Journal Article

Peasants Revolt? Re-evaluating the 17 June Uprising in East Germany

Gregory R. Witkowski

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 24, issue 2, pages 243-266
Published in print April 2006 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online April 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Peasants Revolt? Re-evaluating the 17 June Uprising in East Germany

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This study re-evaluates the 17 June Uprising, the first in the Communist bloc, in light of protest in the countryside. The experience of state violence in the years before 1953 compelled many in the countryside to avoid public expressions of opposition but did not eliminate peasant protest. Villagers directed their complaints against communist leaders and policies, especially agricultural collectivization, and thereby played a significant role in the events leading up to the uprising as well as the rebellion itself. In analysing this opposition, this essay concludes that rural modes of resistance varied by region but were generally less overt than strikes and demonstrations employed by workers. Instead, peasants, especially in purely agrarian regions, employed traditional village forms of opposition, which emphasized reclaiming public space by cowing local representatives of power. In the end, this protest lasted throughout the summer—much longer than those in the cities—and compelled communist leaders to postpone the collectivization of agriculture until 1959–60.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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