19 Aug 2014 - 3 Sep 2014
CZECH FATEFUL DATES
Exhibition of the work of prominent photographers from 1945, 1968/69 and 1989. Curated by Dana Kyndrová.
To be occupied – to be liberated. Images of the 20th-century Czech experience.
In 1945, most of the world’s citizens were relieved to learn the most atrocious martial conflict of all time had ended, and they celebrated the news heartily (with the exception of the adherents to the defeated side). It was no different in Czechoslovakia, though few understood that the “protective” Nazi totalitarian regime of the German Third Reich was being replaced with another form of totalitarianism, Communism, employed by the Red Army and Soviet secret police to serve the imperial ambitions of the Soviet Union. When seeking to rationalize this lapse in political foresight, we cannot overlook the fact that in the course of history, the Czechs became one of the world’s most egalitarian and secular nations. We must also consider its unusually deep-rooted Russophilia.
Czechoslovakia accepted the conditions of the Munich Dictate and laid down its arms in autumn 1938 in the face of the threat of most of its neighbours – Germany, Hungary and Poland. In doing so, Czechs and Slovaks escaped the fate of the Poles, Ukrainians and other eastern European peoples who became victims of the German and Soviet extermination policies. Unlike the Czechs, who had little bad experiences with the Russians, these nations had no illusions about the Soviet Bolsheviks and, quite logically, saw them as being as dangerous as German Nazis. To consolidate power, the Czechoslovak Communists expelled Czechoslovakia’s three million German inhabitants and banned pre-war non-Socialist political parties. It’s usurpation of power culminated in handing over Czechoslovak sovereignty to Moscow in February 1948.
After the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his Czechoslovak collaborator Klement Gottwald in 1953, it seemed the Soviet bloc was heading towards a kind of political “détente”. In early 1968, the so-called revival process began in Czechoslovakia, based on the erroneous idea that a regime installed and maintained by brutal methods could be democratized and humanized through moderate reforms. This would probably have led to the Communist Party’s loss of monopolistic power, restoration of the full political sovereignty of Czechoslovakia and, consequently, the Soviet bloc’s disintegration. On the night of August 21, 1968, the armed forces of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic invaded Czechoslovakia to put a peremptory end to the “revival process”. The so-called normalization period began, making it possible for open collaborators as well as hidden opportunists to establish a regime that was not as bloody as what existed in the 1950s, but was morally much worse. The “Munich syndrome” surfaced– the Czechs and Slovaks did not arm themselves against the German occupiers (1938), the Communist putschists (1948) or the Soviet occupiers in 1968. In their defense, it must be emphasized that their political leadership repeatedly betrayed them, and Jan Palach, Jan Zajíc and Evžen Plocek self-immolated to protest the rise of the initiators of the “normalization regime.”
Their sacrifices did not bear fruit for two decades. It was not until1987–1989 that the increasingly less covert resistance to the “normalization regime” took to the streets and assumed the form of unlawful and often brutally dispersed rallies. It is also true that the regime’s opponents drew spiritual strength from political developments in the Soviet Union, where perestroika was unfolding, from Poland (which failed to silence its Catholic Church) and its Solidarity movement and from other countries in the Soviet bloc. Another paradox, quite emblematic of its history, characterized Czechoslovakia. The country, whose 1968 reforms were basically an isolated phenomenon in the Soviet bloc, was one of the Bloc’s last members to complete the process of liberation Communism. This time, however, these regimes were not reformed, but collapsed entirely – let us hope for good.
The exhibition shows work of the following photographers and institutions:
Prague City Archives, Archives of the National Museum, Archives of Alena Šourková, Radek Bajgar, Jan Bartůšek,Radovan Boček, Karel Cudlín, Jaromír Čejka, Jovan Dezort, Pavel Dias, Bohumil Dobrovolský, Přemysl Hněvkovský,Dagmar Hochová, Tibor Honty, Miroslav Hucek, Václav Chochola, Jiří Jeníček, Jaroslav Kučera, Dana Kyndrová,Libuše Kyndrová, Vladimír Lammer, Karel Ludwig, Miroslav Martinovský, Miloň Novotný, Jan Reich,the Miloš Heyduk Collection, the Martin Wagner Collection, Roman Sejkot, Daniela Sýkorová, Jan Šibík, Jan Šilpoch,Pavel Štecha, Václav Toužimský, the Central Military Archives, Jiří Všetečka, Miroslav Zajíc
The exhibition’s organizer: Czech Centres
Curator: Dana Kyndrová
Introductory text: Pavel Bělina
110 00 Prague 1
From: 19 Aug 2014
To: 3 Sep 2014