CZECH THEMES ACROSS A VARIETY OF CEU PRESS PUBLICATIONS
This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Czechia, its history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.
“The political tasks were meant to further the doctrines of communist Czechoslovakia. The railways had the duty to ‘heroically’ fulfill those tasks.”—The Rise and Decline of Communist Czechoslovakia’s Railway Sector.
“The slogan was, ‘No accidents that would threaten the health of the gymnasts and visitors of the Spartakiad!’”
“The Central Committee gradually abandoned its role as direct manager of the state and concerned itself with more ‘strategic’ political questions, frequently focused on foreign relations. In transportation more and more important operational matters were devolved to the responsible ministries.”
“Crowded, slow, dirty, frequently delayed, outmoded trains; dilapidated stations; and lack of care and respect for passengers on the part of railway employees. These were the typical impressions left on passengers at the end of the 1980s.”
“The state of the railways got worse while evaluations (based on ‘objective criteria’) generally showed ‘good’ results on the part of individual workers and ČSD as a whole.”
“The predominant reception of the new Most by its inhabitants, as well as external observers, remained strikingly positive well into the 1970s. Today, however, the new Most has the reputation of a concrete communist mega-estate, drowning in social problems.”—Making Sense of Dictatorship.
“Husák’s regime, with its strong technocratic tendencies, understood law in general as one of the most effective instruments for directing and regulating social life.”
“Instead of ‘toothless legalism,’ the radicals suggested that Charter 77 could overcome its isolation from wider Czechoslovak society by focusing on broader social issues beyond the legal defense of the persecuted intelligentsia.”
“Downplaying the relevance of Slovak Catholic samizdat within Czechoslovak samizdat has many potential causes and motives.”
“If not for the interests, motivation, and skills of Vilém Prečan and his colleagues, people in the West might know less about the lifeworlds that emerged inside and outside the purview of the Communist Party.”
“The official anti-Zionist stance of communist Czechoslovakia after the Six-Day War in 1967 had a direct and massive impact upon Holocaust memory in the country.”—Growing in the Shadow of Antifascism.
“Was there a ‘taboo’ regarding the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia during the so-called normalization era of the 1970s and 1980s?”
“Miroslav Karny’s collaboration with the communist secret service probably also allowed him to build contacts in Western countries, to receive Western literature, and even travel to the West. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to assume that Karny carried out his research simply on behalf of the secret police.”
“He shared the Marxist view that World War II and the Holocaust are to be explained by economic motivations, the capitalist system, and German imperialism.”
„Karny reproduced the perception of the Holocaust as a ‘test’ for the planned persecution and annihilation of other peoples in Eastern Europe in case of a German war victory.”
CEU Press books with a Czech focus, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:
“The Czech ‘economic miracle’ that Klaus bragged about in the early 1990s had disintegrated by 1997, and Social Democratic governments were left to clean up the mess, while Klaus played the nationalist card and became a eurosceptic. As a result, the Czechs now appear to be happy with neither EU membership nor the Czech-Slovak split.”
Some of the best and brightest Slovak and Czech scholars came together with the explicit goal of comparing Czech and Slovak achievements and failures in the twenty years since independence.
“After several years, the political reform ethos vanished in the Czech Republic. The reason might have been that the Klaus government feared the social impact of further reforms, and suffered from overall political self-confidence or excessive satisfaction with the already achieved results.”
“While gradually closing the gap with Western Europe in material terms, Czech society seems to be spiritually stagnating in feelings of frustration, failure, and skepticism.”
“The Czech Republic has gained a lot since independence, but could have gained much more if its full potential had been used and mistakes avoided. Despite mistakes made, Czech economic development over the last two and a half decades has been largely a success.”
“Ever since the split, relations between the Czechs and Slovaks have never been better. Thus, the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, like Norway’s secession from Sweden in 1905, may be a good model for other nations who live in a common state but wish to go it alone.”
“Was the economic transformation really necessary?” The crux of the answer: “The GDP per capita in Czechoslovakia in the early 1950s was the same as in postwar Austria. After forty years of communist rule, the Austrian GDP per capita was five times higher.”
“What was the cause of the Velvet Revolution?” In 2009 1% of Czech respondents chose Restoration of capitalism or Interest of the west but 23% thought it was Bad government.
