This chapter provides an introduction to the book’s narrative and major arguments. Jehovah’s Witnesses and their provocative religious values and practices presented a serious challenge to the Soviet state. In fact, Witnesses represented one of the largest and most complex underground organizations in the postwar Soviet Union. This suggests the need to reevaluate our focus on urban, intellectual, and nationalist dissent in this period and place greater emphasis on minority religious communities and believers. Soviet Witnesses prove that, despite the threat of state repression, religion provided a powerful outlet for citizens to construct identities and communities that did not conform to Soviet ideology. In the post-Soviet context, the Witnesses offer a window into religion’s role in the transition to democracy, in particular how the Witnesses’ right to practice became a critical battleground for determining the legal boundaries of religious freedom in the region.
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