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Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society

In the winter of 1959, Canon Michael Bourdeaux received a handwritten note from a group of believers in the Soviet Union asking for help. After receiving this note from Prof. Nicholas Zernov, the young seminary graduate set out for the USSR to learn of the atrocities being committed against the church and, if nothing else, to document its destruction. After meeting the very women who penned the letter, Michael Bourdeaux took up their call to "be our voice," and thus began what would evolve into the Keston Institute.

Officially formed in 1969, at its height the Keston Institute was a vibrant part of the Oxford community and employed a large staff of researchers, published its own journal (Religion in Communist Lands, later renamed Religion, State, and Society), and was also involved in publishing many books that documented the fight for religious freedom by believers living behind the Iron Curtain.

The core of Keston's operations was its vast library and unique archive. In the words of Keston Institute Chairman Xenia Dennen, "The archive contains many examples of heroism, texts which will one day become spiritual classics. By collecting material on all religions and Christian denominations during the communist period, Keston created a source of exceptional value for all those who recognize the importance of the 20th century religious witnesses in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union: they defended freedom of mind and spirit in the face of a political system which claimed total control over all aspects of human life. They and their message must not be forgotten."

In 2007, the Keston Institute passed on the care of its archive and library to the newly-formed Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society at Baylor University. As part of the Baylor University Libraries' Special Collections, the Keston Center works with the Keston Institute in Oxford in carrying out its mission:

To promote research and encourage the study of religion in communist, post-communist, and other totalitarian societies and the relationship between religion and Marxism.

The Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society has joined with the Keston Institute to achieve its mission and is committed to the preservation and utilization of the library and archive. The Center seeks to promote the research, teaching, and understanding of religion and politics in communist, post-communist, and other totalitarian societies.

The Keston Center is located on the 3rd floor of Carroll Library, Room 316. Normal hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm although the Center encourages researchers to make appointments. Call 254-710-4647/4405 or email Keston Center Archivist Larisa Seago to schedule a visit.