Practical manual for dictators in the 21st century

Totalitarianism which has learned its lesson

10. 12. 2016 / Bohumil Kartous

The following is a practical guide for trained dictators in the 21st century

A religious interpretation of the world and later Marx's dialectic both  assume that somehow humanity is heading for a better tomorrow. Either it is the kingdom of heaven after death, or longer life. Incidentally,  Marxism is noticeably more acceptable about this. Political developments in recent years, at least from the perspective of a Central European, appear to be good empirical material for a  groundbreaking study which finally disproves this myth. Heavily inspired by the genius of contemporary totalitarian regimes such as China and Russia, Central Europeans are building a somewhat different kind of paradise: it will be what all average Czechs, Poles, Slovaks or Hungarians love. It will bypass  anything which they do not want. Perhaps they will ignore most human rights. Indeed, as demonstrated by the great teacher Miloš, it is necessary for the concept of human rights to be reassessed. The following is a practical guide for trained dictators of the 21st century.

Contemporary political systems of the West now stand on the edge  of what can still be considered democracy. It is hard to say what is the actual political system in Poland or Hungary where populists have come to power and hold a majority while doing so. It is hard to say how far the Czech Republic and Slovakia are from this strange frontier with their, more or less openly or covertly, active policies which are based on xenophobia, isolationism and the so called defensive nationalism.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Unpleasant facts cannot be said in a democracy?

Post-totalitarian bigotry is in our cultural DNA

10. 12. 2016 / Bohumil Kartous

The intellectuals are supposed to provoke. They are supposed always to stand on the side of doubt. When an image is too neat and too “true", it is necessary to look within it for cracks and defects. Behind every image, and this applies especially in the digital age, is a code. It is necessary to understand this code and the intellectual should serve this. As it transpires repeatedly, Czech society, or rather Czech intellectual circles, cannot cope with that fact. The attempt to censor a critical text dealing with Václav Havel and with the hypocrisy of the West right on stage of a Prague theatre and the demonstrative departure of some people from the hall is remarkable proof of the immaturity and the low self-confidence associated with the Prague metropolitan elites.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Us Boring Czechs

10. 12. 2016 / Bohumil Kartous

Anyone who is in touch with Czech society these days will see that there is a social conflict. There is much talk about democracy, about who violates it, about who is sycophantic to what power, about who steals more and who wants to usurp more power. But if you,  by means of digital teleportation,   rise above the small space-time continuum in Central Europe, in which this seemingly important political conflict is happening,  it all begins to look somewhat different. A handful of  dogmatists commands a small group of ideological fellow travellers. These are usually  divided into two camps in an odd fight for Czech identity. This struggle is enclosed in a surprisingly hermetic cultural space in which this feud has been going on for centuries. These are boring, countless repetitions of the same, in slightly modified constellations and with a slightly modified cast. To try hard for victory in such a war is as futile as howling at the moon. But  for the majority, it is  evidently a more fun way of experiencing their own identity than any attempt to be interested in something substantial. Apropos, have you noticed how quickly the Czech society solved the terrible threat of the refugee crisis?

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

The Cuban Pleasure Principle

21. 7. 2015 / Andrej Rogačevskij

[1] Cuba has a long tradition of pleasing visitors with a combination of tropical weather and nature, sugary alcohol, strong tobacco and coffee, colourful racial mix and sensual music and dancing. Add to these a lasting victorious revolution – and the attraction may feel irresistible. The Cuban tourist industry – the country’s principal saviour after the early 1990s’ economic collapse – seems unstoppable: some two million foreigners visited in 2013, and about a million more, in 2014. The expectations of imminent change have clearly contributed to this growth of interest: outsiders want to catch what may prove to be the last moments of the Castro brothers’ revolutionary dream.

Fighting Back: the war against the Kremlin’s propaganda

11. 6. 2015 / Craig Proctor

A poll commissioned by the Kremlin in 2003 taken in America showed that the vast majority of the population polled viewed Russia in a negative light. The main connotations associated with Russia were with Kalashnikovs, Molotov cocktails, communism, the KGB and Russian mafia. The Kremlin’s conclusion was that the West was overly concentrated on anti-establishment Russian personalities such as Gusinsk and Mikhail Khodorkovsky with the Western media’s focus often falling on events such as Khodorovsky’s arrest and subsequent trial. Moscow decided to change the Western perception, be it real or imagined by the Kremlin, by employing soft power through the medium of a foreign news agency. Svetlana Mironyuk, a former employee and advisor to Gusinsky, was tasked with making this happen.

Prague, a Forbidden City

29. 5. 2015 / Andrej Rogačevskij

There are places that the general public rarely set foot in – not because they are remote but because they are off limits. Offices and private dwellings, artwork and book depositories, industrial spaces and corridors of power are normally closed for access to the unauthorised hoi polloi, and this is one reason why they attract and fascinate. Another, no less powerful reason is that many such places have been imaginatively designed. The Open House initiative, born in London 23 years ago to turn into a worldwide phenomenon, grants access to some of the forbidden locations, over a limited period of time, for anyone who is interested and can make it.

How Czechs react to foreigners

21. 4. 2015 / Amy Mackinnon

Studying Czech has been a joy for many reasons, and one which has certainly facilitated my learning is the enduring patience and kindness of the Czech people whom I encounter on a daily basis. From cashiers and barmen, to good friends and chance encounters, Czechs I have met have been overwhelmingly patient and kind with my hapless experiments with their language.

I can manage a sentence or two in convincing Czech, and then either my accent or a grammatical mistake betrays me. I can visibly see people’s minds working… ‘She is not Czech… but she is speaking to me in Czech’. At which point most people smile kindly, and speak slower. I will forever be incredibly grateful for this, as it has made my learning Czech faster and infinitely more pleasant. It has given me the courage to speak more and thus speeding my learning.

