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The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation. Chapter 1: Nation Against State Nick Fundytus. The Public and Private Spheres.

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The little czech and the great czech nation

The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation

Chapter 1: Nation Against State

Nick Fundytus

The public and private spheres
The Public and Private Spheres

  • Czechoslovakia is unique among the Eastern Bloc countries in that it voted in the Communists freely and by a majority. Its last free elections were in 1946, and the communist coup d’etat occurred in 1948.

  • Because of state ownership of production, Public life became anything to do with work or the state, while private was home and family.

Anyone who doesn t steal
“Anyone who doesn’t steal. . .

  • Czechs, like Westerners, generally made friends outside of work.

  • Czechs were not known for their friendliness to foreigners or people they did not know personally.

Is robbing his family
. . . is robbing his family”

  • Czechs saw lying to the state as expected to maneuver within the socialist system, in private life it was unforgivable.

  • One popular practice was to pilfer state goods to supplement income.

  • Thus a popular saying in Czechoslovakia arose: “Anyone who does not steal is robbing his family”

Opposition to the communist regime
Opposition to the Communist Regime

  • Prague Spring or “Prager Spring,” 1968. A short-lived period of increased openness in C.S.

  • Public demonstrations in Prague in 1988-9, led to the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia.


A problem of legitimacy
A Problem of Legitimacy

  • Despite regular elections and state-sponsored demonstrations such as the May Day parade, the Communist government did not have legitimate support from the masses.

  • An attempt to rectify this and discourage resistance to the state was to make material wealth the “meaning of life” within the state.

State vs nation

Communist Party

Political aims

Interests tie in with Soviet policies

Defined material well-being as a symbol of success

Dissident Groups

Idealistic aims

Diverse bases and interests

Defined morality as a goal (this stance was undermined by the communist stance)

State vs. Nation

National symbols prague and st wenceslas


Capital of Czechoslovakia

Idea of “Mother Prague” was important to Czechs

Dubcek exploited this symbol upon his rise to power in 1968.

St Wenceslas Square

Heart of Prague, and thus the real heart of the nation.

St. Wenceslas was a martyr in the Czech church, and one of its most enduring symbols against oppression.

National Symbols: Prague and St Wenceslas

The little czech and the great czech nation

AUGUST 21, 1968

Warsaw Pact Troops

descend upon St.

Wenceslas Square and

crush unarmed opposition

to the communist regime

Timing of resistance
Timing of Resistance

  • In 1988-9, demonstrations occurred on days that were specifically important to the nationalist cause

  • October 28- Anniversary of the independent C.S. state in 1918

  • August 21- End of the Prague Spring in 1968

  • January 19- Death of Jan Palach in 1969

  • November 17, Closing of Czech Universities by the Nazis in 1939

Well maybe it s funnier in czech
Well, maybe it’s funnier in Czech?

  • Of Socialism: The first peculiarity is that everybody is employed and nobody works. The Second is that nobody works and the plan gets filled 100%. The third is that the plan is filled and there is nothing in the shops. The fourth: There is nothing to be had in the shops and people have everything.The fifth is that people have everything and everybody still grumbles. The sixth is that we grumble about the regime and then we all go vote for it.

  • Popular Czech Joke in the 1970’s

Two types of nationalism friedrich meinecke

State Nation

Describes post-revolution France

Political ties

In Czechoslovakia, described the “official” nationalism of the communist Party

Cultural Nation

Describes Germany in opposition to Napoleonic France

Cultural and Language Ties

In Czechoslovakia, described the Czechs

Two Types of Nationalism: Friedrich Meinecke


  • Though Czechoslovakia entered into communism Willingly, so did it leave it by its own will. The Adoption and manipulation of national symbols by both government and dissidents in 1968 and 1988 defined the struggle of Nation against State.

  • Eventually it was the state that would fall to the Czech Nation, and her vague notion of what it meant to be “free.”