Censorship
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Czechoslovakia 🇨🇿, officially the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, was a central European state which existed from October 28, 1918 until its dissolution on December 31, 1992. Its successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic were formed on the following day and were admitted to the United Nations (UN) on January 19, 1993.[1] Czechoslovakia proclaimed its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire near the end of World War I in 1918.[2] Censorship was pervasive both during the Nazi occupation from 1938 to 1945 (when it was referred to as Sudetenland), as well as during the Communist regime from 1945 to 1989.

General censorship[]

Both the Nazi and the Communist regimes enforced a strict system of censorship to ensure that the dissemination of messages to the masses aligned with political objectives. However, the Velvet Revolution in 1989 sparked a shift to democracy, where public discourse was freed from state control, signalling the end of censorship restrictions in the Czech Republic.

During Nazi occupation[]

During the Nazi German occupation between 1938 and 1945, Czech civilians experienced Nazi indoctrination exercised through mass media, where messages distributed reinforced obedience to the ‘Fuhrer’. Censorship was institutionalised in 1938, where the Nazi occupation of the Czech Republic meant that the army and the Gestapo assumed authority to censor all media.

During Cold War[]

Karta s fotografií škpt. Sergeje Petrase a škpt

A photo of Capt.Sergej Petras and Capt. Josef Buršík in 1945. Buršík was strongly against the Soviet invasion in 1968 to Czechoslovakia, so the picture was allowed to be published only with the left half of the picture in order to remove Buršík.

Censorship under the authority of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC) was more relaxed than that of the Nazi regime. However, in 1968, the CPC agreed to the Moscow Protocols, a document between Soviet and Czech leaders to authorise the stationing of troops in the Czech Republic, making the Czech Republic a satellite state of Soviet Union (USSR). The USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia prompted strict censorship regulations, as the USSR feared the influence of Americanisation on civilians and its potential to destabilise communist ideologies. Political scientist Joseph Nye's theory of ‘Soft Power’ (1980) - a country's tendency to propagate a desired self-image to attain superiority over other countries, was employed through American cultural manifestations such as rock ‘n’ roll to culminate support for democratic societies.

After the Moscow Protocols in 1968, media practitioners adopted ‘self-censorship’ which was the responsibility appointed to media producers in censoring their own content, who “... created such media content as they supposed was required by the ruling power”. Media practitioners, such as journalists or film producers, protected themselves from potential penalisation by projecting the communist lifestyle in a positive light, creating an “atmosphere of silent pressure…”. However, journalists whose works were deemed ambiguous or containing an underlying satirical tone, in regards to communist governments and their regulations, resulted in unemployment and possible imprisonment. Communist authorities endeavoured to ‘clean’ the media industry of any journalists who were opposed to the communist regime, replacing them with writers who were supporters and promoted socialist and communist governments.

The Velvet Revolution[]

The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent uprising in the Czech Republic capital, Prague, from November to December 1989, which became a statement of resistance against the communist regime, which eventually led to its overthrow and establishment of a democratic government. Revolution sparked when university students protested in the streets of Prague on 17 November 1989. Due to the dissemination of nonconformist messages, police brutally attacked the university students, which evoked mass opposition, where the coalition Civic Forum unified civilians, bringing 75% of the population in a general strike followed by street demonstrations. By the end of these demonstrations, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia relinquished its power, and Vaclav Havel was now the president of democratic Czechoslovakia. This new pressure to eradicate communism in the Czech Republic prompted the abolishment of censorship restrictions, meaning that public discourse was free from political control. Previously, the media was the primary propaganda mechanism for the communist party, where officials chose the information to be distributed and excluded, presenting events in the world in compliance with official ideologies.

Film censorship[]

The Czech film industry suffered significantly after World War II and film distributors couldn't keep up with the demand for new movies, which posed ample opportunities for America to infiltrate the Czech film industry, strengthening the presence of America over the Iron Curtain, threatening the authority of communism. America utilised their superiority in the film industry and cinematic achievements as an advantage to influence the public opinion of Soviet civilians. The American film industry had an active interest in penetrating foreign markets, such as the Czech Republic. From 1947, the US government established the ‘House of Un-American Activities Committee’ which interrogated film producers for any links with communist organisations over the Iron Curtain, removing all communist sympathisers. As a result, American film distributors produced motion pictures that illuminated explicit anti-communist themes. Communist authorities could not escape or suppress the influence of Americanisation which seeped through and penetrated the film industry, where almost 60% of movies showcased in the Czech Republic were foreign origin. During 1946-1949, foreign films were popular in the Czech Republic, referred to as ‘trophy films’. These trophy films were produced and written in America, although communist authorities manipulated the meaning of these films through censorship. For example, changing subtitles to align with communist ideals. Soviet authorities attempted to suppress the impact of Hollywood and Americanisation on Czech civilians, through the release of Soviet films throughout 1950 and 1960s, spreading a positive depiction of Soviet lifestyle.

