Communizing Memory:
Controlling the Past, Present, and Future in the ČSSR

Kasia Majewski

Kasia Majewski is a 2019 graduate from Macalester College with a bachelor’s degree in History. This fall, she will be pursuing an international master's degree in Central and Eastern European Studies through the University of Glasgow on the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship. Her undergraduate studies and research have explored history through lens of collective memory, examining who and what shapes the past as we know it. In this article, issues of political control and national identity in a communist state arise in conjunction with the broader theme of a collective national memory.


It is no secret of history that communist regimes across the Eastern Bloc were masters in controlling reality. Politicians and officials in states such as the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, or ČSSR, molded and manipulated the past, commemorating or forgetting history to shape a future that aligned with communist ideology and values.[1] By the mid 1950s, it had become quite clear to the Czech population that communism was a flawed and unstable system. The communist system had eliminated many personal liberties, and any remnants of democracy were more performance than anything else. Klement Gottwald, the first president of the ČSSR, worked under Joseph Stalin’s direction to impose the Soviet model of communism upon Czechoslovakia, resulting in political violence and destructive policy.[2] These events were harmful not only for Czechoslovakia’s political and economic situation, but also damaged the Czech sense of self. Instead of building national pride, they created distrust for the government and associations of poverty and political violence with the Czechoslovak state.

The Czech communist government, or KSČ, naturally did not want these negative impressions about the KSČ amongst their own people, or on an international level.[3] Thus, they began programs to manipulate recent memory and history, with the objective of building a more positive future for Czechoslovak socialism. In many cases, the KSČ was attempting to rewrite political tragedies that living generations had witnessed themselves, a somewhat absurd endeavor. As one emigrant reported to Radio Free Europe in 1954, “The Regimes of captive nations are embarrassed and confused and resort to childish excuses to carry forward the iconoclastic campaign.”[4] Even if Czech citizens did not remember the past objectively, the population was not so forgetful that they accepted the KSČ’s justifications. The performative nature of the KSČ’s memory politics is especially apparent in the systems of rumors and jokes that emerged in Czech citizens’ private spheres. The state’s official narrative was distinctly separate from the cultural consciousness. An examination of cultural artifacts like Czech literature of the era, particularly the works of prominent novelist Milan Kundera, further reveals the tension between the Czech public’s memory and the KSČ’s attempts to forget. Although the KSČ’s re-remembrance of its recent mistakes surrounded the tangible and intangible symbolic landscape of Czechoslovakia, it failed to build significant support for the increasingly oppressive system. This state-sponsored amnesia did not become part of the Czech collective memory and culture. Remembering the true narrative, or at least a different, more authentic narrative than that presented by the communist party, was a form of resistance in itself. The battle between the KSČ’s movement to change how the past was remembered and the Czech citizens’ response to this attempt demonstrates how controlling the past is in fact a step to control the future.

Political actions intended to control the past and thus the future of communist Czechoslovakia manifested in a variety of ways, tangible and intangible. Two attempts to rewrite the history of the ČSSR during the ČSSR are the construction and demolition of Stalin monument in Prague and the celebration of International Workers Day. Monuments and holidays are both examples of what theorist Pierre Nora called lieux de mémoire, or sites of memory.[5] They are manifestations of a culture’s collective memory, demonstrating what parts of history define the identity. The Stalin statue on Letná hill is a particularly valuable example because its construction and its destruction are two different types of altering historical memory. International Workers Day, on 1 May, serves as an example of legitimizing a new national communist identity by linking it to pre-existing nationalism. In attempt to build support for the communist celebration, communist politicians associated the date with previously existing Czech nationalist holidays in order to legitimize the unpopular event. The manipulation of historical memory formed in this era reveals how governments use the past to control the present and the future. In analyzing the communist politicians’ scramble to craft a positive narrative of the ČSSR in the midst of political and cultural instability, the relationship between historical memory, national identity, and political power structures becomes clear. The past is more than history; it is a tool of the future.