“What is the assessment of the Czech voucher privatization?” To this the reader gets a complex answer including an appraisal of alternative options.
“How should we assess the transformation as a whole?” Židek discusses three topics that he considers critical for broad evaluation of the process—political/democratic stability, development of GDP, and general direction of the transformation process. “The crucial indicator is the development of real wages… Noneconomic statistics improved as well. Average longevity increased, infant mortality decreased, and the environment improved dramatically.”
“It was an extremely difficult process full of unavoidable compromises and traps. But the overall transformation process is a success story.”
Czechoslovakia had not been at war with the Soviet Union and yet in 1945 the Red Army took tens of thousands for slave labor.
The book is the fruit of decade-long archival research and many oral history interviews with survivors on a subject that had had been taboo for many decades.
Most of the abducted people were civilians from the Slovak regions (including ethnic Germans and Hungarians), but around 250 white émigrés were also deported from the Czech lands. Almost two-thirds of these latter perished or disappeared in unknown or little-known circumstances.
Diplomatic efforts lasted well after Stalin’s death till the completion of repatriation. This included the resettlement of about 17 000 Volhynian Czechs.
The restoration of Prague Castle was a collaboration of three remarkable figures in twentieth-century east central Europe: Masaryk, his daughter Alice, and Plečnik, the architect.
Did Tomáš Masaryk really intend to start a new religion? Czechoslovakia’s first president wished to establish his personal religious philosophy as the civil religion of the country. Alice Masaryková finally finds the prominence she should have always had in our studies of the First Czechoslovak Republic: in taking her seriously as a thinker, Berglund also grants his readers insights into Czechoslovakia’s uneven, unequal path to prosperity. Jože Plečnik of Slovenia integrated reverence for classical architecture into distinctly modern designs. Their shared vision saw the Castle not simply as a government building or historic landmark but as the sacred center of the new republic, even the new Europe—a place that would embody a different kind of democratic politics, rooted in the spiritual and the moral.
One of the earliest science-fiction novels in European literature was published in Prague in 1929. Besides being a pioneer in its genre, Jan Weiss’s book – available in English for the first time – is highly regarded for its general merits as psychological literature.
The novel tells the story of a dream in fever of a soldier wounded in World War I. He finds himself in the stairway of a gigantic and kafkaesque tower-like building, which is a metaphor for modern society. He learns that his task is to rescue Princess Tamara from Muller, the lord of the edifice. After a number of surrealistic encounters in the building, during which he is hailed as a liberator by many and is hunted by the cruel security guards, the main character finds Tamara and faces the cruel lord of Mullerdom.
The novel makes fine use of a range of experimental styles and techniques. At times, linear storytelling gives way to a collage of incongruous elements: excerpts from fictitious books, encyclopedia articles, radio broadcast transcripts are used as a shortcut to describe places or events; other narrative ingredients include fanciful advertisements, ludicrous administrative documents or political slogans which highlight the idiosyncrasies of this decadent world.
"The higher marriage rate among Jews in late eighteenth-century Bohemia was a fact. In a society where most children were born inside wedlock it led also to higher fertility among Jews. Jewish women breastfed longer, and this was a very important factor for improving the chances of a child's survival during the first six months of life." The population growth of Jews was therefore higher than in the total population." But then, faster modernization of the Jewish population led to a decline in births earlier than in other segments of the society. "In 1930, the share of married people was smaller in almost every age group in the Jewish population than in the total population. The proportion of never-married Jewish women exceeded that of gentiles in every age group. The share of divorcees was also larger in the Jewish than in the total population in Bohemia."
“I know there will be some jealous people and that they will die of derisive laughter when they see the scope of this project. They were taught only to criticize others, while they themselves know nothing good to present.” (Scio nonnullos affore emulos et eos emori risu subsannationis, cum viderint scema huius operationis; qui tantummodo docti sunt aliis derogare et ipsi per se nihil boni sapiunt erogare.)—from the bilingual edition of The Chronicle of the Czechs.
“She (Libuše/Lubossa) was a woman unique among women, prophetic in her thoughts, brisk in her speech, with a chaste body, of virtuous manners, unmatched in deciding people’s disputes, and kind to everybody and exceptionally likable, honor and glory of the female sex wisely dispensing male affairs.”
“Whenever the new duke, Břetislav the Younger, invaded Poland, he always returned with great triumph.”
