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The experiment of re-education in Romania took place in two phases: the first, between 1949 and 1952, when tens of thousands of young people who refused to submit to the Soviet occupation and ideology were imprisoned; the second, between 1960 and 1964, when a general amnesty was granted to political dissidents, following the Red Army's withdrawal in 1958. These two phases differed in at least two respects. The first aimed to re-educate the younger generation (mainly students and school pupils accused either of belonging to anticommunist and promonarchist organisations, or of being 'enemies of the working class') and to bring them into the communist fold. The second was aimed at mature people, who had usually experienced at least a decade of political imprisonment. Victims of the second stage were no longer to be brainwashed (unlike the young people subjected to the first), but 'persuaded' by more subtle methods to cooperate with the now firmly established communist state. These methods, however, still involved confinement in filthy conditions and deprivation of the basic necessities of life, together with reportedly deliberate poisoning and infection with TB.

The programme of re-education and unmasking was a system carefully designed to depersonalise what the Romanian Christian dissident Petre Tutea described as the 'primordial mask' of humanity, which cannot be obliterated, only damaged, and the 'divine mask' which can be reclaimed only by literally 'dis-covering' individual vocation. Contrary to Makarenko's theories, some prisoners experienced the divine presence in a way that transfigured them. Some discovered their mission through embodying Christ's narrative in their own lives. Their individual stories, illustrated in works of art, personal relationships or prayerful silence, were understood by them as a witness to the incarnation. These little-known accounts are part of a vast twentieth-century martyrology.

The story of resistance in the Soviet bloc varies from country to country. In Romania, individual Christians kept up armed partisan resistance until after the death of Stalin in 1953. Other forms of resistance, which continued throughout the communist period, were non-cooperation (e.g. through a solidarity of silence, and resistance to agricultural collectivisation) and implicit subversion of communist principles.

A significant example of subversion was the practice of the 'prayer of the heart' by political prisoners. This tradition of unceasing prayer, known in the Balkans as hesychasm, or the attainment of inner stillness through prayer (specifically the Jesus Prayer), flourished in Romanian prisons like Aiud, Ocnele Mari and Gherla, where copies of the first two volumes of Dumitru Staniloae's translation of the Greek Philokalia (an anthology of ascetical and mystical texts

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