Communism left a deep scar upon the Czech lands, one from which the country is still healing today. The story of how communism came to shape, and warp, the history and character of this central European country for 40 years is told at the Museum of Communism, located at Vcelnice, Prague 1, Czech Republic. The [...]
Communism left a deep scar upon the Czech lands, one from which the country is still healing today.
The story of how communism came to shape, and warp, the history and character of this central European country for 40 years is told at the Museum of Communism, located at Vcelnice, Prague 1, Czech Republic.
The museum is somehow difficult to find, but it is well worth the effort to do so, if you wish to see how this political theory shaped the destiny of a country.
Communism, on paper at least, has some merit"and even appeal. Many Christian teachings echo many of the principles that communism espouses (as long as God is in the equation, of course). However, the practical application of this theory in the Czech Republic and other central and eastern European countries from 1948 to 1989/1990/1991 resulted in a failed experiment, one which contained too many corrupt players, which is a problem, in varying degrees, with the application of most political theories, including capitalism.
The museum's storyline initially sets the stage for how the country became totally immersed in the 'fish tank' (my words) of communism after World War II.
Like many totalitarian regimes, Czech communism initially tries to portray itself as the good guy. After all, it was the communists that liberated the country from the throes of fascism. Initially, the communist party even creates the illusion of choice by holding an election; of course, the outcome is no surprise for the incoming regime, which manipulates the results in its favor.
Before long, the regime has infiltrated every facet of people's lives. Likewise, anyone who opposes the regime and its purposes is silenced through harassment, intimidation, job demotion, and even death.
Signage at the start of the museum notes that communism was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of 100 million persons in the 20th Century.
The one common factor in all communist-ruled countries is that everything must follow 'The Plan.' From how many apples will be needed each week to how many pins a factory should produce, The Plan directed the flow of life (and shortage of goods) in then-Czechoslovakia. Museum signage even reveals that at one point in the 1950s there was even a plan for how many people are to be arrested, and executed, each year.
Perhaps what stood out most for me in visiting the museum was the absurdity of the regime and its practices. For example, one high-ranking party official headed a committee which was responsible for fabricating the charges which resulted in the arrest of this same high-ranking official and several others.
The impression you are left with by visiting the museum is that communism was a dark cloud hanging over Czechoslovakia. Fortunately though, the dark cloud finally breaks apart and dissolves, as the section of the museum takes you on a roller coaster ride of hope, replaced by fear, ending with love.
First, the Prague Spring happens in 1968. This was a period of normalization and increasing freedom for the Czech people under Slovak-born party leader Alexander Dubcek, whose philosophy was 'communism with a human face.' Unfortunately, the Central Committee in the Soviet Union did not see this as a positive development for the country and clamped down on the reforms; on August 20, 1968, 600,000 Warsaw Pact Troops invaded and occupied the country. Even though this number gradually reduced over the years, Soviet troops would remain in Czechoslovakia until June 1991.
The death nail for communism officially began in November 1989 with what is known as the Velvet Revolution. At this time citizen protests against the communist regime grew larger and larger in number, culminating in a two-hour country wide strike on November 27. The protests had begun after a November 16 anti-government protest in Bratislava was met with violence by police. Eventually, the countrywide nonviolent protests forced a weakened communist government to resign, and playwright and leading opposition figure Vaclav Havel was elected as the first president of the new republic (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_Revolution for more information).
The exhibit ends with a quote from Havel: 'Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred.'
This is only a synopsis of the story told in the Museum of Communism. The specific details of how this country and its people were oppressed by this political philosophy is disturbingly conveyed through the museum exhibit. If you ever find yourself in Prague, the Museum of Communism is well worth a visit.