“May all faithful in Christ know that the author of this chronicle, the most reverent Cosmas, dean of the church of Prague, has died.”
- Jan Neruda’s nice little volume of Prague Tales is unbeatable, leading CEU Press all time sales list;
- Also in the Central European Classics series is a lyrical, deeply moving story of love and the pain of emancipation by Ivan Olbracht;
- An unparalleled resource of primary documentation on the events of 1968;
- A dictionary of Czech popular culture has been a CEU Press bestseller;
- The role of Czech uranium in international politics between 1900-1960.
Other titles from the backlist, moving backwards in time:
“Regional godfathers, oligarchs and smaller corrupt business groups whose capture of the regional organizations of key Czech parties gave them growing political influence in mid-2000s. Such activity may fall under the terms of lobbying and bottom-up state capture, whereas both civil society and formal institutions remained strong. Hence, the stable point from 1990–2013 is nearer to liberal than patronal democracy.” - taken from the momentous endeavor of analyzing post-communist regimes.
“The fact that an oligarch becomes a poligarch, turning an economic venture into a political venture is a clear step toward informal patronalism, with a head of executive running on the principle of elite interest. Backsliding in the Czech Republic has led toward patronal democracy.”
“Anyone who experienced the ‘normalization’ era in Czechoslovakia that followed the suppression of the Prague Spring would have severe doubts about the term ‘normal’.”— from the debate about the current state of East-West relations.
“In Czechoslovakia, the Chicago School had direct influence. Nobel Memorial Prize winner Milton Friedman, for instance, toured east central Europe in 1990 and found a particularly enthusiastic supporter in Václav Klaus, then Czechoslovak Minister of Finance.”
“China’s rhetoric of a ‘common ground’ with the region based on past exploitation by the West fell on fertile ground. The Czech president Miloš Zeman, during his 2015 visit to Beijing, explained that the two states were brought together by similar experiences of ‘one hundred years of humiliation’.”
“The Czech president Miloš Zeman even speaks about Russia as if he were its foreign agent.”
The volume that explores the past twenty-five years of east-central Europe in the perspective of intellectual history discusses three facets of the Czech political arena.
While most parties placed greater emphasis on 1989 as the victory of capitalism and the market, Havel valued in it the triumph for civic society and participatory democracy. His “moral populism,” and the idea of a “second revolution”, associated with the concept of mafia capitalism, are the critical aspects of his disputes with the neoliberal paradigm of the new era.
A small group of admirers of American neo-conservatism believed in a neoliberal solution of transformation. They—the founders of the ODA party—wanted to break with the communist era as quickly as possible. These politicians, for instance, principally opposed referenda.
The twenty-year trajectory of seeking an identity of the Left is presented through seven political portraits.
“Czech Republic and Slovenia took a cautious approach to foreign investors, and indeed did everything in their powers to keep foreigners out of the privatization process for as long as possible.”—from a collection of essays on the nationalism-economy nexus.
“The ideological background of the Czech privatization scheme, best exemplified by Václav Klaus, was probably the closest to the mixture of nationalism and crusading ideological liberalism witnessed in Estonia. The policy outcome, however, was precisely the opposite.”
“Instead of selling Škoda to Renault, which offered the highest price, the government made a deal with Volkswagen, which promised to preserve the Czech brand.”
The French law inspired also Czechoslovakia to make the registration of Gypsies by the police and their identification by special papers compulsory. In this regard, Czechoslovakia adopted a Gypsy identity card in 1927, a document mirroring the French model of carnet anthropometrique de nomade.
A monograph about the ways the Roma are identified, classified and counted across Europe.
On the variety of demographic estimates in the Czech Republic: “According to official data (2001 census), the number of Roma is 11,718, sharply below the 1991 census figure of 32,903. Different experts’ estimates vary between 160,000 and 300,000. The Minority Rights Group estimates the number to be 275,000.”
A statement repeated in consecutive editions of a World Bank report without checking or updating: “Reported estimates for the Czech Republic suggested that out of the nearly 40,000 prostitutes in the country, some 25,000 are Roma women.”