“Check what you hear, doubt what you see…”

30. 1. 2015 / Craig Proctor

A propaganda war is under way. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as propaganda has been a common feature of wars for some time. Perfected during the Second World War this dark art was used by Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Reich Minister of Propaganda, form 1933 till 1945. However, it would be naïve to think the Nazi’s were playing this game alone. The U.S. campaign portraying Josef Stalin as ‘Good Old Uncle Joe’, as American as apple pie, pays testament to that. Or the even more comical British public health campaign during WWII suggesting carrots help you see in the dark and therefore improved pilots’ sight during air battles.

Danielův svět - Daniel's World

26. 11. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

Kino Art’s small screening room, which holds around thirty people, seemed an unusually small venue for a documentary which has been creating such a large buzz over the last month. Receiving a near-standing ovation after scooping the audience award at Jihlava, Veronika Líšková’s controversial portrait of twenty-five year old gay paedophile Daniel deals admirably with a subject that some may find difficult to stomach.

Mezipatra Opens in Brno

21. 11. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

After a week of screenings in various cinemas around Prague, the fifteenth Mezipatra Queer Film Festival opened on Saturday night at the Kino Scala in Brno. Over the last decade the festival, mostly set up by volunteers “because they see the point in doing so” has been going from strength to strength; with crowd numbers purportedly on the up each year. A packed-out cinema to watch the opening ceremony and film is a good indicator of this trend continuing, and a hunger in general for films touching on themes relevant to LGBTQ viewers and reflecting the true composition of society.


Three Cheers for FAMU

5. 11. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

One of my surprise highlights of the 2013 festival was the FAMU International screening, affording students on the English-language course the opportunity to exhibit their projects to an audience at a major Czech film festival. The inclusion of documentary (or documentary-style) projects in the school's Academy Preparation Programme has reaped rewards in terms of the level of challenging work on display, while also exposing new directors to the many industry-related events on offer in the town. In a festival which in many ways is dominated by directors and editors who are a product of FAMU's courses, it is encouraging to see a bottom-up attitude where student work is put on display on many occasions. This applies to other departments in the school -- the documentary film course, which Vít Klusák is heavily involved, was also responsible for screening work from their first-year students.


The Czech Beer War

1. 11. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

Martin Jarošek is a big fan of beer. The Ostrava musician's love affair with the drink has seen him not only pen songs about his "second home" in the pub, but write two books and travel around the world sampling the different national and craft brews on offer. One thing he is not pleased about, however, is the flagship Pilsner Urquell - the original Pilsner -- which is now a part of South African brewing multinational SABMiller. Should Czech beer, which is a "part of our national heritage", be controlled by such a company? Jarošek doesn't believe so, and starts writing a new book on the subject, taking him from a journey from the Plzeň brewery all the way to South Africa trying to find answers to his questions.


Out in the Open - František svého druhu and Lovu zdar!

31. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

One of the more intriguing double-bill screenings over the weekend was the coupling of two films focusing on the subject of wildlife and the environment -- the half-hour František svého druhu (František of his own Kind, dir. Jan Gogola ml.) and the full-feature Lovu zdar! (Long Live Hunting! dir. Jaroslav Kratochvíl). The documentaries examine very different aspects of animal fascination, in two rather different styles, and although it may be slightly unfair to compare and contrast these films with each other it certainly allowed to audience to judge the merits of each approach taken.


Jihlava Closing Ceremony -- A Festival in Ascendance

30. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

Monday's closing ceremony in Jihlava saw the conclusion to the 18th annual festival and six days of workshops, masterclasses and of course the screening of both international and Czech documentaries for another year. The first hour of the ceremony, where the major awards were presented, was broadcast on Česká televize's dedicated arts channel, and can be viewed here: ZDE.

100 000 people demonstrated in Budapest against Orban's internet tax

29. 10. 2014 / Amy Mackinnon

Budapest saw its second night of demonstrations as an estimated 100 000 people took to the streets to protest a proposed tax on internet use. It was the largest anti-Orban protest since his Fidesz party has assumed power.

Demonstrators held their mobile phones aloft and chanted `Orban takarodj!' [Orban out!] and `Viktator!' in reference to the country's Prime Minister, Vikotr Orban, whose ruling Fidesz party put forward the proposals.


Films about racism in the Czech Republic

28. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

On Sunday afternoon, DKO2 was packed out for two premiers dealing with the continued problem of racism in the Czech Republic. The documentaries on show demonstrated two different, yet effective ways of capturing their protagonists on screen, and in conveying a strong societal message to the audience.


Collaboration and Controversy -- Should Wonka be Exposed?

26. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

It has been twenty-six years since Czech dissident Pavel Wonka died in a communist prison in Hradec Králové. Since the fall of the regime, Wonka has had streets and bridges named in his honour, been celebrated alongside the Charta 77 dissidents, and last October was posthumously awarded the Medal of Merit by President Miloš Zeman. Now a new film by director Libuše Rudinská casts doubt upon Wonka's character in her new documentary feature, Pavel Wonka se zavazuje.


Opři žebřík o nebe -- A Highlight of the Year

26. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

Jana Ševčíková's five-year-long project of following catholic priest Marián Kuffa's parish in the Slovak Tatras is a thought-provoking, rich body of work that has already proven to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Based in the small town of Zakovce, Kuffa's parish is a refuge for a whole manner of alcoholics, drug users and former prisoners hoping to turn their lives around with the priest's help. He has had quite a task on his hands, the refuge steadily growing year-on-year to now provide shelter for over a hundred men and women. It is an exploration on a number of levels - of Kuffa's deep Catholic faith and conviction, the extent that his flock fully believe, of the social problems that still blight rural Slovakia.


The Jihlava Caravan

26. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

As someone who grew up in the UK, I cannot help but associate caravans with wet summers and excruciating ten-hour drives to various sub-par holiday destinations with family members; guaranteeing everyone having a thoroughly miserable time year in, year out. However, these memories are far removed from the experience of the Enchanted Caravan (Začarovaný caravan) running all this week at the festival.


