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Unofficial Education in Czechoslovakia

  • Kathleen Wilkes

An Alaskan and a Siberian bear were grumbling about the decline in their living conditions – the oil pipes and the bustle in Alaska, the prison camps and the KomsomoI hearties in Siberia – when a Czech bear interrupted: ‘It's worse for me, though. In 1968 I was expelled from the Union of Free Bears; now I'm in Bohemia, training to be a cuckoo’.

AS IS WELL-KNOWN, THE YEARS FOLLOWING THE SOVIET INcursion of 1968 saw drastic purges in Czechoslovakia. The number of those expelled from the Party was put by Vasil Bilak, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, at 461,751; a high proportion of these lost their jobs as well. (Bilak in fact claimed that only 30 per cent of those expelled — about 150,000 — had lost their jobs; but as Zdenek Mlynif and Karel Kaplan were quick to point out, Bilak's statistics took no account of those who were still employed but with lower status: medical consultants demoted to hospital porters, bank managers as office cleaners — in general, professionals redeployed in unskilled labour.) Those expelled suffered in other respects as well; in particular, their children tended to be denied higher or secondary education.

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1 Bilak, Vasil, interview in the Daily World (US Communist Party newspaper), 4 09 1975 .

2 Mlynar, Zdenek, ‘Open Letter to Communist and Socialist Parties in Europe’, 17 09 1975 ; and Kaplan, Karel, ‘Open Letter to Vasil Bilak’, 27 09 1975 ; both reprinted (in translation) in Deutscher, et al. (eds), Voices of Czechoslovak Socialists, London, Merlin Press, 1976.

3 Payne, Peter, ‘Four Years of “Normalisation”: the Academic Purge in Czechoslovakia’, 0Index on Censorship, vol. 1 no. 2, Summer 1972, pp. 3348.

4 Charter Document No. 12, ‘On the Position of Writers’, Published in translation in Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, vol. 1 no. 4, September‐October 1977, pp. 7–8.

5 Ibid.

6 Kliment, Alexander, ‘Mr Feuilleton’, reprinted in translation in Index on Censorship, vol. 7 no. 3, 05/06 1978, pp. 37–8.

7 Levy, Alan, ‘The reed that bends but never breaks’, Index on Censorship, vol. 5 no. 3, Autumn 1976, pp. 23–8.

8 Vaculik, Ludvik, ‘Open Letter to Kurt Waldheim’, 29 07 1975 ; reprinted in translation in Riese, H‐P. (ed.), Since the Prague Spring, New York, Random House 1979, pp. 113–20.

9 See Moldau, George, ‘Patočka University’, Index on Censorship, vol. 8, no. 3, 05/06 1979, pp. 54–6. Moldau adds drily, however, ‘No doubt even secret policemen exaggerate their work achievements’.

10 See Tomin, Julius, ‘Inside the Security State’, published in translation in The New Statesman, 7 03 1980 , pp. 350–3.

11 Published in translation in Palach Press Bulletin for April 1980.

12 Tomin, Julius, ‘Open Letter to the Minister of the Interior’, published in translation under the title ‘Without Music, Mr Tomin…’, in The New Statesman, 16 05 1980 , p. 745.

13 Op. cit., note 10.

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
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