and Czech Republics. They researched the material deposited at the Slovak National Archives in Bratislava and in the State Central Archives in Prague as sources of primary importance. Both central archives contain the documents of the state administration bodies (the State Office for Church Affairs, The Slovak Office for Church Affairs, departments or secretariats for the Church affairs of the Ministry of Culture or the body which preceded its establishment), acts and documents of the bodies of the former Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Parts and the Slovak Communist Party (its Presidium and Secretariat). The power was concentrated precisely in the two last mentioned bodies and they were the ones that issued the decisions. Regarding the pronounced power aspect of the relations of the State and Churches also the materials from the archives of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak and Czech Republics contributed enormously.
As the study focuses to the subject of "the custody of the state power" of the Churches and the authors put the main stress on research of the central archives, future investigations should perhaps pay more attention to the regional files. From the point of view of comprehensibility of the subject also the "view of the other party" i.e. the Churches, is desirable. The state archives contain also the acts of the Churches (above all the correspondence with the state administration bodies), however they are only fragments. The need to study the files of the Catholic Church (the biggest and most influential of Churches) seems to be the most urgent one. They are deposited at the archives of Bishop's Offices, so far inaccessible for alleged insufficient processing, and the archives of Vatican, which will be presumably opened to the researchers only in at least fifty years. More favourable situation in this sense is in the files of the Evangelical Church of Augsburg confession in Slovakia where a part of material was available for the researchers at the Archives of the General Bishop's Office. The above quoted reasons influenced the overall shape and contents of this publication.
The basic conception of the Church policy of the State was formed at the turn of the 40's and 50's and leaned on what were the Church laws from 1949. It was more or less constant before the collapse of the totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia in the late eighties. However, the outer and inner conditions in which it was formed were changing. Bipolar division of the world remained though the tension between the East and West lessened after 1953 compared to the late forties and the beginning of the fifties. Both parties were interested in settling down the arguments in peaceful manner, to negotiate and to arrive at a reasonable agreement (naturally while promoting their respective interests) though this "spirit of Geneva" was not altogether universally accepted. Relations evidently cooled down by the end of 1956 and slowed down the promising developments. By the early 60's the efforts to achieve peaceful arrangements and to give support to the world peace with the assistance of Vatican and the world centres of the Protestant Churches prevailed again. It was the time when the Czechoslovak - Vatican negotiations were opened and this also influenced the formation of the concrete form of the relations State/Churches in Czechoslovakia.
Relations of Churches with the State ruled by the communists existed in a unitary and centralised atmosphere. Federation adopted by the late sixties coincides with the end of the study period. Representatives of the regime counted on a single solution of the State/Churches relations, which limited above all the possibilities of the Catholic Church, position of which was stronger in Slovakia than in Czechia. The State could then lean on reality of the whole country and to push around the Church in Slovakia. The Evangelical Church of the Czech Unity Brethren in Czechia was in turn more active while the Slovak Protestant Churches were more or less passive. The regime used the fact for limiting the activities of Evangelicals in Czechia. Also the situation of the Orthodox Church or that of the prohibited Greek Catholic Church were interpreted as the national problem though its focus was undoubtedly in Slovakia and in particular in its eastern part.
The concrete form of the State/Churches relations in Czechoslovakia in study period was influenced by the fluctuating amount of power possessed by the regime or rather its own feelings about how much power it possessed. The spring of 1953 brought about a serious social and socio-political crisis for the whole Soviet Block including Czechoslovakia. The governing structures of the Party and State were compelled to palliate the power pressure on the Churches and drop some of the most drastic forms of oppression and intimidation. But the political "thaw" did not last long and when the regime overcame the crisis in 1957 it adopted again the tough line. Requests of the Catholic Church to solve the situation by agreement as it was in Hungary and especially in Poland in 1956 were refused and labelled "reactionary and inimical". The tough line persisted until the early sixties when it ended in the consequence of the political and economic problems of the regime. Liberalisation of the inner political situation including that of Churches ended in an attempt at social reform by the late sixties.
The inner political development in Czechoslovakia after January 1968 created favourable background for a lively rise of activities of all Churches. The power's custody of Churches subsided and the pressure almost disappeared. The Catholic Church revived with the Greek Catholic Church restored while the Protestant Churches (the Calvinists and Lutherans) struggled with their problems. Occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 stopped the after-January developments and created space for the starting process of "normalisation" (after changes at the top Party and state administration bodies in April 1969). Churches were pushed back again to the place they were at before the January 1968.
