Captive University

The Sovietization of East German, Czech, and Polish Higher Education, 1945-1956

By John Connelly

456 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4865-4
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2385-6
    Published: December 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7208-1
    Published: December 2014

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Awards & distinctions

2001 George Louis Beer Prize, American Historical Association

This comparative history of the higher education systems in Poland, East Germany, and the Czech lands reveals an unexpected diversity within East European stalinism. With information gleaned from archives in each of these places, John Connelly offers a valuable case study showing how totalitarian states adapt their policies to the contours of the societies they rule.

The Communist dictum that universities be purged of "bourgeois elements" was accomplished most fully in East Germany, where more and more students came from worker and peasant backgrounds. But the Polish Party kept potentially disloyal professors on the job in the futile hope that they would train a new intelligentsia, and Czech stalinists failed to make worker and peasant students a majority at Czech universities.

Connelly accounts for these differences by exploring the prestalinist heritage of these countries, and particularly their experiences in World War II. The failure of Polish and Czech leaders to transform their universities became particularly evident during the crises of 1968 and 1989, when university students spearheaded reform movements. In East Germany, by contrast, universities remained true to the state to the end, and students were notably absent from the revolution of 1989.

About the Author

John Connelly is associate professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.
For more information about John Connelly, visit the Author Page.


"[A] superb comparative study. . . . This book represents a pioneering foray into a terrain which relatively few historians have entered. In a work of impressive empirical detail and unusual interpretive breadth, Connelly not only offers a fascinating description of the surprising diversity of academia in Eastern Europe under Soviet hegemony, but also questions some of the most basic and long-cherished notions about the nature of Stalinism and the dynamics of 'Sovietization' in the region. . . . Marshalling a massive amount of archival material, Captive University presents at one level a finely textured account of academia. . . . But even more important than its impressive empirical contribution is its comparative method, which offers a much-needed interpretive yardstick for understanding developments within and between the three countries."--German History

"A first-rate, pioneering, and enduring study. . . . Constitutes a contribution to the history of East Central Europe in the post-1945 decade, the study of scholarly and intellectual life under dictatorship, the comparative history of this area and of Europe in general, and to the continuing revival of the history of political culture in Europe and elsewhere."--Central European History

"With his impressive command of archival sources in three language, his focus on institutional change and its implications, and his emphasis upon the persistence of pre-war patterns and priorities, Connnelly tells a story of resistance to Communism that goes far and carries great weight. . . . This book should be required reading for all specialists of Communist Eastern Europe, and should inspire scholars and students of state socialism and comparative history."--Sovietization of East European Universities

"Well researched and . . . convincing."--Journal of Modern History

"[An] extremely well researched and documented text. . . . A great piece of scholarship."--Slavic Review

"A landmark of comparative higher-educational history, an enormous scholarly effort which presents a bold thesis and argues it with the complexity and nuance that is characteristic of a truly remarkable piece of work."--History of Education Quarterly