Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania

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In the post-communist era it has become evident that the emerging democracies in Eastern Europe will be determined by many factors, only some of them political. Throughout the region, the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Greek Catholic churches have tried to impose their views on democracy through direct political engagement. Moreover, surveys show that the churches (and the army) enjoy more popular confidence than elected political bodies such as parliaments. These results reflect widespread disenchantment with a democratization process that has allowed politicians to advance their own agendas rather than work to solve the urgent socio-economic problems these countries face. In this penetrating study, Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu investigate the interaction of religion and politics in one such country, Romania. Facing internal challenges and external competitions from other religions old and new, the Orthodox Church in Romania has sought to consolidate its position and ensure Romania's version of democracy recognizes its privileged position of "national Church", enforcing the Church's stances on issues such as homosexuality and abortion. The post-communist state and political elite in turn rely on the Church for compliance with educational and cultural policies and to quell the insistent demands of the Hungarian minority for autonomy.
Stan and Turcescu examine the complex relationship between church and state in this new Romania, providing analysis in key areas: church collaboration with communist authorities, post-communist electoral politics, nationalism and ethno-politics, restitution of Greek Catholic property, religious education, and sexual behavior and reproduction. As the first scholars to be given access to confidential materials from the archives of the communist political police, the notorious Securitate, Stan and Turcescu also examine church archives, legislation, news reports, and interviews with politicians and church leaders. This study will move the debate from common analyses of nationalism in isolation to more comprehensive investigations which consider the impact of religious actors on a multitude of other issues relevant to the political and social life of the country.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Because these two authors have long given thought to the matter — not least because they lived it, and at a price, when still in communist Romania — they bring seasoned judgments and a rich analytic framework to the subject." —Foreign Affairs

"In this thoroughly researched and persuasively argued book, Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu chart the complicated route that Romanian religious institutions have taken from Communism through European integration. The authors show the impact, as well as the limits, of the Romanian Orthodox Church's involvement in politics, and they are particularly insightful on the tortuous relationship between the church and state authority, both in the Communist period and after. Covering such diverse themes as religious education, the church and elections, and ecclesiastical views of sexuality, this important book will be of interest to scholars of Romania, post-communist politics, and church-state relations in general." —Charles King, Georgetown University

"Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu, in this path-breaking and incisive study, explain why the cultivation of ultranationalist sentiment and official support for the Orthodox Church went hand in hand under Communism, and why today democracy and pluralism are regarded by some leaders of the Orthodox Church as the principal enemy. They analyze the Orthodox Church's opposition to Romania's accession to the European Union and judiciously assess the challenges facing a church badly compromised by servility to the despot Ceausescu." —Dennis Deletant, author of Hitler's Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and his Regime, Romania, 1940-1944

"This is a masterful interpretation of the role of religion in influencing the development of modern Romania which is presented to the reader with clarity and analytical rigor. As well as sparkling comparative insights, the authors relate how religious claims and the reaction to them from the state and civil society are determining the extent to which Romania becomes a politically and socially free entity. The Orthodox Church is at the centre of the narrative and there are well-argued accounts of its relationship with nationalism, the communist past and the democratic present as Romania embraces capitalism and joins the European Union. Besides shedding light on a country whose direction is still shrouded in ambiguity, this is one of the most notable monographs to appear for quite a while on the role of religion in contemporary Europe." —Tom Gallagher, University of Bradford

"Any reader of this remarkable and timely book analyzing the conservative position of the Orthodox Church in respect to many issues, as well as its political ties to the establishment, will be persuaded by the authors' conclusion that 'it is high time for th edominant church to admit that a model of church establishment adopted when Romania was religiously homogenous fails to reflect the post-communist reality' (p. 39)."—Candadian Slavonic Papers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195308532
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Series: Religion and Global Politics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

St. Francis Xavier University

Concordia University, Montreal

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