The Kundera Paradigm and the Struggle Against Forgetting

The works of Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera have become somewhat archetypal representations of what it means to forget or remember during Czechoslovakia’s communist regime. His 1979 novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, is particularly valuable in providing both an analysis of memory politics in the ČSSR and insight into how the Czech population viewed the communist regime’s attempts to control their identity by controlling their historical memory. Kundera’s fictional narratives interact with Czech history and memory theory to create a story of what it meant to have one’s historical memory erased under communism, sometimes symbolic, sometimes literal. Through his literary exploration of memory under communism, he revealed the instability and inconsistencies of the communist regime, as well as a cultural fixation on remembering the past in a nation that seems determined to forget or misremember.

Milan Kundera was born in 1929 and experienced the implementation of communism beginning in 1948, Stalinism of the early 1950s, the 1968 Soviet invasion, and the directly following era normalization up to his 1979 exile to France, all of which appear in his writing.[6] Kundera’s writing is highly referential to the history he experienced, particularly the history that the KSČ tried to erase. In this way, Kundera’s novels act as a non State-dictated representation of Czech identity and memory during the ČSSR.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was originally published in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives, united thematically, even if not by characters or storyline. The themes within The Book of Laughter and Forgetting embody what Richard Esbenshade calls “the Kundera paradigm”: the “characterization of the relationship in Eastern Europe between the state that erases and the memory that resists.”[7] The Kundera paradigm consists of two parts, which can be more generally applied to the communist politicization of historical memory. First, there is state-sponsored forgetting of pieces of history that undermine or contradict the communist political agenda. Then, there is the Czech population’s acts of remembering as a site of cultural pushback.[8] In the KSČ’s many instances of altering historical memory, the Kundera paradigm most applies to the government’s treatment of recent memory. The KSČ constantly either reframed or erased recent political events that revealed the regime’s political instability; the Czech population’s remembering of such events was “memory-as-resistance,” as Esbenshade phrases it. A tension between the institutionalized amnesia and the civilian acts of remembrance thus developed.[9]

Kundera’s opening to The Book of Laughter and Forgetting immediately establishes the lengths to which the KSČ went to alter less favorable aspects of their past. He describes a 1948 photograph of Klement Gottwald on a balcony overlooking Old Town Square (Prague, CZ), accompanied by Vladimír Clementis, the foreign minister at the time. Gottwald is wearing a fur hat that Clementis had reportedly taken off his own head and generously given to him. According to Kundera, the photo was copied hundreds of thousands of times for propaganda, memorializing the moment across Czechoslovakia. Only four years later, however, Clementis was tried and executed during the show trials.[10] The propaganda committee “immediately airbrushed him out of history and, obviously, out of all the photographs as well. Ever since, Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone. Where Clementis once stood, there is only bare palace wall. All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.”[11] This introductory anecdote reveals not only how the KSČ attempted total erasure of events that were very much alive in Czech memory, but also their failure to complete it; Clementis’s hat lives on in the photograph as a signifier of who was truly on the balcony. Theorist Svetlana Boym calls these “seams and erasures in the official history” countermemory, pointing out how the lingering fur hat signifies the larger inconsistencies between the actual past and how people reconstruct and remember.[12]

Kundera often uses stories of individual forgetting, intentional and unintentional, as a metaphor for the government’s institutional countermemory. In his chapter Lost Letters, the protagonist, Tamina, is obsessed with obtaining eleven diaries she left behind when she illegally emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1969.[13] However, her story also relies on the politics of forgetting and remembering under communism: “She is aware, of course, that there are many unpleasant things in the notebooks––days of dissatisfaction, quarrels, even boredom,” Kundera wrote; “But that is not what counts. She has no desire to turn the past into poetry, she wants to give the past back its lost body.”[14] Tamina, losing connection with her memory, wants historical reality over “poetry.” In a metaphorical sense, Lost Letters discusses the desire for realistic portrayals of history, even if they are unpleasant; considering the context, this can be read as a statement on the KSČ’s insistence on rewriting parts of the past that were inconsistent with their desired reality.

Perhaps the most iconic quote from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting addresses the impact of forgetting upon the future. It is situated in the story of Mirek, a man attempting to erase his memories of a past lover:

Mirek is as much a rewriter of history as the Communist Party, all political parties, all nations, all men. People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. They are fighting for access to the laboratories where photographs are retouched and biographies and histories re-written.[15]

Kundera succinctly addresses the relationship between power and memory in this statement. With far greater implications than Mirek’s love story, Kundera points out that real political control lies in controlling the past. From the sheer amount of memory manipulation, through political rhetoric, monuments, and tradition, to the discussion about it in works such as Kundera’s own, memory politics are constant in Czech history and culture. Although forgetting worked neither for Mirek nor on an institutional level in the ČSSR, the Kundera paradigm helps describe the connection between rewriting history and the political agendas during the communist era.