"Italians are chaotic, charismatic, and spontaneous. Czechs are ordered, rule-following, adaptable." The case study of a Czech bank in Italian ownership in the book on how East-European mindset adapted to capitalism recalled such clichés, challenging the rejection of "national character" in social sciences. Researchers found "they do exist and they are very pronounced. It is encouraging that these differences are not seen as physically inherent, but rather as culturally determined. What is more, these differences were never pronounced as a form of cultural pathology-a new form of cross-national racism but rather as differences that can be mutually respected."
"Mr T insisted on exercising his prior claim as a private farmer over state land. The co-operative was obliged to give Mr T contiguous land in exchange. This was further complicated by the fact that many owners in the co-operative refused to let their land be farmed by the T family which was becoming increasingly unpopular. They had also opened a shop in the village, but most villagers boycotted it." Researchers explored dozens of affairs like this in the nine Czech villages that they scrutinized in the 1990s to detect how the dramatic transition from communism to capitalism affected rural communities. The main strength of the book lies is its comparative character: the Czech findings are matched against experiences in Bulgarian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian and Slovak villages.
"Yes, culture means a great deal" - commented Gorbachev in 1987, when Ryzhkov quoted Štrougal saying that if perestroika begins in Czechoslovakia, results will appear sooner than in any other country. Another quote, from Margaret Thatcher to Gorbachev in April 1989: "More complicated developments are under way in Czechoslovakia. In our analysis, everything is unclear there. And there is some evil irony in this, because Czechoslovakia was one of the most affluent and democratic states in Europe." Extracts from documents paving the road to 1989.
Under Communism Czechs felt less optimistic than Slovaks, in cases at a rate of one to two: e.g. late in 1968 28% in the Czech side of CSSR expected their living standard fall in the future against 14% of SSR citizens. Possession of color TV distinguished party members from non-members more than any other consumption item (in 1984 the difference was 18%). Such data from previously unpublished surveys are from the fresh interpretation of the contexts, meanings, and consequences of the revolutions of 1989.
The comprehensive analysis of literary resistance to east-European communism pays tribute to Czech underground writers and their helpers in the west: Jan Kavan, Antonin Liehm, Vilem Prečan, Jiři Pelikan, Josef and Zdena Škvorecky, Adolf Muller, Jiři Gruša and others.
Also foreigners: “Shortly after Charter 77 was published, Robert Silvers called Stoppard and asked him if he was interested in going to Prague to look into the movement. Stoppard replied that he had been waiting for the call for fifteen years, and within a few days traveled to Prague”.
“In the same way that Roth employs his alter-ego Zuckermann to dive into the literary life of Czechoslovakia, John Updike also relies on an alter-ego, the Jewish-American writer, Henry Bech, to reflect on his travels to Czechoslovakia in his novels”.
After a decade of highly influential artistic practice, the Czech conceptual artist Petr Štembera decided with resignation to stop his artistic activity. His last performance in 1980, in Brno, demonstrated the artist’s frustration with the political situation in Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the suppression of Charter 77. Throughout the 1970s, Štembera worked closely with Karel Miler and Jan Mlčoch, sometimes referred to as the “Prague Trio.” They came to the decision to abandon art practice at the same time.
The story is unfolded in the monograph that unites ecology with conceptual art analysis in the frame of area studies. The book uncovers the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc.
Štembera's performances addressed the problem of belonging in relation to the natural environment, often realized with the participation of animals, including a hamster, fish, ants, and hen, whose equal and nonhierarchical treatment by the artist was in sharp contrast to the communist authorities’ instrumental approach to animals. He went a step further by sleeping in tree branches or in dug-out holes in the ground, while such expressions of unity with the natural environment culminated in grafting a shrub into his own arm.
After 1945 links between Czech arts and the west were sporadic. “The Art of Republican Spain” took—among others—works of Picasso to Prague and Brno in 1946. La difesa di Praga by Mucchi, an Italian communist painter, was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1952 when Czechoslovakia was absent. The Biennale was strongly influenced by political pressures till the end: the USSR, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia boycotted it in 1978.
Artistic interactions both within the Soviet bloc and with the west between 1945 and 1989 are presented and analyzes in a collective book with 35 contributors.
Many of the cross-border relations were illegal, such as the Argumenty exhibition in 1962 in Warsaw, where the curator smuggled Czech pieces far from the eyes of the customs control; or the merger of Czechoslovak and Hungarian artists at Lake Balaton in 1972 as an ex-post protest against the 1968 invasion.
