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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.
Emily B. Baran is Assistant Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University.