Letters from Max

25. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

One of the first films to be shown at Jihlava this year was Eric Baudelaire's fascinating Letters from Max . The film documents just that -- letters the director sends to Max, full name Maxim Gvinjia, former Foreign Minister for the disputed state of Abkhazia. Following a declaration of independence and a bitter war with Georgia, Abkhazia became a de facto republic in the early 1990s, albeit one with severely limited recognition. Over a series of years, Baudelaire corresponds with Gvinja (originally sending a letter, he says, simply to see if it would fact arrive to an unrecognised state lying in the Caucasus) and this exchange becomes the main component of the film. While Gvinja's dialogue is read out on screen, the camera attempts to (at random) paint a picture of everyday life in the Abkhazian towns and villages.

Jihlava's 2014 Opening

Why the Vietnamese Factory?

24. 10. 2014 / Sam Graeme Beaton

Once again, the beginning of the Jihlava Documentary Film Festival again sees thousands of film enthusiasts from the Czech Republic and beyond converge on the small town in the Czech highlands. Following on from the "good harvest" of 2013, the choice for this, the 18th annual festival, is `factory'; and visitors will be treated to a suitable short postcard evoking the heavy industry, dust and machinery of what appears to be a refuse plant before each film begins. With much inspiration from the subject to play on, I found the visual choice of the opening ceremony somewhat bizarre, for reasons I will now explain.

Elections 2013 -- Inside the Outsider's Perspective

25. 10. 2013 / Sam Graeme Beaton

The author is a postgraduate student in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow.

One of the great frustrations of the British media is both its lack of ability and lack of interest in covering Central and East European issues. A search of the BBC website with regards to the Czech elections reveals only a few articles on the current political situation, supplemented with basic (and occasionally incorrect) analysis. With one of the most important elections in years against a backdrop of worsening economic conditions and corruption scandals, I wanted to get an insight into how Czechs on the street regarded the vote, how parties were faring ahead of the weekend's polls and in doing this go deeper than the outsiders -- the BBC, British newspapers and television news -- in really understanding what was going on.

Britské listy in Jihlava 5:

Člověk ryba

30. 10. 2013 / Sam Graeme Beaton

Tucked away in a morning screening alongside a full-length feature was Slovak director Jana Mináriková's twenty-three minute Člověk ryba (known in English as Homo Ciris). A work of docu-fiction, it looks at a man who has spent his life looking after tropical fish and his dreams of becoming one himself. The rationality is that the fish he cares for live lives free of stress and worry, the complete antithesis of today's world. The result of this is that he acts as much like a fish as possible, from cutting up his food to minute-size pieces, to going to the swimming pool and timing how long he can hold his breath underwater (up to an impressive fifteen minutes).

Britské listy in Jihlava 4:

Dobrý řidič Smetana

29. 10. 2013 / Sam Graeme Beaton

The story of Olomouc bus driver Roman Smetana and his fondness of defacing political posters is not one that likely needs to be recapped in Britské listy, but it is worth writing a few words on the latest Klusák and Remunda film, Dobrý řidič Smetana, which has made its full-length debut in Jihlava this week. This is a reworking of the Česká televize documentary Svobodu pro Smetanu! broadcast earlier this year, with an extra twenty or so minutes added to it, and was one of the films talked up the most by film fans in the town --reflected by the large numbers of people waiting to get into the screening. It started to a standing-room only audience and, as expected, went down very well in the cinema.

Britské listy in Jihlava 3:

Dál nic

28. 10. 2013 / Sam Graeme Beaton

On the surface, some of the documentaries in this year's Czech Joy section of the Jihlava Film Festival are very strong indeed. The inclusion of Ivo Bystřičan's exploration of the controversial D8 highway in Northern Bohemia in Dál nic (it's worth noticing the play on words here) gives us a creative spin on the form of political and activist-led documentary films. A sixteen kilometre long part of the highway between Řehlovice and Lovosice has been ongoing for years, constantly delayed by deviations from the agreed plan and pressure from environmental group Děti země which has seen numerous court injunctions and spiralling costs at the expense of both the taxpayer and local residents in the region.

Britské listy in Jihlava 2:

Our Nixon

27. 10. 2013 / Sam Graeme Beaton

On Saturday night I can count myself as one of the unlucky festival-goers to turn up too late to get into Bohdan Bláhovec's Show!, but fortunate enough instead to see the alternative picture at DKO II, Our Nixon. It was fitting after a turbulent day of elections in the Czech Republic to finish on a political documentary, and director Penny Lane has been extremely successful in crafting a full-length feature comprised entirely of archival footage that maintains both structure and the audience's interest.

Britské listy in Jihlava 1:

FAMU International

25. 10. 2013 / Sam Graeme Beaton

The first day of Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival saw a particularly interesting workshop of FAMU international students presenting their recent work. Seven short documentary works were shown, each from different directors of varying nationalities, and followed by a question-and-answer session with those responsible for leading the programme.

Nationalism as a solution

30. 3. 2013 / Přemysl Janýr

All historical turns with the exception of the Prague Spring progress according to a steadfast scenario: A small, self-appointed elite subscribes to a foreign power with whose help and in whose intentions they carry out a putsch, disrupt the current order, replace the existing elite and install a new order in the intentions of their allies. This way Czechoslovakia emerged in 1918 and was restored in 1945, this way the communists took over in 1948 and after 1968 renewed their power, and this way even the current elite won the fight for power in 1989. The nation accepts these twists here with greater, there with smaller enthusiasm, but that it would try to revolt at least for a short time happened only once so far, after August 1968. According to this steadfast scenario things proceed even twenty years later. A new order came not from an organic, home-grown development, but was artificially implemented with exterior interests. Therefore, the plotters of the putsch have to compensate the deficit of their legitimacy with the demonization of the previous order, a hysterical hunt for their overthrown proponents and an ideological overzealousness, overstepping even the intentions of their allies. Whether it is changes to or a reversal of the conditions, for those who get to power they represent an existential threat and are therefore contested and ignored. Thereby, for their twenty-year life span our new orders latch onto an admiringly rigid ideological construct from the time of their beginning, entirely detached from the reality of subsequent developments. Then a shakeout comes, a new elite seizes power and, drawing a think red line, we start again from zero.

