Revolution by Candlelight: The Real Story Behind the Changes in Eastern Europe, by Bud Bultman (Multnomah, 305pp.; $13.95, hardcover);Revolutions in Eastern Europe: The Religious Roots, by Niels Nielsen (Orbis, 175 pp.; $16.95, paper);The Fall of Tyrants, by Laszlo Tokes (Crossway, 240 pp.; $9.95, paper). Reviewed by Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Beyond Good Intentions (Crossway).

It has been two years since the communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe collapsed. Although the transition from totalitarianism to freedom has not been easy, the events of 1989 still seem like a fairy tale. How could unarmed crowds topple Stalinist systems that had lasted for more than four decades?

This is the incredible story that Bud Bultman and Niels Nielsen tell in their respective books. What makes both accounts important for Christians is their emphasis on the religious dimension of these upheavals.

Though about the same subject, the two books are very different. Bultman’s Revolution by Candlelight is largely a narrative centering on a handful of religious activists in each of the formerly communist nations. Nielsen’s Revolutions in Eastern Europe, in contrast, focuses on the larger social forces that brought about change.

Heroes And Heroines

Bultman opens with a thumbnail sketch of how Joseph Stalin’s USSR extended its control throughout Eastern Europe. “As the Communist party consolidated power,” Bultman relates, “it began clamping down on institutions and ideas not in keeping with [Marxist] tenets.… Chief among these were the church and the Christian faith.”

The book then moves to individual countries, profiling some heretofore unnoticed heroes and heroines ...

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