Demolishing the Cult of Stalin

In 1955, the KSČ built the largest monument to Joseph Stalin in the world, looking out over Prague from Letná hill as though the dictator himself was surveying his land. Seven years later, it was demolished, detonated until it was as if it had never existed.[16] The KSČ’s response to the cult of Stalin through a monument demonstrated the rapid glorification and then erasure of a period of communist history that was still remembered by living generations. Questions of how to implement adoration for an oppressive Soviet leader were faced by the KSČ at the monument’s creation; the even bigger challenge, however, was how to remove Stalin’s glorified place in constructed historical memory once the later Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev denounced the former icon for crimes against humanity. Communist politicians faced a crisis in memory as they struggled to recover from building a monument only two years before its subject changed from a hero in the communist identity to a criminal.

Not only did the towering monument make Stalin’s political presence impossible to escape from virtually any point in Prague, but it implemented a narrative of adoration for Stalin and the Soviet Union that did not truly exist in Czech historical memory. The largest monument of Stalin in the world sent a message that contradicted Czechoslovakia’s previous national values; even when the KSČ was elected by the Czech population, the support for communism lacked the connection to the Soviet Union that the cult of Stalin demanded. The Czech historical memory became a site of resistance as many Czech citizens refused the altered narrative. The construction of the statue demanded a change in Czech attitudes, beginning with commemoration on the institutional level.

So many delays occurred that the final unveiling of the statue on Letná hill occurred after both Stalin’s and Gottwald’s deaths. It was exorbitantly expensive; historians estimate the final cost was 280 million Czechoslovak crowns, the equivalent of 4.5 million U.S. dollars today. The final structure featured Stalin with a book in his left hand––presumably a work of Marx and Engels––and his right hand tucked into his coat in the quintessential “leader” position, as popularized by Napoleon monuments. Behind him, two rows with three smaller figures represented Soviet people on the East side and Czechoslovak on the West.[17] All the figures except the back two looked forward into the utopian future. The back two figures, a Czech and a Soviet soldier, gazed backwards in a defensive stance, ready to protect the Czech nation and the communist ideology.

The inscription read, on the front “To our liberator, from the Czechoslovak people," and was followed by "Now the age-old battle that the Czechoslovak nation waged for its national existence, for its national independence, can be considered complete" on the rear side.[18] This inscription references the Soviet army’s liberation of Prague at the end of the Second World War, though it disregards the shortly following seizure of power. The monument is framed as Czech gratitude towards Stalin, but in the statue’s sheer size and the premise of its construction actually embodies the intimidation and fear politics that were a reality. The inscription built a narrative connecting the sovereign Czech nation––a concept that had been so valued during the interwar period––to the Soviet Union.[19] This portrayal of the Czech-Soviet relationship was never a symbol within Czech historical memory, but that did not stop the creators of the statue from attempting to implement it through a lieu de mémoire.

The Czech population retained a sense of skepticism and even humor towards the monument––not the shift in attitude towards the Soviet Union and their shared history the KSČ had worked to build. According to a report about whisper campaigns from the office of the minister of culture, Czechs joked that the streetcar station nearest to Letná hill was actually called “Cult Station,” referencing how the monument blatantly catered to the cult of Stalin.[20] The line of figures in the monument even became commonly known as “fronta na maso,” or “the lineup for meat,” a dark reference to the long lines for food and other goods due to shortages from Stalin’s failed economic programs.[21] Between Western media, Czech citizens, and their discourse through media such as Radio Free Europe, a different type of mythology grew around the statue: one of humor, rumor, and disdain. The attempt to implement reverence for not only Stalin, but the Soviet Union’s role in Czech history fell flat. A combination of the KSČ’s performative approach to memory politics and Czech dissidence through remembrance of anti-communist narratives meant that it was not the government who controlled the history or the future of Czech culture. Although the monument watched over the Czech public, their historical memory of Czech-Soviet relations remained unaltered.