It is possible that this may sound like irony to some considering my frequent commentary addressed to the nation. It is not. It is increasingly confirmed that our acute, even chronic, problem is not an excess but, on the contrary, the absence of the national. Of course I will not please Klaus or Zeman, the Czech nationalists, or the Workers' Party (Dělnická strana), because the nationalism we lack is far off from what they consider it to be. Nationalism as a solution starts with questions like who actually is this we, how are we characterising ourselves, and what is our place among others. And, above all, the most pressing question is: Why do we evidently not function as a nation?

(Translated from the Czech by Julia Secklehner, a student in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow. The Czech original is HERE)

About the Party Congress of the Czech Social Democrats

29. 3. 2013 / Daniel Řezníček

The Czech Social Democratic Party held its 37th congress on 15th and 16th March. As the party is widely expected to win the upcoming general election in 2014, the congress was followed with much interest both by the Czech public and the media.

One of the most important questions the congress was expected to resolve was how the relationship between the party and the new president Miloš Zeman, himself a chairman of ČSSD between 1993 and 2001, would evolve. It is widely expected that Mr Zeman will try to be an active president with a desire to influence the decision-making processes. Thus, the relationship between the ambitious president and the potential party in government will have many implications.

The outgoing Czech president has been accused of treason

5. 3. 2013 / Daniel Řezníček

On 4th March 2013, the outgoing Czech president Václav Klaus was accused of treason by the upper house of Czech parliament. In the 81-seat chamber, 38 senators voted for the impeachment, while 30 voted against. The charge will be dealt with by the Constitutional Court.

The exact translation of the reason for the charge into English is rather problematic. In the Czech legal system, there are two similar terms: vlastizrada (betrayal of one's country) and velezrada (literally, a major betrayal). Mr Klaus was charged with the latter one. Vlastizrada is a criminal offence conducted by a Czech citizen such as the subversion of the republican order, terrorist attack, or sabotage. On the other hand, the less well-known velezrada is a specific constitutional offence conducted by the president of the Czech Republic. Even among Czech politicians, there has been a certain confusion and lack of clarity about these terms in the days preceding the charge.

A fierce controversy about the meaning of Jan Palach's immolation has flared up in the Czech Republic

23. 2. 2013 / Daniel Řezníček

On 16th January, 1969, a university student Jan Palach burned himself to death on the Wenceslas Square in Prague in protest against...

How this sentence should end has become a highly contested issue in the Czech public sphere in recent weeks. The current right-of-centre coalition government is aiming to pass a bill that classifies 16th January as a new red-letter day. At the moment, there are 9 red-letter days in the Czech Republic. These differ from the public holidays in that people do not take paid leave on these days and their significance is thus predominantly symbolic.

Czech "antennae" bus driver Roman Smetana has now been charged with "avoiding prison". He can be sentenced to three years

7. 12. 2012

Roman Smetana, a former driver of public transport buses in Olomouc, who is currently serving a 100 day prison sentence for drawing with felt tips on Czech political election posters, has now been charged with a new offence. On Wednesday 5th December, new charges were raised against him by Kateřina Paulová, a prosecutor from the state prosecutor's office in the Moravian city of Olomouc.

In mid-January 2013, Roman Smetana will be tried at the Olomouc district court for "obstructing an official decision", namely for failing to report to prison to serve his prison sentence.

The Czech Helsinki Committee: On the further prosecution of Roman Smetana

28. 11. 2012

The Czech Helsinki Committee published two statements on the case of Roman Smetana in 2012. Mr. Smetana, a thirty-year-old bus driver in the Moravian city of Olomouc, was prosecuted for drawing antennae onto the heads of the candidates from various political parties which were displayed on pre-election billboards on public buses prior to the Czech 2010 parliamentary elections. Mr. Smetana drew antennae on the poster of Mr. Ivan Langer, the then Home Secretary and a Civic Democratic Party candidate. Mrs. Markéta Langerová, Mr. Langer's wife, a judge at the Olomouc District Court, then sentenced Mr. Roman Smetana to one hundred hours of community work for "damaging other people's property". When Mr. Smetana refused to do this community work, Mrs. Langer changed the punishment to a hundred days imprisonment.

Amnesty International Czech Republic: We will not help Roman Smetana

13. 11. 2012

Roman Smetana, the Czech bus driver who has been sent to prison for drawing antennae on the heads of politicians, pictured on pre-election posters displayed on public transport buses in the Moravian town of Olomouc, will not be defended by Amnesty International, its Prague spokesperson Martina Parizkova said today.

Roman Smetana was sentenced by Judge Mrs Langer, the wife of Czech right-wing politician Ivan Langer, whose picture Mr. Smetana defaced. Mrs. Langer sentenced Mr. Smetana for "damaging private property" to public work and to a fine. Mr. Smetana paid the fine, but refused to do the public work. As a result, he has been sent to prison for 100 days. He is in prison now. He is also liable to be sentenced to three years' imprisonment for failing to report to prison. While Ms Parizkova said that the sentence was, in the view of Amnesty International, disproportionate, she nevertheless expressed the opinion that "there is a conflict of interest between the right to private property and the right to express one's views" in Mr. Smetana's act. This is why, in the view of Amnesty Internation Czech Republic "there is no space for initiating a rectification of the situation".

The background of the case is HERE HERE

Quo vadis, Homo Sapiens

10. 9. 2011 / Miloš Pick

After more than twenty years of epoch-making change in our country and the world, the time has come to take stock of the ground we have covered and the road ahead of us (Pick/2011).

The Czech original of this article is in CLICK HERE


Life in a Day: Maybe a too perfect film about our era?

6. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

If you look down at a town from the top of the tallest building, everything looks beautiful. The sun glints in the windows, the people run around like ants. If you are really interested in the town, though, you'll never learn anything from looking at it from above -- you want to get into the mess of it, meet people, see things face to face.


The New Almodóvar warns against superficial attractiveness and obsession with science

6. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

Almodovar's latest offering is a hilarious pseudo-Romantic semi-sci-fi melodrama.

We have come to expect from Almodovar something colourful and heartfelt which is always joyful and usually slightly ridiculous. His films are so utterly sumptuous, they are a delight just to look at. Compositionally, they are extremely pleasing, not to mention his love for the most beautiful (as well as talented) actors.


Collaborator A Film that Questions our Certainties

5. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

< Writer, director and actor Martin Donovan a actor David Morse in Karlovy Vary

When we write criticism, we find ourselves saying "should" all the time. I don't mean explicitly, but we always take a certain moral and cultural standpoint. "Films should be engaged and engaging." "Characters should be genuine and sympathetic." "Problems should be examined thoroughly." Even when I write scripts and film pitches, I find myself taking a certain moral and artistic standpoint. We all have our principles and our convictions. Art, and journalism, and also all of our actions in this life, are confirmations and embodiments of those convictions. Liberals have a nasty tendency to be particularly guilty of being holier-than-thou. It would do us good to turn around and examine ourselves from time to time.

Die Unsichtbare: A Film that Does not go Far Enough

4. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

< Martin Schwowow, the director of Die Unsichtbare

Every year in the main competition of Karlovy Vary there are these quite nice films which are well shot and earnestly acted and you watch them with pleasure but then after a while you realise that they are quite forgettable. They are here every year and I would name them, except frankly I can't remember them.

I think that Die Unsichtbare will be one of them, too. The story of a shy actress with a traumatic family life and a stressful mother is chosen to everyone's surprise to star in a play about an overly sexualised girl who uses seduction as a weapon and a way of life. Clearly there is something hidden within this young actress Josephine, waiting to be tapped and turned into theatre gold. She starts on the path of self-discovery, looking for the dark and shadowy within her.

Pina: Wim Wender's 3D spectacle of purity and passion

3. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

Wim Wenders is no stranger to documentaries about artists. In 1995 he brought out of obscurity the Cuban musical ensemble Buena Vista Social Club to record an album in the United States and become popular all over the world. Now, in his new documentary he has brought back to life the choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009.

Apparently they had planned to make a film together but Pina passed on before they managed to start work properly. So the resulting film is something of a memento mori, or a glass case capturing the spirit of a beloved artist and teacher.


Ja tebya lyublyu - an outstanding film about contemporary Russia and Russians

3. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

< Russian filmmakers Pavel Kostomarov and Alexandr Rastorguev

There is a really interesting tendency surfacing in cinema recently. Namely, filmmakers are stepping across the boundary between narrative and documentary film -- but only halfway. There has been a slew of films recently which have defied categorisation, much to the fascination of critics and the frustration of festival programmers.


Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life - the film that was awarded the main prize in Cannes

2. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

I love film because of its power to move, to inquire, to examine and to entertain. Its emotional strength allows it to be deeply inspiring and spiritual and the greatest filmmakers have taken on the most complex and deep of human problems in this art-form.

In his The Tree of Life Terrence Malick takes on the biggest of all such questions with gusto and unbridled ambition as he seeks to inspire wonder at being a parent and indeed being a human being -- and how to do both these things honestly, lovingly and morally.

Preserved in Amber

New translations from Czech by Jantar Publishing House

17. 6. 2011 / Andrej Rogačevskij

< David Short with the original Czech and the new English-Czech editions of Mareš= s Andělíčkářka

On 16 June, in the Masaryk Senior Common Room at the London School of Slavonic and East European Studies, a book launch took place. Two titles in David Short's English translation, Anděličkářka (The Angel-maker; 1922) by Michal Mareš and Město vidím (Prague, I See a City; 1991) by Daniela Hodrová, were presented to an appreciative audience of about thirty people, by members of the editorial staff at the Jantar publishing house.

Yom HaShoah 2011 in Jerusalem

3. 5. 2011 / Andrej Rogačevskij

This year, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, commonly known in Israel as Yom HaShoah, is celebrated on 1-2 May (the opening ceremony begins on 1 May after the sunset, because the Jewish religious calendar tells us that, just like darkness had been there before G-d created light, a new day begins on the night of the previous one).

5th CRCEES Postgraduate Research Methodology Summer School

Politics of Language: Approaches to Nations, Communities and Cultures in Contemporary Central Europe

20. 1. 2011

New York University, Prague, Monday 11th -- Wednesday 20th July 2011

Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies (CRCEES), UK New York University, Prague, Czech Republic

The 2011 CRCEES Summer School is open to research and taught postgraduate students from UK and overseas CRCEES partners whose research interests fall within the remit of the summer school programme. CRCEES will pay the full costs of registration, accommodation and excursions for students from its partner institutions, and will also provide funding towards their travel costs. Participants will be expected to pay for their own meals (lunch and dinner), unless otherwise indicated in the programme.

The gun attack against Gabrielle Giffords -- a sea change in American politics?

9. 1. 2011 / Greg Evans

It was at a Labor Day picnic and political rally in 2006 that I met Gabrielle Giffords, when she was first campaigning for the U.S. House of Representatives. She seemed a pleasant, attractive, and intelligent woman, and it wasn't hard to see that she had a real political future in front of her. In the four years since she's been elected, she has been an effective, middle-of-the-road Democrat. And now she is lying in a hospital with a severe head wound, fighting for her life after being shot by a gunman at a small gathering where she was meeting and talking with her constituents. Nineteen people in total were shot at that get-together, and six of them were killed. This is, of course, a shock for everybody here. But such is the political climate in Arizona, and the United States, that it is more the shock of something finally happening that had long been expected, as opposed to the shock of such political violence actually happening.

Czech Republic: "Equal education for Roma children should be guaranteed", says Commissioner Hammarberg

23. 11. 2010

A Press Release of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, The Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 22.11.2010 - "There has been virtually no change on the ground in the Czech Republic since the European Court of Human Rights found three years ago that the country had discriminated against Roma children by educating them in schools for children with mental disabilities." This was concluded by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg after a three-day visit to the Czech Republic. He stated that the implementation of this landmark judgment (D.H. and Others v the Czech Republic) "is, worryingly, delayed and it is not clear that this will change in the near future".


Dienstbier Voters, Unite!

9. 11. 2010 / Milan Daniel

Exactly 96706 Prague voters chose the Social Democratic party (ČSSD) at last month's municipal elections. That's a pretty decent number. And we can safely say that those people wanted an alternative to the other parties, particularly the governing center right Civic Democrats (ODS), which has riddled the Czech capital with corrupt patronage. The very same ODS with which a team from ČSSD is now negotiating the division of power in Prague. With the notable exception of local party leader Jiří Dienstbier, jr. (son of the famous homonimous dissident and former Foreign Minister), the other members of the Social Democratic negotiating team, Petr Hulinský and Karel Březina think ODS is "legible" and they "know well" their representatives, which cannot be said about TOP 09. Because of that, Dienstbier left the team.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Whites Not Allowed!

8. 11. 2010 / Karel Dolejší

We now have a sweet bakery owner in the Prague-Libuš area who supposedly gave orders for his employees to refuse services to Vietnamese people. He claims that this decision came after some Vietnamese stole his cell phone, adding that, on top of that, they sit for hours over one piece of dessert. What's worse, the Chairwoman of the Committee for Multicultural Coexistence -- of all people! -- expressed understanding towards the businessman's position in her county's website, while citing the noise and bad smell coming from the apartment block where the Vietnamese community lives.


Residence Papers

28. 10. 2010

Residence papers didn't exist only in Habsburg Austria and in Czechoslovakia's First Republic period, but also continued to exist even after the II World War, as this picture from such a document from my father is dated from 1947, writes Václav Kohn.

The rights of residence were acquired mainly based on where the person was born, as the note that can be read in the bottom of the pictured document, but there were other possibilities

So, if we decided to bring that system back, it wouldn't have to be limited at throwing the responsibility over the homeless to the place where he or she was born. I would like to see the renewal of that residence document and the obligations connected to it, so that each town would have to take care of their own people in need, instead of having them concentrated in larger urban areas.

My parents unfortunatelly are no longer among us, so I can't ask them details about their residential papers, but it would be welcome if those who had such documents back in those days and historians could tell us more.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Czech neo-Nazis Jailed for Arson Attack on Gypsy Family's House

21. 10. 2010 / Fabiano Golgo

A Czech court has imposed the Republic's longest-ever jail term for a racially motivated crime - a firebomb attack on a Roma family's home that left a two-year-old child with burns over most of her body. David Vaculík, Ivo Mueller, Jaromír Lukeš and Václav Cojocaru were found guilty of throwing Molotov cocktails at the house in April 2009, in an attack to mark Adolf Hitler's 120th birthday. The regional court in the city of Ostrava, 360 kilometres (220 miles) east of Prague, sentenced Vaculík, Lukeš and Mueller to 22 years in prison each, and Cojocaru to 20 years. Other than life imprisonment, the maximum jail term in the Czech Republic is 25 years.


Infected Public Debate

13. 10. 2010 / Bohumil Kartous

I have recently watched an interview, on Czech public television, with addiction specialist Michal Miovský. A couple of days later, I saw on the same channel an interview with the prestigious CNN anchor, Indian-American Fareed Zakaria (the station deserves praise for both). Those interviews had something in common. Michal Miovský, among other things, said that the public discussion over drugs is extremely shallow and ill-informed, based on established stereotypes which are limited to simplistic concept and simplified judgment.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Czechs and (Public) Opinion

13. 10. 2010 / Michal Vimmer

Bohumil Kartous wrote about infection of the Czech public discourse - ... something that can be avoided only if we realize that there is something else out there, that alternative views exist -- which would require being able to read in foreign languages, to know what and where to look for... (Or else we can continue with our own ideas, trying to create anew things that have been created elsewhere, ignoring all that which already exists and has been working well for a long time...)

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

The World We do not Want to Live in

11. 10. 2010

This is a proclamation of the "Coalition of the Unwilling", a group of young Czech intellectuals, represented in public by Jan Černý and Ondřej Slačálek. It was disseminated on the occasion of the opening of yet another of Václav Havel's "Fora 2000" in Prague at the weekend.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Natalka was attacked by adults, not by unknowing children...

8. 10. 2010 / Fabiano Golgo

Miroslav Štěrba protests against Boris Cvek's article condemning the four Czechs who took the time to produce a lethal weapon and went look for a house to throw it over. Štěrba already on the set up of his article lets transpire his sympathy for the accused by criticizing what he calls the perpetrators "youngsters"

By naming them four "youngsters" he takes away the truth about them: they are not just some children who made a silly mistake! They are grown-ups who made an adult, albeit stupid, decision of going out with a weapon they had to take time to manufacture. Time during which, they had the time to change their minds, thus it was no impulsive act, but a well planned one) and who went out look for a house to throw it over.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Czech Government's Budget Cuts Hurt the Disabled

5. 10. 2010 / Jiří Hrebenar

Disabled citizens are being pushed by this center right cabinet more and more to the margins of society. As a very weak part of our population, that minority doesn't know how to properly defend themselves. A lot of disabled people are so ill that they can't just get up and go protest in front of the government's headquarters. Their health is so poor that every single trip anywhere is just yet another difficult challenge.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Smile, please!

6. 10. 2010 / Monika Málová

You certainly know this picture from the last days of our current Autumn: from early morning a lead-induced skyscrape, air temperature at the most at 10 degrees Celsius (and it won't get any better), while the radio invades us with negative news and threats -- from the price increases of everything possible, workers losing their jobs, about budget cuts that will affect even maternity benefits, the reduction of subsidies for the disabled and the ill [and those cuts are rather unnecessary, according to foreign economists], and that when we are being told that the upcoming winter will be the coldest in about a thousand years...

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Euro-demonstration in Prague: resistance and the search for alternatives

5. 10. 2010 / Ilona Švihlíková

Just as in Linz, Bratislava, Vienna, Athens or Brussels, also Prague had on the 29th of September a so-called Euro-demonstation against the governments` budget cuts. However, Prague had had yet another large demonstration, called because of the (non)discussion of the relevant laws around the cuts by the cabinet, about a week before that European event, coordinated by the continent's unions. The demonstration that took place on 21st of September showed that (not only) civil servants, but also common people are still able to stand up for, act and fight for their rights. In a country where for a long time a general lack of interest in public affairs had reigned, where there is a belief in privatizing the public sector and where there is a widespread understanding that "decent people don't strike", that event became of an even bigger importance than would have otherwise been the case.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Saint Wenceslas

30. 9. 2010 / Alex Koenigsmark

I must say that I was honestly entertained by the silent epic Svatý Václav (Saint Wenceslas) Svatý Václav. Seldom a Czech comedy makes me fall into so much laughing. Not to mention that actor Zdeněk Štěpánek's mask, in the film, kept reminding me of [controversial ultraconservative human rights and minorities` advisor to the Czech premier] Roman Joch.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Russian TV enters the minefield of the Sudetenland controversy

30. 9. 2010 / Jan Čulík

Russian English-language news channel "Russia Today", which can be watched all over the world through cable and satellite, has broadcast this September 29th an impressive half-hour document about September 1938, the Munich Agreement, the attitude and acts of Czechs and Sudeten Germans. The channel presented the issue in an impartial and well-detailed way both irreconcilable views of the historical context around the Munich Agreement, emphasizing that both sides, Czechs and Sudeten Germans, behaved brutally and like beasts towards the other side, during different periods of their common history. It also showed some concrete cases, in the Šumava region, where Czechs now live in houses that originally belonged to Germans -- and they have no intention at all of returning anything back to the original owners. The film is by no means on the side of Czechs, it is strictly impartial, although the viewer has a bit of an impression that the authors have a slight tendency to sympathize more with the Sudeten Germans

Views and comments by Czech, German and Russian historians are included; the Czechs speak Czech, the Germans speak fluent English and sometimes even Russian. You can watch the programme HERE The documentary's conclusion is: "Impetuous and insensitive decisions made by politicians can ruin lives. That is a lesson even for our current days." The film was made by the Russian Novosti News Agency.

Faith and Hope of former Christian Democrat Kalousek

27. 9. 2010 / Karel Dolejší

Former Christian Democrat (now TOP 09) Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, alone in the studio set of the public television Sunday political talk show Otázky Václava Moravce (Václav Moravec`s Questions), showed the leftovers from his credo, declaring: "I firmly hope that there won't be a general strike". Besides that, he went on to explain how it is simply a necessity to put the public finances in order and that he wouldn't turn back from his planned budget cuts just like that.


Poisonous Beauty

27. 9. 2010 / Boris Cvek

These days we can find over free nature or even on gardens one of the most beautiful flowers that bloom over the year. One that suprisingly grows from the ground, without leaves, up until when everything fades and dies with the killing breath of the first night frosts. It is a poisonous meadow (the picture is from my parents` garden), which contains many alkaloids, among them probably the most significant being colchicine.


Some Pilots Want Europe to Speak Czech

15. 9. 2010

According to Czech newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes, part of the Czech airplane pilot community is protesting against the use of English, which is the language used in the whole air travel world. They are requesting the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to make their commands also in the Czech language. The Czech deputy Transport Minister, Ivo Vykydal, admitted that there is a relatively big pressure by the Czech Aero Club for European air controllers to communicate with Czechs pilots in Czech.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Has the Czech Republic fully come to terms with the memory of the Second World War?

13. 9. 2010 / Muriel Blaive

History, collective memory and memory politics form an unhealthy triangle in the Czech Republic today. Due to the long communist rule, and due to the absence of free public debates and to the deficiencies of history research and teaching which ensued, the war and postwar periods are prone to being politically instrumentalized without much reaction from civic society. The three traumatic events which have affected the Czech Republic in the recent past, i.e. the Nazi occupation, the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans and the communist repression, and the respective collective memories of these events, are interacting, influencing each other and competing -- under the auspices of politicians of all sides.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Without Dilemma There Is No Culture

13. 9. 2010 / Bohumil Kartous

Since Prague's Councillor Milan Richter started to work on changing the way cultural events and institutions are finances, so that it would suit his aesthetic taste and modest demands when it comes to art, I have been having nightmares. In those bad dreams, I get scared by Richter's figure -- with his orange complexion from his solarbed fake tan -- being nominated Minister of Culture...

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


The Law as the Basis for Democracy

13. 9. 2010 / Boris Cvek

As the former president of the Judges` Union, Jaromír Jirsa, warned on the Sunday political TV show of Václav Moravec, president Václav Klaus, in his recent speech in the Czech Parliament, attacked, as usual, the Constitutional Court, and came up with the concept, that executive and legal powers derive from the powers of legislators.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


Špidla: a Half-Truth is Worse than a Lie

8. 9. 2010 / Vladimír Špidla

Former premier and current EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Vladimír Špídla writes:

"Financial Times: Špidla's EU fund failed completely" some Czech media is saying. They refer to an article that was published in that newspaper September 6th. The fund in question (EGF, European globalization adjustment fund; almost 2 million euros) was designed to help those people who lost their jobs thanks to the economic crisis, for example. I presented a report on this fund to the European Parliament in 2007. The fund didn't fail. And it was not "Špidla's fund".

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE


What comes next? Criminalization of people who lose their jobs?

8. 9. 2010 / Zdeněk Škromach

The resurrected pre-election move by the Civic Democrats (ODS), which is once again declaring that it will limit the system of payments of unemployment help by offering, after one month from the person's registration at the unemployment office, either community work or job training, or else they will cancel the benefits, once again only showing the lack of concept in ODS policies and hence the entire cabinet, when it comes to labor and social issues.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Britain: Overcoming isolation in international discourse

2. 9. 2010 / Jan Čulík

This conference is taking place amidst a radically changing situation in the area of the teaching of modern languages and cultures in the United Kingdom. It has just been revealed that the number of students taking GSCEs in modern languages has radically decreased, since the government made the study of modern languages non compulsory in 2004. We are constantly receiving news about modern language departments at British Universities which are being closed down or slimmed down. The latest victim seems to be Swansea University, where 22 academic staff in the Modern Languages Department (French, German, Spanish) have been told they must re-apply for 8 academic posts. Compulsory redundancies are inevitable.

This is a talk given at the "Languages in the 21st Century: training, influence, impact" conference which took place in Sheffield, UK, on 1st and 2nd September, 2010.


The Czech Government and Strategic Case Studies

7. 9. 2010 / Jan Čulík

Unlike in Western democracies, the Czech government is not able to make strategic case studies. If the British government decided to come up with something like the 30 Czk fee for health assistance, as was introduced by the center right government of Mirek Topolánek a couple of years ago, that would never be done without a previous and thorough research from experts, who would come up with a computer calculation model that could show how many poorer or senior citizens would then no longer be able to afford visiting a doctor and how many of them could, as a consequence, die from not receiving health care. Only after such serious study, and based on it, the British government would make a decision.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Kurzarbeit , "living-dead capitalism," and the future of the Left

30. 8. 2010 / Greg Evans

The announcement by the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) last summer that, if elected, they would institute a policy of kurzarbeit ("short-work") was a rare instance of a Czech socialist party publicly embracing the concept of a shortened workweek, an idea which has been floating around and experimented with in varying degrees in Western Europe for a number of years now, especially in France. Even so, it was a tentative embrace. Kurzarbeit is, true to its successful German model, a short-term, recession-related measure in which a workplace, instead of laying off some workers while the rest continue to work full-time, have all the workers work a three or four day work week (the resulting difference in pay being made up, if the worker agrees to undergo job training on their days off, by the government).

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

Russian boy beaten up by Czech teenagers over the August 21st Russian invasion anniversary

23. 8. 2010 / Fabiano Golgo

Boris N. (not his real name) came to Czech Republic 5 years ago, brought by his mother, who works as an accountant for a mobile phone operator. But he is schizophrenic, so sometimes he hears voices telling him things that sound bizarre to us. Schizophrenics generally lead almost normal lives, having occasional psychotic moments, not always noticeable by friends or colleagues.

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK HERE

"Czech Peace" Trailer on the Web

17. 8. 2010 / Jan Čulík

CZECH PEACE extended trailer 7 min 40 sec from Filip Remunda on Vimeo.

Vít Klusák's a Filip Remunda's new film Český mír (Czech Peace), which documented from various sides the happenings around the plan to build and American radar in Czech Republic, and was shown at the Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) International Film Festival and also at the Písek film festival this year now has a 7 minute trailer on the Internet, posted by one of the directors. You will certainly enjoy it.

The movie is shot in a rather Michal Moore-ish way, with a sense for the ironic, the comical and the absurd, so it is not surprising that Moore is telling the American public to check it outHERE.

Český mír will be available on DVD in Czech Republic (hopefully with English subtitles) in the upcoming autumn.

Resources in English on Czech film, literature and politics

1. 2. 2009

There is very little detailed information, available on the web in English on various aspects of Czech literature, culture and politics, as well as on the value system of contemporary Czech society. We have thought it useful to bring together on a single web page various articles in English, dealing with various aspects of life in the Czech Republic. Many of these have been written by Jan Čulík, editor of Britské listy, as material for his students at Glasgow University in Scotland.

Na webu je velmi málo podrobnějších informací o české literatuře, kultuře a politice v angličtině. Rozhodli jsme se na jedné internetové stránce dát čtenářům k dispozici soubor článků v angličtině právě na tato témata. Autorem většiny z nich je šéfredaktor Britských listů Jan Čulík; mnohé z nich vznikly jako materiál pro jeho studenty na Glasgow University ve Skotsku.

Islamophobia in  the Czech Republic and the Refugee Crisis

Since the beginning of the European refugee crisis in 2015, Britské has been publishing topical information service in English about the developing narrative about the refugee crisis in the Czech Republic and in Central Europe. All these articles are here:

Articles in English on general political developments in Central Europe are here:,articles

"Persuade the Old Hag!": De-territorialised culture does not exist

8. 5. 2010 / Jan Čulík

This is the text of a lecture given on Saturday 8th May, 2010 at a conference devoted to "deterritorialised culture" at Manchester University.

I have lived for several decades between the English speaking community in the United Kingdom and the "exotic", small language community of the speakers of the Czech language in Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic. On the basis of this experience, I humbly submit that in my view, deterritorialised culture does not exist. British comedian Mark Watson was talking here yesterday about how he "deterritorialises" his stand-up comedy to make it acceptable for the Americans and the Australians, but the experience of the non-native English speaker, which is the experience of most people in this world, completely eludes him. Would he also be able to de-territorialise his comedy, if he was a Bulgarian stand-up comic? In certain contexts, the received stereotypes simply do not work. If the definition of "deterritorialised culture" equals the loss of the natural relation of culture to geographical and social territories, as it was mentioned here yesterday, there are large areas of this world where this definition is simply faulty.