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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 19:30 GMT
Czech schools revisit communism
By Diana Kosslerova
BBC Monitoring

Still taken from the documentary film Sladke stoleti (Sweet Century)
A 1950s show trial in the film Sweet Century (pic: People in Need)
A project is being launched in the Czech Republic this month to correct what has been identified as a big gap in young people's education - knowledge of the communist era.

A school inspectors' report published last year found that the period was not often mentioned in school history lessons, with the result that many young Czechs knew very little about their country's history in the second half of the 20th Century.

People in Need, a major Czech humanitarian and human rights organisation, reached a similar conclusion while conducting information campaigns to raise awareness of human rights issues in other parts of the world.

Visiting schools to show documentaries highlighting these issues, the group became aware that many schoolchildren had only the vaguest of notions of how their parents and grandparents lived in pre-1989 Czechoslovakia.

I am afraid that the nation's memory of this period is being lost
Czech Senator Jaromir Stetina

After the Velvet Revolution, divisions in society were played down in the interests of promoting reconciliation. This approach may have side-stepped the public settling of old scores, but many Czechs feel that it did not actually help the country come to terms with its recent history.

People in Need's special information campaign "Stories of Injustice - Communist Czechoslovakia" was devised as a way of promoting discussion of the past.

During November, a series of documentaries focusing on different aspects of the communist era - from the political trials of the early 1950s to the campaign against the Charter 77 dissident movement - will be made available to schools to raise awareness.

'Selecting excesses'

Schools will be encouraged to invite people who suffered under communism to take part in discussions on the issues raised.

"Stories of Injustice might contribute to students' ability to critically assess various fabricated explanations and interpretations," project organiser Karel Strachota told the BBC.

The Czech Communist Party takes a somewhat jaundiced view of the project.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA UNDER COMMUNISM (1948-1989)
214 political prisoners executed
8,000 died doing hard labour
600 died under police interrogation
500 died trying to cross border
250,000 imprisoned
400,000 emigrated
Data: People in Need

"People in Need are feeding very unbalanced, one-sided information to schoolchildren," the newly-elected leader of the party, Vojtech Filip, told the BBC.

"It is just picking out excesses, pretending that nothing else happened then."

Mr Filip maintains there is no need for such a campaign, and insists that there is already enough objective information available about the communist regime.

However, the Czech education ministry thinks differently.

"The ministry welcomes any accompanying activities aimed at improving the teaching of history," a statement issued by the ministry says.

Senator Jaromir Stetina - a former war reporter and human rights activist who helped set up People in Need - has also expressed his support for the project.

Mr Stetina, who campaigns for a stricter ban on the promotion of Nazism, communism and fascism, has warned of the danger of allowing the period to be forgotten.

"I am afraid that the nation's memory of this period is being lost," he told the BBC.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Czech Republic
14 Sep 05 |  Country profiles
The press in the Czech Republic
25 Feb 05 |  Europe


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