Eszter Kovács




Among the post-1945 East European socialist regimes, Romania and Poland were the only countries where the Catholic Church—despite government interventions, controls, and bans—managed to play a significant social and political role in community life. This case study provides an ethnographic description of the parish choir movement and graduating class reunions, called “generational festivals” in Hungarian, in the Gheorgheni (Hu: Gyergyó) region in the 1970s and 1980s. The gatherings will be analyzed in the context of everyday life, the socialist system’s distinctive shortage economy, and official limits on religious activity that characterized the era. I will first describe the world of parish choir festivals, including the outside (official government) pressures that shaped the festivals by forcing organizers to make accommodations. In my descriptions of the choir festivals, I highlight ways in which participants exploited opportunities to engage in Catholic rituals as “informal” practices despite the government’s official ban on public religious ceremonies. I will also reconstruct and describe the most important features of these socialist-era festivals.



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