“When Cross Currents began publication, broad interest already existed in writing about Central Europe, and in figures like Miłosz, Kundera, and Kiš.”—from a book on the relevance of the concept of Central Europe.
“While Matejka often drew from his circle of Czech acquaintances to recruit authors for Cross Currents, he did not always seek support from the Czech émigré community, because of their sensitivity to figures with complicated political pasts.”
“Kundera’s essay defines Diderot—and the French Enlightenment, the spirit of reason and doubt, of play and the relatively of human affairs, and all that is Western to him… Kundera places Czech culture in the West and Russian culture in the East, but refuses to allow these judgments to stand as an objective, empirical truth—rather locating them within his own sensibilities and affective relationship with politics and literature.”
In February 1969, Henry Owen, senior State Department official wrote Secretary of State William Rogers a memorandum asking “what do we do about bridge-building in the wake of Czechoslovakia: Stop, slow down, change direction, or proceed as is?” The 1968 Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring was a recurring theme in the analysis of the protracted era of peaceful coexistence is examined.
“While the Johnson administration sought to liberalize trade with the East, the combination of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the invasion of Czechoslovakia shocked and further soured Americans’ opinions toward the Soviet Union, making it impossible for the President to liberalize trade with the Soviet Union without a political quid pro quo.”
Taken together, pieces of evidence lead to an argument that goes against the grain of the established Cold War narrative, by taking the Old Continent as the heart of the analysis, making it not a passive instrument in the hands of the two superpowers, but rather a fully-fledged actor in East-West relations.
“At breakfast on August 21, my father and I overheard two of the Italian waiters saying something about a Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. My father turned to me and said: ‘We have to leave immediately and drive back to Vienna!’ Whereas my father was frightened by Soviet power, we were frightened by the loss of Czech dignity.”—The Passport as Home.
“A group of German SDS members, led by their superstar, Rudi Dutschke, paid a visit to Prague to meet their Czech counterparts. The Germans behaved abominably. The Czechs pleaded for liberal values such as freedom of speech, autonomy from the Soviet Union, and pluralism within the Communist Party. The Germans dismissed these wishes as nothing but slow accommodations to capitalism and a betrayal of the socialist revolution.”
“To this day, the Germans talk about the Achtundsechziger and the French about the soixante-huitards yet remain parochial in thinking only about activists of their own nations in those momentous days.”
“Czech intellectuals conceptually moved from the ‘national road’ towards the ‘national form’ during the Prague Spring.”—from the volume on intellectuals and the totalitarian temptation.
“Nejedly, probably the most successful postwar ideologue of national Stalinism in East Central Europe, and Kosik, the Marxist revisionist rebel and star-philosopher of the Prague Spring, represent two completely different existential, generational, and intellectual responses of the Czech radical left to the challenges of their times.”
“While in Moscow, Stalin craftily manipulated Nejedly as his potential favorite replacement of President Edvard Beneš if the latter was not cooperative enough.”
“In his effort to link up historically the project of the Prague Spring to Palacky and Masaryk as the originators of modern Czech ‘national program,’ Kosik represented a broad and undefined ‘Czech national reform communist’ stream within the Party.”
“In the Kladno Steelworks, when worker enthusiasm for socialist competitions was lacking, the children of steelworkers were called upon to ask their fathers why they had not yet been named the best worker.”—from a book on labor under communism.
“In 1953, night shift workers at a textile factory in Hořice skipped work in order to attend a dance at a nearby village fair. The next morning, they went on strike to protest night shift work. In the framework of a new orientation the jovially striking textile workers become an acceptable subject for mainstream strike research.”
“Among Comecon countries, Czechoslovakia and East Germany were ranked at the top for both labor productivity and for having the most even income distribution. Conversely, in Poland and the Soviet Union where income distribution was the most unequal, one also found the lowest productivity levels.”
“Relations between the Red Cross and the Czechoslovak authorities had hit rock-bottom as the latter accused the former of not having done too much for Czechoslovakia during the German occupation.”—Ireland's Helping Hand to Europe.
“The situation of German expellees from the Sudetenland was precarious. To the north of Vienna, towns and villages had experienced their massive arrivals when the Czechoslovak government began to expel them. Locals were apparently not pleased to see them.”
“Irish supplies did reach Czechoslovakia. It is relevant to see how they were used in the wider context of the brutal expulsion of the Germans that began well before the official date of January 1946 set by the Potsdam Agreement.”
