Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Founding of Czechoslovakia

Friday was the anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia (the founding of the Czech Republic is celebrated in September because that goes so nicely with Sv. Václav, aka St. Wenceslaus). Several of my Czech friends quizzed me as to whether I knew what holiday it was, and fortunately I was able to provide the correct answer. Jesse tells me that his acquaintances in Brno are much less concerned and claim it is only of interest to their grandparents, although apparently one person conceded that it was nice not to be ruled by “Germany”. Hmm. Germany only had sway over Czechoslovakia during the World War II period, when it made a Protectorate out of Bohemia and Moravia and pretended that Slovakia was independent. This dismal episode in Czechoslovak history really has no direct relationship to Czechoslovakia’s 1918 independence from Austria-Hungary, never mind what Hitler might have argued. But some Czechs evidently feel that 1918 is much too long ago to celebrate. They think Americans must be insane for celebrating the Fourth of July, as the United States was founded over 200 years ago and why would anyone need to commemorate that? (On the other hand, other Czechs will happily go on and on about Jan Hus, the Battle of Bilá Hora in 1620, and other long-ago matters.) Well, without being in any way rabid nationalists, Jesse and I thought it seemed reasonable to celebrate the founding of one’s country. National mythology can be fun, when not being toxic. Besides, we like fireworks. (Note: John and I saw some spectacular Fourth of July fireworks when we were in Evanston this summer.)

Well, I didn’t really investigate the degree to which Prague was celebrating the holiday, but I did get a photo of a gathering at (where else?) the Palácký Memorial. The statue of Palácký himself appeared unmoved. Perhaps the group wasn’t actually commemorating the holiday; I didn’t go close enough to find out just what they were doing. Certainly their banners and clothes didn’t strike me as very Czechoslovak in color (which is to say, they were black rather than tricolored).

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