In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev halted any remnants of the cult of Stalin with his “secret speech,” denouncing the deceased leader for his crimes and abuse of power.[22] The Eastern Bloc was suddenly littered with monuments of a violent dictator instead of a revered icon––and Prague had the largest of them all. The monument had never spread reverence for Stalin and the Soviet Union on the cultural level that the KSČ had hoped, and the institutional decision to commemorate Stalin reflected badly on the Party. The statue had to come down.

 Of course, the true reasons for the Stalin monument’s destruction were too embarrassing for KSČ to publicize. As an unnamed Polish emigrant reported to Radio Free Europe,

The authorities claim that the work is being done because pedestal of the statue was beginning to give way and the statue would fall if it were not dismantled. No one in Prague believes this tale. The people laugh and say that it is not the statue which is in danger of collapsing but the faith of the Communists who have been hoodwinked and confused by the very people who in the past licked the feet of the “Great Father of the People,” knowing very well that he was an ordinary criminal and who now unquestioningly obey the orders to spit on his tomb.[23]

There was a clear contradiction between the official attitudes towards the monument and that of the Czech population, much like the initial reaction to the statue. Czechs were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the KSČ, which remained composed of hardliners, but still bowed to pressure from Khrushchev’s new stance to erase Prague’s physical mark of devotion to Stalin.[24]

The monument of Stalin only existed for seven years, yet, the attempts to erase it from historical memory still involved denying the memories of a living generation. The only solution was to stage a massive cover-up––what one Czech citizen reported in 1956 as a “clumsy bluff”––and move on to a brighter communist future.[25] It is of course not so simple for an entire nation to forget about fourteen thousand tons of granite representing a traumatic period of its history. Letná remained, and remains, a lieu de mémoire of the Stalinist period. Even today, many Czechs call the park at the top of the hill “Stalin,” or “U Stalina.” The narratives that the KSČ tried to build were rejected from the Czech historical memory: first, of the Soviet Union, particularly Stalin, as the bringer of Czech nationhood, then the complete denial of support for Stalin. The KSČ’s attempt to implement communism into the Czech identity through the Stalin monument demonstrates not only the instability of the communist narrative, but also Ebenshade’s idea of “memory-as-resistance” as Czechs quietly fought the rewriting of history through rumors, underground literature, and jokes.

Celebrating Communism and Czechness Every May

In the ČSSR, and communist states across the globe, the first of May was an important, if contentious, tradition. Known as International Workers Day, or more informally May Day, May 1 was the high point in the communist calendar, and celebrated the international socialist movement as well as historical communist intellectuals and leaders. Although International Workers Day had celebrated the labor movement in Czechoslovakia since 1890, it was only after the 1948 communist coup d’état that celebrations became compulsory.[26] State-sponsored (and often mandatory) parades with speeches by prominent communist politicians marked the occasion as a form of propaganda, creating a false environment of support for the KSČ.[27] As Czech journalist   Alexandr Tomsky reminisced, “I remember we lived here on the main street, and this compulsory rejoicing took place and, of course, was greatly manipulated by the party workers. People had to shout and so on and you saw secret agents milling in the crowd.”[28] This environment of “compulsory rejoicing” demonstrates the attempts toward cultural control in the Eastern Bloc. More specifically to the ČSSR, International Workers Day was an opportunity to place Czechoslovakia on the international communist stage, binding it with the domineering Soviet Union. However, International Workers Day, with its focus on global communism and ties to the Soviet Union, lacked a Czech historical tradition, and as such was not easily integrated into the Czech popular culture of celebratory commemoration. In an attempt to legitimize International Workers Day in the Czech historical memory and build a Czech future tied to the Soviet Union, the KSČ created associations between International Workers Day and Czechoslovak Independence Day.

International Workers Day and Czechoslovak Independence Day were inherently tied during the ČSSR, not only by chronological vicinity, but also politically. The communists had moved Czechoslovak Independence Day to May 5 to connect the two holidays and the politics they represented. The influx of state-sponsored celebrations and national holidays was evidence of the KSČ’s intent to implement communist values into the Czech national identity. Holidays, as a way to unify a group by remembering the significance of a certain day, are a crucial part of historical memory, and were adjusted accordingly by communist regime. The way the KSČ celebrated the two holidays at the beginning of May demonstrates their fixation on building a communist future through controlling the Czech cultural identity, using commemorations of both the historic and recent past.

