This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

November 11, 2008
Czech youth unaware of Soviet past

Forty years ago, Russia invaded the former Czechoslovakia to resume communist rule. The invasion launched demonstrations in the streets of Prague to challenge Soviet oppression.

Today, the younger generation of Czech citizens know little about the invasion and subsequent demonstrations. It poses a problem for schools and families to talk about their country’s political past.

Worldfocus correspondent Dave Marash reports on the forgotten history of the 1960s in present-day Czech Republic.


bookmark    print




Europe is a concept,and so is “Central” and “Eastern” Europe. If I am looking at the 1900 map I see the Habsburgic Empire, where is now Central and even Eastern Europe. And of course, the czech lands,but not Czech Republic.


I think that they mentioned all the main reasons, a mixture. Another reason I don’t think they mentioned is that Czech youth are more in a global culture these days, they know a lot about “Call of Duty” or other pc games, and they all have mp3 players and cell phones, know the latest blockbuster Hollywood movies, and knowing what people did in the old days when people rode horses is not as interesting. Also, it’s true that it is difficult to go from preaching the wonders of Socialism to preaching the evils of it, so schools have kind of dropped teaching about it at all and leave it up to the parents– many of whom, as that one guy alludes, were either in the party or kept their cake-holes shut and possibly kissed Commie ass to get by, nothing of which they care to remember or talk about.


Of course CE and EE are mutualy exclusive terms and Bulgaria and Romania are not part of central europe. If you want to know what is central europe look at map of europe in 1900 AD and what is labeled as Germany or Austria-Hungary is central Europe. If you are feeling generous you can say that Central Europe extends to where catholic christianity is predominant religion.


Contemporary history may not be not scrupulously covered in Czech public education, but every August 1968 is endlessly rehashed and pored over by the media. Anyone with a vague interest in politics or history can’t miss it. It’s also staple preoccupation of foreign media your report being an example. Personally, I don’t buy the ignorant-of-the-past-condemned-to-repeat-it-argument served up in your report. If young people are too busy getting on with their lives to agonise about 1968, like a certain generation of 50-60 something intellectuals and politicians seen on your film, then that’s terrific. The Czech Republic is becoming a normal warts-and-all democracy like the US.


I’m with Vitali that the EE v CE question is less than momentus. As for the 2 excellent questions he raised. Respected Prague analyst Jan Hartl cited several polls he had taken over the year in saying that Czech youth are very ignorant of the history of the 1968 events. I found his “compromised” argument compelling. Everyone we talked with, on and off camera said contemporary history is simply not scrupulously covered in Czech public education. In this respect, alas, the CR is far from unique. US public education, for example, is not very rigorous on the era of Vietnam or anything that has happened since.


There is an assumption that the two terms C.E. and E.E. are mutually exclusive. I don’t see why they are. There is large overlap between them with EE often serving as the broader category under which CE is subsumed. The reason EE is broader is because it is defined in opposition to Western Europe.

I’m also not sure that Romania and Bulgaria can be defined as CE in the sense the term is commonly understood (i.e. the Visegrad group).

Likewise by that logic, if Romania and Bulgaria are CE, then it raises the question why this category should not be applied to Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine and others.



I’ve been going back and forth from the U.S. to the former Czechoslovakia since 1978-my honeymoon trip.

Since the Velvet Revolution and the Velvet Divorce of the Czechs from the Slovaks the Czechs wish that Americans and others stop referring to them as Eastern Europeans. They were OCCUPIED by Eastern Europeans. They wish to be called what they are – “Central Europeans” and NOT Eastern Europeans.

The citizens of the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria are all members of the Central European nations. The U.S. media of all sorts doesn’t group these nations accurately.

I’ve recently worked in Bohemia east of Prague as a medical anthropologist and know this desire to be seen as Central Europeans and not Eastern ones is a strong one by all of them that I have talked with over the last 40+ years. Calling them Easterners places them in the same group as their occupiers for a good part of the last century.

Dawn C. Hammond, Ph.D.
Medical Anthropologist


It would have been interesting to learn more about 1. how we know that the Czech youth does not know their own history (is it from survey polls or educational data?) and 2. the reasons why this is the case? I don’t think being “compromised” and not wanting to dwell so much on it is satisfactory enough. Are there no books on the topic? Are the current textbooks that cover it, do so inefficiently? Or is it simply that the Czech’s choose not to focus on the past and prefer to focus on the future, i.e. the EU?

Still, I thought this was a very interesting report with good camera work.

Produced by Creative News Group LLC     ©2020 WNET.ORG     All rights reserved

Distributed by American Public Television