“In Moravia, what had struck the Red Cross delegate was ‘an area of ghost towns and deserted villages.’ The Germans had been put in camps and ‘in one camp for the old he found nearly a thousand people, most of them confined to bed’. The inmates particularly appreciated ‘our gift of Irish milk’, he added.”
“Those predominantly Slavophone nobles and burghers of Bohemia who refused to convert to Catholicism had to leave the Habsburg lands, in total 150,000 to 200,000 people. Afterward, the Habsburgs’ central territories of Bohemia and Moravia became increasingly mixed (bilingual), or Slavic and Germanic in their linguistic character.”—Words in Space and Time.
“Following the Norwegian example, in 1920 a single (though pluricentric) Czechoslovak national language was proclaimed, comprising two equal written standards of Czech and Slovak.”
“Standard (written) Czech (spisovná čeština) is acquired at school and employed in official contexts only, including newspapers. In families, children are socialized in colloquial Czech (obecná čeština), which is used at home and with friends, and quite broadly in films, novels, and plays.”
“Suprastandard bilingualism seems to have largely disappeared among the younger generations of Czechs and Slovaks who were born and raised after the 1993 breakup of Czechoslovakia.”
“The eight-hour workday was introduced in Czechoslovakia in 1918 and in Poland in 1919.”—from a comparative analysis of economic conditions.
“The levels of development stood considerably closer to Western European averages in the interwar period—Czechoslovakia’s and Poland’s in 1929 and Hungary’s in 1939—than they ever have since.”
“Early in the communist era, special shops with otherwise unobtainable goods and lower prices, like the Pewex network in Poland or the Tuzex shops in Czechoslovakia, were established for the socialist aristocracy, that is, the upper stratum of the nomenklatura.”
“In the 1980s, the wait time for state-allocated housing was fifteen to thirty years in Poland, six to eight years in Czechoslovakia, and four to six years in Hungary.”
“In 1989, the wait for a Soviet-manufactured Lada car, the design of which was based on an early-1960s Fiat, was five to six years in Poland, three to four years in Czechoslovakia, and four to six years in Hungary.”
“Masaryk and Beneš used the ‘alcohol question’ to bring up matters of the nation and to convey concerns about civic consciousness.”—from a volume on the intertwined relationship between public health and nation building.
“Female alcoholism started to attract attention because alcohol problems were redefined from a public nuisance into a disease, and drinkers turned from troublemakers into patients.”
“In the 1970s, psychoanalytical thought and practice experienced a clandestine revival in Czechoslovakia. Psychiatrists were still careful not to make direct references to Freud, but they managed to revive his theories and adapt them for their purposes. While it was well-known to the psychiatrists that informers of the Czechoslovak Secret Service participated in training programs or group meetings of patients, alcohol experts could carry out most initiatives.”
“My tendency to Marxism probably had something to do with the fact that when I had left the Church, all of a sudden I felt a vacuum inside. I no longer had something to believe in”—conversations with four medievalists include František Šmahel.
“To assure my admittance to university, I signed up at once for a year-long ‘temporary assignment’ in the Ostrava mines, in the north-east of the country. My views of history began to take shape in the mines, under conditions in many ways reminiscent of Zola’s Hell.”
Jerzy Kłoczowski, another of the four scholars says: “Just after the outbreak of World War II, a scheme emerged to create a Polish-Czechoslovak federation. In 1943, this project failed due to Edvard Beneš’s decision to negotiate with Stalin on his own. For many Poles, the Czech politics of collaboration with the Germans and the Soviets were difficult to understand.”
"Having depended so long upon their leader, Dr. Beneš, and been deserted by him at the crucial moment, these Czechoslovak exile politicians are almost at a total loss as to where to go from here. There is no leader of inspiration among them, at least for the moment… I think most of these MPs will drift on to America before they become out of date (and therefore valueless) and have become much of a nuisance here."
Indeed, as the contemptuous comments by Foreign Office officials predicted in 1948, exiled resistance got organized in the USA. Honor is due to the Council of Free Czechoslovakia, which showed all symptoms of exiled political formations between 1949-1989, yet could not have done much better. This is the conclusion in the volume that reviews how the US government sponsored political movements against communism during the Cold War, based extensively on the archival records of Radio Free Europe.