Like monuments, holidays serve to remind the public of some formative event or concept. In the politics of controlling historical memory, a holiday can be a way to show the public what should be remembered and celebrated. Similarly, preventing people from celebrating a holiday is an attempt to erase parts of their history and memory. Celebrations in the ČSSR embodied both practices, remembering and forgetting. Czechoslovak Independence Day was originally on 28 October; this day was established during the interwar period in honor of the dissolution of the ruling Austro-Hungarian Empire and creation of the independent Czechoslovak state.[29] During the communist era, May 5 became the official holiday to celebrate Czechoslovak nationhood, leaving October 28, and memories of the original sovereignty, in the past. May 5 had more recent historical significance for Czechs; on that date in 1945, while Prague was still occupied by German forces, Czech citizens rose up and formed a semi-successful rebellion known as the Prague Uprising.[30] More a wave of insurrections than an organized revolt, the Prague Uprising blended into the Soviet army’s liberation of the city.

The communist government appreciated 5 May because it connected Czech national pride to Soviet history and was conveniently located four days after International Workers Day. The transition from celebrating Czechoslovak Independence Day on October 28 to May 5 fulfilled several communist political goals. First, it helped create a new sense of national identity. The oppressor figure shifted from the Austro-Hungarian Empire––a superpower that could be compared to the Soviet Union––to the Nazis, who had been defeated by the Soviets in World War II. Along those lines, when celebrating Czechoslovak Independence on May 5, the Soviets made a sudden appearance as positive figures. While the Czechs themselves enacted the Prague Uprising, it was the Soviet Army who took the final steps to liberate the city. In that historical moment, not only were Czechs and Soviets on the same side, but the Soviets went down in history as the heroes. As one 1958 Czech radio report stated,

Czechs and Slovaks will celebrate their national day tomorrow, the 13th anniversary of the day when units of the Soviet Army, enthusiastically welcomed by the population, completed the liberation of the territory of Czechoslovakia. The new People’s Democratic Czechoslovakia, whose peoples suffered so long under the German fascist occupation, has since then celebrated this day as a national holiday.[31]

This report emphasizes the positive relationship between the Czechs and Soviets––hence the “enthusiastic” welcome––and the idea of the Germans as a common enemy. It also contrasts life under German fascism with life under communism, reminding Czech listeners not only of their liberation, but also the harshness of German occupation in order to make May 5, and the Soviets, seem as positive as possible.

International Workers Day embodied the themes that drove Czechoslovak Independence Day. During the International Workers Day celebrations of 1958, president of the ČSSR Antonín Novotný declared, “Our May Day rallies today are an expression of the firm resolve of the people of Czechoslovakia to win final victory for socialism in our country in firm alliance with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.”[32] Novotný glorified the Czechoslovak identity with his statement of the people’s resolve and support, whether it was true or not, and then connected them to the other countries of the Eastern Bloc, emphasizing the international aspect of communism. He went on to draw from historical emotions, stating “This year we shall be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Munich dictate which ushered in an era of the worst humiliation and suffering for the Czech and Slovak nations [...] Prior to these events, also, Germany was a member of the League of Nations and at that time, too, she was receiving help from Western capitalist powers. The upshot of this policy was fascism and war.” He concluded that, “The people of our republic have learned their lesson from this bitter experience and forever safeguard their freedom and national and political independence by means of their brotherly friendship, close alliance, and mutual cooperation with the Soviet Union.”[33] Similarly to the communist approach to Czechoslovak Independence Day, Novotný discussed recent Czech history in terms of Czech suffering and Soviet heroism. He also emphasized building a positive future with the Soviet Union by contrasting it to life under Nazi occupation in the 1940s, a recent tragedy in historical memory. Czech history and how it was remembered was thus used as a tool to garner support for the largely communist International Workers Day.