Social movement in the years 1968 including the revival of activities of Churches was too intensive to stop or reverse, all the more that factors of international politics played an increasingly important role. Along with the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council of long-term nature and activities of the world non-Catholic centres there were the negotiations on safety and co-operation in Europe which culminated in the Helsinki Conference (1975) immediately followed by the one in Belgrade (1976). As the issues of human rights and freedoms were given ever more importance aIso the Soviet Block State leaders though unwillingly and hesitantly were compelled to adhere. Although the Slovak and Czech society fell into deep depression in an atmosphere of "normalisation", the methods of elimination of influence of Churches so useful in the past were not either efficient or applicable now. The opponents of normalisation, the signatories of the Charter 77 and dissidents including the members of Churches namely the Catholic Church used the new situation. In Slovakía ín particular new situation promised also new solutions to the questions calling for answers since the very beginning of the existence of the communist power monopoly in 1948.
I. After war (1945) and after installation of totality (1948)
II. The first crisis of the totalitarian regime (1953-1957)
III. Restoration of tough line (1957-1962)
IV. Onset of liberalisation (1963-1967)
V. An attempt at social reform (1968 -1969)
VI. The onset of normalisation (1969 -1970)
Pod kuratelou moci.
Církvi na Slovensku v rokoch 1953 – 1970.
Michal Barnovský, Ján Pešek
Publikácia obsahovo i metodikou spracovania (kombináciou chronologického a problémového prístupu) nadväzuje na prácu oboch autorov "Štátna moc a cirkvi na Slovensku 1948 - 1953" (Bratislava, 1997). I. kapitola stručne zhrnuje jej obsah a vytvára určitý vstup na skúmanie novej etapy vývoja od roku 1953. V nej už vzt'ah štátu a cirkví nemal takú zjavne vyhrotenú podobu ako v predchádzajúcom období, ked' štátna moc doslova lámala odpor cirkví, brániacich sa obmedzovaniu náboženskej slobody a zasahovaniu do ich vnútorných záležitostí. Cirkvi teraz boli "pod kuratelou moci", ako to je obsiahnuté aj v názve práce; tá sa zameriavala na systematickú "kontrolu" pôsobenia cirkví, v prípade potreby však neváhala tvrdo zasiahnut' a "usmernit"` tú-ktorú cirkev, od jej vedenia až po základný stupeň organizačnej výstavby.
Vzt'ah štátu k cirkvám vstúpil do novej etapy na prelome rokov 1952 - 1953, po mocenskom zlomení odporu cirkví a ich podriadení štátnemu dozoru. Jeho charakteristickou črtou bol zápas o veriacich, zo strany štátnej moci spojený s "prekonávaním náboženských prežitkov". Mocenské zásahy síce nechýbali, ale hlavným smerom pôsobenia straníckych a štátnych štruktúr boli sekularizácia a ateizácia spoločnosti, sprevádzané úsilím tlmit' aktivity cirkví a zatláčat' ich postupne do úzadia. Táto etapa prakticky trvala až do zrútenia komunistického režimu v Československu roku 1989, s určitou prestávkou koncom šest'desiatych rokov, spojenou s pokusom o spoločenskú reformu.
Skúmaně obdobie (1953 - 1970) zahŕňa zhruba polovicu tejto etapy. Bolo to obdobie, v ktorom sa menili priority štátnej moci i konkrétne metódy postupu voči cirkvám; perzekučný tlak zosilnel najmä koncom päfdesiatych a začiatkom šest'desiatych rokov, od roku 1963 možno pozorovat' určitú liberalizáciu režimu, ktorá sa prejavila aj v cirkevnej politike štatu a vytvorila isté podmienky pre neskoršie vzopätie cirkví. Pokus o spoločenskú reformu v roku 1968 ovplyvnil aj pôsobenie cirkví, práve tak ako "normalizácia" (pochopitel'ne celkom odlišným spôsobom), zjavne nastupujúca v cirkevnopolitickej sfére od konca roka 1969. Do konca roka 1970 boli cirkvi už de facto spacifikované a zatlačené, viac-menej do svojho predjanuárového (1968) postavenia v štáte a spoločnosti.
I. Po vojne (1945) a po nastolení totality (1948)
II. Prvá kríza totalitného režimu (1953 - 1957)
III. Obnova tvrdého postupu (1957 -1962)
IV. Nástup liberalizácie (1963 - 1967)
V. Pokus o spoločenskú reformu (1968 - 1969)
VI. Nástup normalizácie (1969 –1970)
Uložte si link nášho projektu do
Vašich bookmarkov, zaraďte si ho medzi obľúbené adresy.
Autori projektu: Ing. Miroslav Fabricius,
Mgr. Peter Krákorník