Happy Birthday to Czechoslovakia – 100 Years of Independence
On the 28th of October 1918, a new country has formed in the heart of Europe. By declaring its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia was born and it lasted for 75 years. Although the Czechs and Slovaks waved goodbye to each other in 1993, when the country was separated into two independent states, they continued to live peacefully side-by-side as long-time friends. This October, the two nations join to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their common beginnings.
From the beginning of October, massive celebrations take place all over the country. These include various conferences, exhibitions, public events, concerts of live music, performances, and much more! Visit Prague at this time and feel free to join us in celebrating this unique event. The month of October will be loaded with activities that will transform your holiday in the metropolis into a rich cultural experience.
How it all began…
Nationalism in the Czech lands is not a recent invention. In fact, its roots date all the way back to the 18th century, when local intellectuals fought for our language and literature under the movement called the Czech National Revival. We are not here to discuss that part of our history, but it is important to keep such endeavours in mind when discussing the origins of Czechoslovakia. By the time the First World War drew to its end, the Czech nation was already quite aware of its identity and confident about its goals. United under the powerful figure of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the Czechs and Slovaks achieved their independence from the collapsing Austro-Hungarian Empire right after the war ended.
Apart from Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia, the so-called “First Czechoslovak Republic” also included Carpathian Ruthenia. This region was annexed to Hungary at the beginning of the Second World War and subsequently given over to Soviet Ukraine (must be an awful place if everyone gives it up so easily… just kidding). Besides this partial loss of territory, other important historical events have marked the history of Czechoslovakia. I don’t want to bore you with all the historical stuff, so let’s fast-forward this a little bit.
Fun fact: Although this might come as a surprise in the light of its future development, in 1933 Czechoslovakia was the only democratic nation in central and eastern Europe. Too bad we weren’t able to protect our precious democracy from the pitfalls of the communist regime that was yet to come.
Anyway, it is the end of the Second World War and two huge armies meet on the premises of this tiny country – the American army reaches the city of Pilsen and the same time that the Soviet army marches to Prague. Somehow they manage to pass this encounter peacefully and Czechoslovakia is returned from the German occupation back to its original state (except for that little region that nobody wanted anyway). However, not many peaceful years go by when the Communist Party takes over in the “Victorious February” od 1948 and installs its rigorous rule. Even though there are attempts at overthrowing this regime, namely the Prague Spring of 1968, it takes quite some time to release the country from its binding. 41 years, in fact. The Velvet Revolution of 1989 ends the communist dictatorship, and not long after that Czechoslovakia is divided into two independent republics – the Czech Republic and Slovakia, yaay!
What Czechoslovakia left behind
Although the country experienced some difficult times over the course of its relatively short existence, it could boast a thriving economy, especially after the Second World War. In this sense, Czechoslovakia did not leave the world map without a trace and one may still observe some of its accomplishments even today.
One of the peaks of Czechoslovak production is the automobile manufacturer Škoda. The company was founded in 1895 by Laurel & Klement and bought by the industrial conglomerate Škoda Works in 1925, moving its headquarters to the city of Mladá Boleslav. Together with Tatra, these two manufacturers formed a prominent component of the country’s economy. Though Czechoslovakia no longer exists, Škoda is still the leading Czech export. For car enthusiasts, there is a Škoda Museum in Mladá Boleslav that is definitely worth visiting. You will learn about the history of the company’s logo, witness some of the first car models, and experience the vision of the future development of automobile manufacturing.
The next is… shoes! Yes, shoes. But not just any shoes – Baťa shoes! Baťa is a synonym for a successful business. Established in 1894 in Zlín, the company has reached worldwide fame and is still prosperous not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Tomáš Baťa had more than money-making in when he started his company. He regarded his employees with extraordinary empathy and had houses, schools, and hospitals built for them from the company’s profit. Zlín remained a museum of Baťa’s influence, which is reflected in its architecture. Another city worth of a one-day trip outside of Prague!
Speaking of architecture, Czechoslovakia has left behind numerous specimens of its unique style and uncommon design. One of these lies on the premises of the second largest city in the Czech Republic – Brno. Vila Tugendhat was built by the German architect Miles van der Rohe and later listed among the sites of cultural heritage UNESCO. The Prague Castle itself got a new coat shortly after WWI. The modernization project was designed by a Slovene architect Jože Plečnik and carried out by the current Czechoslovak president T. G. Masaryk. This was before the communists took over. The architecture of the communist era was in the spirit of cubism, concrete and grey color. An apt example would be the TV tower in Žižkov, which was also listed among the top 10 ugliest buildings in the world. The New Stage of the National Theatre would be another case in point, which also demonstrates the use of glass in the construction industry that came into fashion at that time.