Despite the best attempts of politicians like Novotný, much of the Czech population did not support the spirit of International Workers Day. In 1956, Radio Free Europe produced on particularly memorable report titled “Prague Citizens Boo May Day Fireworks”: “The public was indignant at the luxurious food offered to the ‘heroes of work’ in Prague when they were decorated on May 1, 1956. The Prague population showed its dislike of the fireworks by whistling.”[34] Clearly, the rhetoric that tied International Workers Day to the Czech liberation was poorly received. Like the Stalin statue, the KSČ had tried to glorify their own version of the past, whether it be a Soviet leader or a historical Czech holiday, and only faced acts of rejection, whether quiet rumors or whistles. The KSČ continued to take more dramatic measures than speeches and fireworks to make International Workers Day part of the Czech system of lieux de mémoire. In 1952, according to another Radio Free Europe Report, the government fined 307 Czech textile workers for not attending May Day celebrations “despite oral and written orders they had received.”[35] Like the Stalin monument, Czech citizens enacted “memory-as-resistance” and took control of their futures by defying attempts to change the past. In the post-Velvet Revolution present, May Day is celebrated with a return to historical and apolitical traditions such as maypoles and kissing under cherry trees—a further rejection of the forced political support of the communist era.


“There are all kinds of ghosts prowling these confused streets. They are the ghosts of monuments demolished – demolished by the Czech Reformation, demolished by the Austrian Counterreformation, demolished by the Czechoslovak Republic, demolished by the Communists. Even statues to Stalin have been torn down.”

-  Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting[36]

Sites of memory continue to rise and fall in what is now Czechia and Slovakia. With the new nations come new politics of memory and history; yet Kundera’s “ghosts” of monuments, and even more so the regimes they symbolize, continue to affect the landscape of Czech historical memory. The contemporary goals of monument construction are not to twist the existing ideology into a communist shape, as the KSČ faced. Instead, one of the most pressing issues regarding the control of memory and history is how to approach commemorating the relatively recent trauma of life under a totalitarian regime. As Czechia builds a democratic future, it cannot forget the communist past.

Just outside of Staré Město, Prague’s Old Town, is a lieu de mémoire of this current debate. A staircase carries a series of statues, each one more diminished that the one below it, until the topmost figure is barely more than legs and a pelvis. Titled Memorial to the Victims of Communism, this particular monument reflects the contemporary politics surrounding how to remember and represent Czech history. The 2002 memorial, designed by Czech sculptor Olbram Zoubek and architects Jan Kerel and Zdenek Hoelzel, was sponsored by the local council and the Confederation of Political Prisoners, or KPV.[37] The plaque reads, “Victims of Communism 1948-1989,” then the following statistics trail down on a bronze strip on the stairs: “205.486 convicted; 248 executed; 4.500 died in prison; 327 died while illegally crossing the boundaries; 170.938 people emigrated.”[38] The statistics, while anonymous, are a mark of the past and, as a monument,

Memorial to the Victims of Communism politicizes historical memory similarly to the Stalin statue or International Workers Day. It serves to build a future separate from the communist past, by reminding the viewers of the trauma of the past, and offering a way to interpret that trauma. This monument, just as the lieux de mémoire of the communist era, is a marker of just how intertwined the past and the future are. However, unlike the lieux de mémoire of the communist era, Memorial to the Victims of Communism does not attempt to change the past, merely to mark it. The opposite of state-sponsored amnesia, this monument gives the past shape through numbers. The tension between government control and Czech remembrance may be reduced in a democratic setting, but there is no doubt the past is alive and “prowling these confused streets,” per Milan Kundera, through the nation’s long-lived struggle to define and control its memory.

[1] ČSSR is the acronym for Československá socialistická republika, a satellite state of the Soviet Union. It was created in 1948 after the Czech Communist Party seized power and ended in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution. Klement Gottwald served as president of the ČSSR from 1948 until his death in 1953, establishing Czechoslovakia as not only a communist nation but one under the influence of the Soviet Union.

[2] Hugh LeCaine Agnew, The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (Stanford: Hoover University Press, 2004), 234-43.

[3] The full Czech name of the Communist Party is Komunistická strana Československa

[4] "The Collapse of the Stalin Myth", 28 April 1956. HU OSA 300-1-2-69416; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: General Records: Information Items; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest.

[5]Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, vol. 1, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), xvii. Lieux de mémoire translates to “sites of memory” or “realms of memory,” but Nora explains that the English translation neglects “historical, intellectual, emotional, and largely unconscious” connotations.

