Does religion even matter? Religious actors and religious freedom in a Swiss anti-communist research center. A look at the holdings of the Swiss Eastern Institute and the Swiss Library of Eastern Europe in Bern

Maurer, Eva (14 October 2021). Does religion even matter? Religious actors and religious freedom in a Swiss anti-communist research center. A look at the holdings of the Swiss Eastern Institute and the Swiss Library of Eastern Europe in Bern (Unpublished). In: Advocating religious freedom in the Helsinki process. New research perspectives on the non-state actors in view of the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki treaty (1975–2025). Helsinki/Fribourg/online. October 14/15, 2021.

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Officially founded in Bern in the late 1950s – at the height of the Cold War – in Switzerland, the Swiss Eastern Institute (Schweizerisches Ostinstitut SOI) and the Swiss Library for Eastern Europe (Schweizerische Osteuropabibliothek SOEB) were to stay a fixture in the landscape of Swiss research on Eastern Europe and, at the same time, in Swiss anticommunism over the next three decades. They collected newspaper and literature from Eastern Europe and disseminated digests of these informations to paying customers in economic circles and the public administration. A variety of other publications, from scholarly treatises to magazines for a broad public, disseminated ‘the truth’ about the Communist realm and openly warned from the activities of socialists in the East - and their sympathizers in the West. Highly proficient and well-informed about developments in Eastern Europe, the Helsinki process was obviously something the political scientists and publicists at the SOI would have commented on.
The large archival holdings of the SOI and its founder, Peter Sager, have recently complemented the library’s own archival materials, together constituting over three decades worth of correspondence and other records of cooperation and activities. These comprise materials both by the institute and library, but also from other actors active in the anti-communist movement within Switzerland and internationally. My presentation aims to take a first – preliminary – look at these archives and their possible value in investigating both the SOI/SOEB’s attitude and treatment of the Helsinki process - and especially the role religion and the issue of religious freedom played within their discourse, efforts, cooperation and activities.
I intend to focus primarily on the main phase of the process 1972-1975 and then again for 1977-1983 for the follow-up conferences. Analyzing the treatment of the process in the SOI’s official publications will be one aspect of the presentation, a second one will be to sample the large correspondence holdings for contacts and exchange with people and organizations involved in propagating or documenting religious freedom. This should open up, hopefully, a few possible directions for further research into the changing discourses on human rights and religion over the span of about a decade.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Division/Institute:

13 Central Units > Administrative Director's Office > University Library of Bern

UniBE Contributor:

Maurer, Eva

Subjects:

000 Computer science, knowledge & systems > 020 Library & information sciences
900 History > 940 History of Europe

Language:

English

Submitter:

Eva Maurer

Date Deposited:

16 Nov 2021 11:47

Last Modified:

16 Nov 2021 11:47

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Cold War; Human Rights; Archives ; CSCE process ; religion

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/160179

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