“There will be no collectivization in Czechoslovakia, we shall go on our own way” - announced Klement Gottwald in February, 1948. Then, in October, Gottwald visited Stalin in Crimea, which changed his mind. The process began and soon led to economic disruption and chaos in agriculture, so that rationing of bread had to be re-introduced in 1951.
Ironically, while farmers strongly resisted the communist regime in the early years, heavy subsidies to agricultural production turned them loyal to the regime during its final dissolution. There was little enthusiasm to start private farming immediately after 1989.
Based on a wealth of archival materials, a critical overview is taken of the main stages and features of the collectivization of agriculture in the former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe.
“Only in Czechoslovakia was there a strong workers’ movement, though there was above all—and this was decisive for Stalin—in Edvard Beneš a “bourgeois” president recognized by the entire population. He was prepared to be used by the USSR as a willing political instrument, in exchange for Stalin’s readiness to condone and support the expulsion of national minorities from Czechoslovakia, above all the Sudeten Germans and the Hungarians living in Slovakia. In order to achieve these aims, Beneš pledged absolute allegiance and assured Stalin of extensive restructuring measures. In contrast to all other countries, Stalin was thus able to build on a powerful political foundation in Czechoslovakia and could thus forgo the usual occupation regime.”
“Valeriyan Zorin’s appearance in Prague sealed the fate of democracy in Czechoslovakia in February 1948.”
“On June 4, 1919, he General Maurice Pellé, the head of the French mission was appointed the commander of the Army of the Czechoslovak Republic. In its work, the mission tried to quash the Czech pacifist tradition.”—from the book on big powers’ interfering into middle Europe.
“The tenor of reports from Joseph Addison, minister in Prague from 1930 to 1936, was notoriously anti-Czech. His cynical and entertaining, but defamatory reports about internal and external affairs of Czechoslovakia earned that country an exceedingly bad reputation in the Foreign Office.”
“Walter Koch, the long-time German envoy to Czechoslovakia, promoted the exploitation of ethnic tensions within the country. A Slovak autonomy, he believed, could significantly weaken or even destroy Czechoslovakia.”
“London was constantly encouraging Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia to form a kind of political or economic union in order to pacify their animosities but mostly to reduce the chances of the Anschluss movement.”
“Newspaper articles announced Vojtěch (Alberto) Frič’s lectures and the fact that a ‘genuine Indian’ would be present. Promotional photos of Cherwish in native costume were taken, the sculptor Vilim Amort made a bust, and the painter Josef Kral took Cherwish as a model for a series of oils.”—Staged Otherness.
“The two men complemented each other, Cherwish playing the ‘savage’ while Frič assumed the role of ‘scientist.’”
“The story of Cherwish continues to resonate in the Czech popular discourse, symbolically continuing the line of the 1908–9 shows. It seems to be responding to the deeply rooted colonial fantasies of the Czechs, who were and are striving to be on a par with major European nations, to assert at least symbolically their dominance in the world.”
The series of CEU Press Classics was started in the 1990s with outstanding pieces of fiction form the literatures in east and central Europe; books that are no longer—or in many cases have never been—available on the English language markets.
Besides the Czech authors, other releases in the series have indirect Czech connection. Vjenceslav Novak, the author of A Tale of Two Worlds, a masterpiece of Croatian realism from 1901, had Czech family roots. No wonder that Prague is the scene of a considerable part of the novel: it is there that the main person of the novel, a young musician, learns his profession and gets acquainted with the wider world, which will conflict with the other world in the title, the insularity that surrounds him upon returning to the provincial town in Croatia.
Three Chestnut Horses takes place in a Slovak mountain village. It is a love story that combines naturalism with sentimentalism, involving the triangle of Peter, Magdalena and her seducer, Jano Zapotočný. The short novel was first published in 1940 and has remained popular with generations of readers. The film made in 1966 for Czechoslovak television has kept its appeal until our days.
“Various versions of Mitteleuropa existed in discourse from around 1800 onwards, but the definition of a German core and a non-German periphery, which was constructed as a de facto colonial empire, were particularly prominent in the German imperialist imagination”.
The nation-building processes within the German and the Habsburg Empire are examined in parallel with related trajectories in other empires in Europe.