[6] Harold Segel, The Columbia Guide to the Literatures of Eastern Europe Since 1945 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 318-19.

[7] Richard S. Esbenshade, “Remembering to Forget: Memory, History, National Identity in Postwar East-Central Europe,” Representations 49, (Winter 1995): 75.

[8] Ibid, 79.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The show trials were fabricated accusations intended to eliminate political opponents and intimidate the population at the height of Stalinism in Czechoslovakia. Over 250 people were executed by 1954. Agnew, The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, 234-242.

[11] Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, trans. Michael Henry Heim (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1981), 3.

[12] Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 61.

[13] The works of Milan Kundera infamously objectify women, and Kundera’s female characters are nearly always characterized by their sexuality. Tamina is no exception. Although this does not diminish his analysis of memory and communism in Czechoslovakia, it is a massive shortcoming in his literature. For more information on Kundera and sexism, see John O'Brien, Milan Kundera and Feminism: Dangerous Intersections (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995).

[14] Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 86.

[15] Ibid, 22.

[16] Hana Píchová, “The Lineup for Meat: The Stalin Statue in Prague,” PMLA 123, no. 3, (2008): 615.

[17] Vladimír Macura, The Mystifications of a Nation: "The Potato Bug" and Other Essays on Czech Culture, trans. Hana Píchová, Craig Cravens, Caryl Emerson, et. al (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010),, 108.

[18] Píchová, “The Lineup for Meat: The Stalin Statue in Prague,” 619.

[19] The interwar period, or First Czechoslovak Republic, existed from 1918 to 1938 and the first time Czechoslovakia existed as a sovereign nation in the contemporary sense of the term. The Czechoslovak government at the time worked to build a distinct national identity that included independence from the previously ruling Austro-Hungarian Empire. This identity was rejected once Czechoslovakia became an externally controlled Soviet satellite state.

[20] "Jokes about Stalin Monument Attributed to RFE Inspiration." 5 July 1956. HU OSA 300-1-2-72097; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: General Records: Information Items; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest. This document is not a RFE report, but an intercepted document by an assistant to the minister of culture.

[21] Derek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 272.

[22] For more information, see William Taubman, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. New York: Norton, 2003.

[23] "The Collapse of the Stalin Myth", 28 April 1956. HU OSA 300-1-2-69416; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: General Records: Information Items; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest.

[24] “Hardliners” were traditional and strict communist politicians who were less willing to move away from Stalinist policy.

[25] "Jokes about Stalin Monument Attributed to RFE Inspiration." 5 July 1956. HU OSA 300-1-2-72097; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: General Records: Information Items; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest.

[26] Chris Jarrett, “Love or Labor: The Significance of May Day in the Czech Republic,” (Prague: Radio Praha, 2006), 2.

[27] Bradley F. Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004), 145.

[28] Quoted in Chris Jarrett, “Love or Labor: The Significance of May Day in the Czech Republic,” (Prague: Radio Praha, 2006), 1.

[29] Nancy Wingfield, Flag Wars and Stone Saints: How the Bohemian Lands Became Czech (New Haven: Harvard University Press, 2007), 174-177.

[30] Bradley F. Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism, 145.

[31] “Differences No Deterrent to Czech Ties,” Daily report, Foreign radio broadcasts. 8 May, 1958: MM16. Czechoslovakia was declared a “People’s Democracy” until 1960.

[32] “Novotný Speech,” Daily report, Foreign radio broadcasts. 1 May 1958: HH3.

[33] “Novotný Speech,” Daily report, Foreign radio broadcasts. 1 May 1958: HH4.

[34] "Prague Citizens Boo May Day Fireworks", 6 July 1956. HU OSA 300-1-2-72758; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: General Records: Information Items; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest.

[35] "Workers Fined for Being Absent May Day Celebration", 22 May 1952. HU OSA 300-1-2-20049; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute: General Records: Information Items; Open Society Archives at Central European University, Budapest.

[36] Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 157.

[37]Alena Škodová, “Memorial to the Victims of Communism Unveiled in Prague,” Radio Praha, July 23, 2002. KPV is the Czech acronym for “Konfederace politických vězňů.”

[38] “Memorial to the Victims of Communism,” Prague City Tourism, Accessed November 9, 2018.

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