A look back at Czech ‘traumas’
Exhibit recounts painful past
PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The voices of the witnesses are quiet. Their heads are projected on screens behind a chain-link fence at the site of a former monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Their topic: The most painful moments in the history of Czechoslovakia.
A multimedia exhibition is marking the 100th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia by focusing on the nation’s experience with two totalitarian regimes: The Nazi occupation in the Second World War and Communist rule.
“The Memory of the Nation” was created by the Post Bellum nonprofit organization, which has been recording oral histories of those who witnessed key historical moments. It starts in 1939, beginning with the Nazi invasion, and goes until the end of the communist regime in 1989.
“The 20th century is full of traumas,” said Jana Holcova, a Post Bellum spokesman.
Czechoslovakia was created as an independent state on Oct 28, 1918, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed at the end of the First World War. It ceased to exist in 1993, after the region peacefully split into two nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Visitors to the exhibit have a rare chance to see the huge, rarely opened underground space just under the former Stalin monument site at Prague’s Letna Park.
The almost 16-metre granite statue of Stalin with other figures behind him, once considered the biggest representation of the brutal dictator outside the Soviet Union, was unveiled in 1955 after six years of work. Its creator, Otakar Svec, killed himself shortly before that, following the example of his wife.
After Stalin’s Soviet successor, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced Stalin’s personality cult, the monument that was visible from many parts of Prague became a political problem. It was demolished in 1962.
A visitor views a multimedia exhibition in Prague, Czech Republic, that marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia.