Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts of Prague after Spring

Prague is a city of great importance to me. My great grandmother was born there. My great uncle took refuge there when he was fleeing the Nazis. He used to write about entertainment and the politico-economic situation. I named this blog after him. The first synagogue I ever set foot in was the Altneu Shul back in 1973. It was the first of many steps back to Judaism. Because of these reasons, I think fondly of the Czech republic.

Czechoslovakia was at its founding in 1918 inspired by America. It was a prosperous little country between the World Wars that some called "little America." Despite this, many Czechs were grateful to the USSR at the end of World War Two for condemning the agreement made infamous by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in which Czechoslovakia was handed over to Nazi Germany to satisfy Hitler's territorial aspirations. When the Czechoslovak peoples got a real taste of Soviet rule however, any gratitude some had to the USSR quickly evaporated.

I remember the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia back in August of 1968. Its Prime Minister, Alexander Dubcek had during the Prague Spring of 1968 taken increasingly bold steps to institute "socialism with a human face." During that exciting time, there was incredible steps taken to institute freedom of speech and the press. The people hoped that Czechoslovakia would be able to follow an independent path, customising Marxist ideology . The Soviet leadership, of course saw things differently. They were worried that the Prague experiment would spill over the borders of Czechoslovakia and sweep away communism. On August 21, 1968, the USSR, along with East Germany and other Soviet client states sent in 200,000 troops to invade Czechoslovakia.

The invasion was only successful in the short run. By 1989, Soviet style communism in Czechoslovakia was replaced not by a liberal alternative but by western style parliamentary democracy. The amazing sight of the Berlin Wall being literally torn down became emblematic of a wave of freedom that swept communism away from Europe. Entire history books had to be rewritten. The maps of Europe burst into a garden of colour as independent nations were born, from Armenia to Latvia and Uzbekistan. Back in the 1970's I would not have dreamed of all of the changes which subsequently occurred. I consider these events to be an open miracle in our eventful times.

Despite my sense of wonder at recent events I view them as a preparation for more profoundly world shaking events. Like the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, this liberation has only been a prelude to the struggle of individuals and society to evolve and mature individually and collectively, spiritually and materially.

I put up three videos with this posting. The top one reminds me a bit of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It is from a Czech group called Marsyas. The second video is a video tribute to Alexander Dubcek, with gripping footage of the Soviet invasion. The bottom video is some mainstream pop music from a singer named Jiri Schelinger. It reminds me visually of the Monkees, a "bubble gum rock" band popular in the US back in the late sixties. These videos and the one video link in this post bring back a lot of reflective and history laden memories for me. I hope my readers enjoy them.

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