As a consequence of the Germanization, Czech was pushed off to local, rural, and agricultural spheres of life, where it suffered official neglect and was only revived by the national movement, as a result of which Germans lost their majorities not only in municipal governments, but in 1883–84 also in the Bohemian diet and important chambers of commerce.
“Privileging the noble nationalities of Poles and Croats fuelled dissatisfaction among nationalities who were not dominated by nobles, but by peasants, workers, or urban middle classes—first of all the Czechs, who represented a possible republican challenge toward dynastic reign”.
“If the Czech Empire spreads its wings, it will not be to the detriment of anyone. It will contribute tenfold to everyone; instead of vanity it will bring glory” (Jaroslav Durych in 1923). “And we, our nation, can be a very influential member of a Slav partnership. We were always amongst the foremost intellectual leaders of Slavdom, and there is no question that in our country Slavness penetrated deepest into the spirit of the nation” (Karel Kramář in 1926). “People talk of the Reich as a great family of European nations, united by the idea of European cultural tradition and once again setting itself a great common purpose, worthy of the former glory of a dynamic continent” (Emanuel Vajtauer in 1943).
These three personalities represent Czech anti-modernism among the forty-six texts in the concluding volume of the Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe 1770–1945.
“Individuality above all, bursting with life and creating life. Today, when aesthetics finds refuge only in secondary-school textbooks, when battles over the utility of art are ludicrously anachronistic, when everything old collapses into rubble and a new world begins, we ask of the artist: be yourself!” – declared the Czech Modern manifesto in 1895, published in the fourth volume in the same series. Earlier volumes contain writings from Thám (1783), Dobrovský (1791), Puchmajer (1802), Jungmann (1806), Kollár (1821), Havlíček (1846), Palacký (1865), Malý (1880), Šmeral (1909), Masaryk (1918), Hašek (1921), Pekař (1928), Rádl (1928), and Beneš (1941).
The Latin-English bilingual Central European Medieval Texts Series contains the biographies of Czech saints: Wenceslas, the first Slavic saint, and Adalbert, patron saint of several countries. The 10th c. Latin is rendered into everyday English. The teenager Adalbert exclaims: "O wretched me! I had sex!" then, pointing his finger to the instigator of the crime: "He made me do it!" And we see Wenceslas "jumping over the fence of the vineyard at night and filling the baskets hanging on both sides of his back with clusters of grapes." Read the contexts of the two scenes at bottom in two languages.
Earlier CEU Press books with relevance to Czechs and the Czech lands:
- Anonymus used a variant of ‘boem’ twelve times in his Gesta Hungarorum.
- Efforts to bring back Utraquists, a heretic Czech denomination, to the mainstream in the 16th c.
- Czech speaking Jesuits unwisely tried to communicate with locals in re-conquered Belgrade, greatly underestimating the difference between Czech and Serbian.
- Plans about “eugenics” and “racial hygiene” in the early 20th c. in the Czech Lands are analyzed in the book on the eugenics movement in east-central Europe.
- Czech Catholics and protestants searching their way in 20th c. political turmoils.
- How did the Czechoslovak road to Stalinism differ from the other stories in Eastern Europe?
- Besides analyzing the effects of cold war broadcasting, the reaction of the communist power is also presented with original documents. E.g. “Politburo resolution on plan to counter ‘reactionary’ exiles” in 1956.
- A recurrent issue in the book on geopolitical cores and peripheries is the gap between east and west in Europe, historically and actually – no wonder Czechs and Czechoslovakia are cited extensively.
- The Prague Spring triggered and determined the evolution of Eurocommunism.
- The issue of (primary and secondary) privatisation in the 1990s in a number of countries is analyzed comparatively, the Czech Republic being one.
- Dilemmas of Czech historiography after 1989: a difficult quest for new paradigms: the search for “National Memory” after the Communist era; and how the recent past is reflected in contemporary Czech cinema.
- Reassessment of the significance and consequences of the events associated with the year 1968 - highlighting, of course, the Prague Spring.
- An essay on how Czech journalists looking for a new professional self-image after the collapse of the old media system, and finally, implementation and impact of European television quotas in the Czech Republic.
- The comparative analysis of the educational segregation of the Roma examines the issue also in the Czech Republic.
- Together with twenty-eight more post-communist transition countries, the political and economic performance of the Czech Republic is also included as part of a search of varieties of transition models.