  • The Hand - this film was banned by the Czechoslovak Communist government from 1966 until 1989.
  • Daisies - this film was banned under the Communist regime in 1966 due to its "depiction of the wanton". Its director, Vera Chytilova, was forbidden from making films until 1975.
  • A Report on the Party and the Guests - this film was banned between 1966 and 1968 due to its political satire. After its brief release during the Prague Spring, it was banned again for the next twenty years, after the Soviets invaded Prague. Its director, Jan Nemec, emigrated in 1974.
  • The Firmeen's Ball - this film was banned by the Communist government in 1968 for "mocking the working class". As a result, its director Milos Forman (who would famous for directing the 1984 film Amadeus) relocated to the USA.
  • Deserters and Pilgrims - this film was banned by the Communist government in 1968.
  • Funeral Ceremonies - this film was banned by the Communist government in 1969.
  • The Seventh Day, The Eighth Night - this film was banned by the Communist authorities in 1969.
  • Dull Sunday - this film was banned between 1969 and 1989 and its director, Drahomira Vihanova, was banned from film making until 1977.
  • The Cremator - This black comedy film was banned by the Communist government in 1969 until the Velvet Revolution in 1989 for depicting a crematorium director who enjoys burning people who sides with the Nazis during the Holocaust.
  • All My Compatriots - this film was banned by the Communist government in 1969. Said decision resulted into the exile of its director, Vojtéch Jasny.
  • Birds, Orphans and Fools - this film was banned in 1969 for depicting three people orpahaned by political violence trying to mentally survive, despite not being free.
  • Larks on a String - this film was banned between 1969 and 1989.
  • Hildac (Prison Guard) - this film was banned by the Communist government in 1970.
  • Fruit of Paradise - this film was banned by the Communist authorities in 1970 for its shocking content. Its director, Vera Chytilova, was forbidden from making any new film for eight years.
  • Witchhammer - this film was banned in 1970.
  • The Ear - This film was banned by the Czechoslovak government between 1970 and 1989 for depicting a couple who think they are surveilled by the government.
  • Nahota (Naked) - this film was banned in 1971.
  • Case for a Rookie Hangman - This film was banned in 1972 by the Communists for its satirical depiction of Czech society. Said ban ended the career of the director Pavel Juracek.
  • Leonardo's Diary - this film was banned in 1972 for its critical depiction of life in Czechoslovakia. Its director, Jan Svankmajer, was banned from film making for five years.
  • The Apple Game - this film was banned in 1975 by the Czechoslovak Communist government. The director, Vera Chytilova, personally asked more information at the censor board and heard that the Soviet embassy felt that the film's subject matter was "too heavy-duty".
  • Castle of Otranto - this film was banned in 1977 by the Communist regime after Jan Svankmajer refused to change anything about the film. The censors objected to its mockumentary tone, which was deemed of undermine peoples' trust in TV news. Svankmajer himself was banned from working for eight years.
  • Dimensions of Dialogue - this film was banned because the Communist censors did not like its criticism of consumerism, resulting also from its director, Jan Svankmajer, having being banned twice before in the past.
  • Straka v hrsti (A Nagpie in the Hand) - this film was banned in 1983 by the Communists censors due to it being based on a script by Antonin Pridal, an author who was banned by the governmend as well for featuring the rock band Prazsky vyber, which was considered subversive by the authorities.

Book censorship[]

Within the realm of literature, the boundaries between political and social spheres were blurred, where all published books mirrored Nazi ontologies. To ensure this, the Nazi government censored all literature to make sure civilians were engaging with literary works adhering to Nazi ideals. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Gestapo confiscated any material that encapsulated negative aspects of Nazi life, these books were mainly “decadent literature”. The communist government produced lists of libri prohibiti and composers faced harsh penalties for not complying with censorship standards, such as imprisonment. Books that explored explicit themes of a sexual nature were also banned, such as pornography. The Nazi ideology that sexual intercourse was solely for procreation was reinforced through literature. Adhering to a Nazi perspective, the role of women was to become mothers, sexual ethical issues revolving around contraception and birth control methods were censored. Authors that published works that explored such topics were listed as “parasites of the people” because they subverted Nazi ideologies and culminated opposition. The Nazis wanted to orchestrate all literature to reinforce Nazi ideologies, disseminating these ideals throughout the Czech Republic.

Television censorship[]

  • …a je to! (Pat & Mat): The short was also screened abroad, where someone objected that the colours of the shirts, red and yellow, were chosen to make fun of the tense Soviet-Chinese relations, with red representing the USSR and yellow China. The authors were so forced to change Mat's shirt from red to a neutral grey until 1989, when the Communist regime collapsed and it was safe to make Mat's shirt red again. The reason given was that Kuťáci were just ordinary entertainment not appropriate for the cultural policy of the time.

Other censorship[]

The Reich Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels, used the radio as a mouthpiece for the regime and as a mechanism to disseminate propaganda maintained through a strict system of censorship. The government imposed harsh restrictions on Czech civilians who owned a radio. The foreign minister of Germany (Konstantin von Neurath) espoused that anyone intentionally distributing news that did not align with Nazi ideologies would face imprisonment or death. Following this announcement, listening to foreign broadcasts became illegal in 1940. Despite this law, as the Reich Protector's Office acknowledged, locating radio-listeners was nearly impossible. Nazi officials attempted to control radio listeners through intimidation tactics, whereby officials sent those who owned a radio a gold-plated plate the words engraved, “listening to foreign broadcasts is punishable by death”. Despite these regulations, Czech national loyalty prevailed over censorship restrictions. Civilians carried disassembled radio parts in their pockets, and once reassembling the pieces, could listen to foreign broadcasts.

References[]

  1. Czechoslovakia and Successor States: Czech Republic, Slovakia, United Nations. 2016-05-17.
  2. Czechia, The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency. 2022-05-31.

External links[]

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