And, last but not least, our national treasure – Kofola! The Czechoslovak version of Coca-Cola, Kofola was designed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in order to match the Western soft-drinks repertoire. And it is, in fact, much better! Yeah, says a Czech person… But do give it a try, its sweet taste with herbal and spicy undertones will make you feel nostalgic about Czechoslovakia, even though you have never been there. You can get Kofola in most local-type bars and beer halls around Prague; some of them even have it on tap.
Experience the celebrations in Prague
In 2018, Czechoslovakia celebrates the 100th anniversary of its foundation. And a hundred years is a lot. It is definitely enough for a year-long celebration. Although the actual festivities begin at the end of September, there have been cultural events devoted to the centennial since January. Under the title “Společné století” (A common century), numerous exhibitions, concerts, and other events take place all over the country (both countries, in fact). The celebration culminates on the 28th of October, the Czechoslovak “independence day,” with a grand military parade on the Evropská boulevard. The National Museum, which coincidentally celebrates 200 years since its foundation, will be reopened on the same day, after 3 years of reconstruction.
Here are some tips on the major events devoted to the anniversary that you may enjoy in Prague:
- Touchstones of Statehood – Prague Castle Riding School (Jízdárna Pražského hradu, Prague 1 – Castle District), open daily 10 am – 6 pm
- The Castle Guard – Theresian wing of the Old Royal Palace at Prague Castle (Tereziánské křídlo Starého královského paláce, Prague 1 – Castle District), open daily 10 am – 6 pm
- Alfons Mucha: The Slav Epic – Municipal House (Obecní dům, náměstí Republiky 5, Prague 1 – Old Town), open daily 10 am – 7 pm
- Made in Czechoslovakia – the industry that ruled the world – National Technical Museum (Národní Technické Muzeum, Kostelní 42, Prague 7 – Holešovice), open Tuesday to Sunday 9 am – 6 pm
- 28 October / An exhibition of independent Czechoslovakia – Municipal House (Obecní dům, náměstí Republiky 5, Prague 1 – Old Town), open Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
- Czech-Slovak Exhibition / Slovak-Czech Exhibition – The historic building of the National Museum (historická budova Národního muzea, Václavské náměstí 68, Prague 1 – New Town), from 28 October
- The Truth (Always) Wins. Images From Czech History and Beyond – National Gallery in Prague (Národní galerie – Veletržní palác, Dukelských hrdinů 47, Prague 7 – Holešovice), from 24 October
- Czech Philharmonic – Concert Commemorating the Foundation of the Republic – Rudolfinum (Alšovo nábřeží 12, Prague 1 – Old Town), 3 October at 7:30 pm
- Czech Philharmonic: Opening Concert of the 123rd Season – Rudolfinum (Alšovo nábřeží 12, Prague 1 – Old Town), 10 and 11 October at 7:30 pm
- Prague Symphony Orchestra: A Concert for the Republic – Municipal House – Smetana Hall (Obecní dům – Smetanova síň, náměstí Republiky 5, Prague 1 – Old Town), 27 October from 10 am and 28 October at 5 pm
- Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra – To the Nation – Rudolfinum (Alšovo nábřeží 12, Prague 1 – Old Town), 28 October at 3 pm
- 100 years of the Republic – Lucerna Palace – large hall (Palác Lucerna, velký sál, Štěpánská 61, Prague 1 – New Town), 28 October at 3 pm
- Libuše – National Theatre (Národní divadlo, Národní 2, Prague 1 – New Town), 27 October at 8 pm
- Kylián – Bridges of Time – National Theatre (Národní divadlo, Národní 2, Prague 1 – New Town), October 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 20, 23 and November 3 at 7 pm
- Colonel Švec – New Stage of the National Theatre (Nová scéna Národního divadla, Národní 4, Prague 1 – New Town), October 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, November 4, 17 and December 7
Other public events
- Promotion of activities associated with the anniversary – National Agricultural Museum (Národní zemědělské muzeum, Kostelní 1300/44, Prague 7 – Holešovice), Tuesday to Sunday 9 am – 5 pm
- An Act of piety to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Czechoslovak state – National monument in Vítkov (Národní památník na Vítkově), 28 October 9 am
As you can see, October will be a busy month. If you get lost, Prague Urban Adventures is here to navigate your way through these events. Feel free to join any of our tours and ask the guides about their own memories from Czechoslovakia (or their parents’ memories, we have some young blood among us). After all, the best history lesson comes from those who were there when history was made.
October 1, 2018