Hello from Prague’s Museum of Communism and My New Friend

Poster from the Museum of Communism.

07/07/12 10:30AM Museum of Communism, Prague, Republic of Czech

A Museum of Communism run by an American? If you missed the irony in my previous post, now you’ve heard it. But wait, I take it back- there is more to this attraction than what the political paradox might seem. Let’s head out to Day 2 in Prague. (Finally!)

The muzeum komunismu at Na Příkopě 10 was indeed founded by American business owner Glenn Spicker back in 2001. After finishing his academic degree in political science, he came to Prague and introduced Bohemian Bagels to the city. Spicker later subleased a space next to a casino from MacDonald’s and worked with Czech documentary maker and curator Jan Kaplan on the museum project, its exhibits jointly annotated by Charles University professor Čestmír Kráčmar. I got most of my facts on the development of this museum from here, since I wanted to get to the bottom of this unusual combination.

A beautiful juxtaposition of the Communism Museum with the $$Casino$$

The museum is dedicated to showing an account of life behind the Iron Curtain and from my early morning visit, I definitely learnt quite a sum about the post-WWII Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia. You wouldn’t say no to a harmless dose of CHOCOLATE, no? (Communism History Of CzechOsLovakia Abridged: Totally Easy!)

I hope I got the order right for these historical events since I wrote my notes down in order of the exhibits I visited. When the successors of the Austria-Hungarian empire collapsed in the spring of 1918, prisoners of war rebelled against the Bolsheviks; one such prisoner was an exile called T.G. Masaryk, who became the 1st president of independent Czechoslovakia. During the München crisis, the Nazis decided to pull Czechoslovakia into their Third Reich. At the end of World War II, Prague was one of the last cities in Europe where war persisted. The Czechs defeated the Germans in a revolt that killed 1691 Czech citizens. The liberated city welcomed the Soviet army afterward.

In school culture, the success of communism depended on raising a “socialist man” satisfied with modest income, fulfilled his work tasks, was vigilant of people who disturbed social order, cooperated with state bodies, and improved his own knowledge of communist doctrines. To maximize these qualities, the education system changed to raise the “Soviet” or “socialist” man, encouraging class hatred toward the wealthy and hostility toward democratic states and religions.

Owing to the dangers of war, the KSC (Czech Communist Party) placed priority on combat sports such as archery, running, and javelin, not to mention swimming, motor cycling, and shooting. The previous generation of athletes were distrusted, thus many were forced into emigration.

The importance of factories was paramount as Stalin based economic theory on that of Marx- that the life of society revolved around industrial production. Workers were pushed to produce maximum yield; trade unions declared wages unimportant to increase efficiency of work; and even women were introduced into men’s roles in the workforce through the ideal of “women’s emancipation”.

In 1957, a second currency called the “Tuzex crown” was introduced into the market, and it could be exchanged for inaccessible or luxury goods in special stores. A girl might receive 20USD from prostitution. She exchanges this sum for 160 Tuzex from the bank and sells this on the black market for 800 kroner, a considerable sum equal to the monthly wage of a shopkeeper. You can read more about this currency, which is short for tuzemský export (domestic export)

During the economic crisis, investment in historic Praha town centre was interrupted for some 30 years up to the mid 60s. At this point, the party organization implemented reconstruction efforts to fix the pileup of dilapidation.  At this point (in the present), I stopped taking notes and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the museum instead: the Velvet Revolution, Berlin Wall, and even an outdoor exhibit on North Korea. I humbly apologize if you wanted to hear more Czech history. Here’s a comprehensive guide to 1200 years of Czech history and all sorts of cool info I failed to provide you!

A street procession taking place by the border between New Town and Old Town. Any ideas what this is for?

We next went in search of what our guide yesterday deemed one of the best ice cream stops in town by the shopping centre that housed David Czerny’s Upside-Down Horse. Sadly, although we found the horse sculpture, the ice cream shop was nowhere to be found.

Down and distressed, my brother and I wandered about the surrounding alleys in states of numb depression.

Just kidding! Lacking time to revisit the beautiful Charles Bridge since we had a train to catch for Munich, we began heading back to the hotel, passing the Old Town Square again on our way.

A most friendly and interesting old man with his instruments of choice- a saw, a bow, and a spoon. Doesn’t he look like a wax figure in this photo?

It was then that I ran into the old man again: a quasi street musician, the small grey-bearded fellow sits with amused eyes smiling behind a large pair of glasses and a disproportionately ductile saw propped like a Chinese Er Hu on his lap. For a euro, he began striking the metal face of the saw with a spoon drawn out of nowhere. It made the most eerie series of sounds- like a monophonic soundtrack for a ghost movie filmed in a castle at night, completely befitting our ancient surroundings. To all you people from Asia, myu new friend says Hello on behalf of Prague!

And so with bell-like tones ringing in my head, I conclude our 2 short but wondrous days in Prague. I wish laptops have a pensieve application so I could extract memories for slow enjoyment. One could hope.

Next stop: are you ready for Bavaria? Deutschland, ich komme wieder!

Goodbye, Praha. One day I’ll walk here again.

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