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Intellectuals and Party

Practically from its foundation, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia attracted left-wing intellectuals who saw it as a manifestation of the revolutionary mood that had swept Europe after the First World War. New, new, new is the star of communism […] and there is no modernity outside it, writes Vladislav Vančura in 1921 on behalf of the Devětsil art association, while EF Burian announces that the revolution has entered the action phase, and Stanislav Kostka Neumann addresses workers with the verse: … revolution is not a rhetorical trip, learn to shoot!
However, many artists gradually began to break ranks from the Communist Party. After the accession of Klement Gottwald and his “Karlín boys” to the head of the Communist Party, seven writers (J. Hora, M. Majerová, H. Malířová, SK Neumann, I. Olbracht, J. Seifert, V. Vančura) wrote a manifesto in which they rejected the incompetent greatness of the comrades from the leadership of a party that has only words in common with Lenin’s teachings, but to which the true Leninist spirit is completely foreign. The signatories of the manifesto were expelled from the Communist Party, and at the same time a young generation of communist writers spoke out against them, describing their actions as a serious mistake and a danger to modern cultural production. However, most of the authors of this statement did not fare well, and that is thanks in no small part to the Communist Party. After trial journalist Vladimír Clementis was executed with Rudolf Slánský, poet Ladislav Novomeský was sentenced to ten years in prison as a “bourgeois nationalist”, aesthetician Karel Teige died in October 1951 of a heart attack brought on by an annoying communist press campaign and poet Konstantin Biebl committed suicide three weeks later fearing that a similar campaign would be launched against him as well. The untimely death of František Halas probably spared him a similar fate.

Zahájení II. sjezdu československých spisovatelů v zasedací síni Národního shromáždění dne 22. dubna 1956. *dobový text*

After February 1948, some congresses organized by the Union of Czechoslovak Writers showed the important role of writers (not only in party politics). Their appearance reflected a period of stability or crisis within the communist regime The writers’ congresses in 1956 (brave speeches by František Hrubín and Jaroslav Seifert in support of their imprisoned colleagues) and 1967 (critical speeches by Ludvík Vaculík, Pavel Kohout and Milan Kundera towards the party leadership) had a great resonance in society. The opening of the 2nd Congress of Czechoslovak Writers in the meeting hall of the National Assembly on the 22nd of April 1956 (ČTK / photo: Leoš Nebor).

***Dobový text***  Dne 28. ledna se sešli v pražském Národním divadle významní představitelé československé kulturní fronty, aby manifestovali své pevné odhodlání aktivně přispět novými tvůrčími činy k socialistickému rozvoji naší společnosti. Na sn. pohled na předsednictvo shromáždění při projevu předsedy Čs. svazu spisovatelů zasloužilého umělce Jana Kozáka.

Jan Kozák, chairman of the Union of Czech Writers, speaking at a gathering of artists at the National Theatre in support of the communist regime on the 28th of January 1977 (ČTK / photo: Zuzana Humpalová, Jiří Karas)

The writer Jiří Weil was expelled from the Communist Party, as he wrote the novel Moskva-hranice (Moscow-Border) in 1937 based on his experience in the USSR. It turned out to be one of the first literary works describing the real face of Stalinism (archive of Petr Koura)

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After February 1948, the only preferred artistic style was that of social realism imported from the Soviet Union. Josef Brož, Výstavba, (Construction) 1950, oil, canvas, 40 X 55 cm (GHMP)

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Jan Kozák, chairman of the Union of Czech Writers, speaking at a gathering of artists at the National Theatre in support of the communist regime on the 28th of January 1977 (ČTK / photo: Zuzana Humpalová, Jiří Karas)

Olomoucký orloj je součást severní stěny radnice v Olomouci. Orloj se zde nachází od 15. století. Jeho současná podoba pochází od Karla Svolinského a je ztvárněna v duchu socialistického realismu. Jedná se o jeden z mála heliocentrických orlojů na světě, foto 2010.

Karel Svolinský, mosaics for the astronomical clock (the original decoration of the astronomical clock was destroyed during the bombing of the city in 1945), Olomouc, designs 1949-1954, unveiled 1955 (VMO / photo Pavel Rozsíval)