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Self-expression with regard to the political environment: The case of Czechoslovakia

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  1. Introduction
  2. The prague spring and the regime
  3. The economic hardships and censorship of criticism
  4. Accepting domination by the communist regime
  5. The political environment
  6. The presence of the Red Army
  7. Jaroslav Hutka's dimensions
  8. The notion of cultural freedom
  9. Conclusion
  10. References

Throughout history, nations have subordinated others politically, culturally and economically. The ruling regime usually used people who spoke out as an example in order to stifle the rest of the population. The ruling regime would utilize such cases to exercise their power of intimidation. This would further encourage the masses to behave in two distinct ways: privately and publicly. The public behavior would be conformist in nature and not criticize the government. On the other hand, the private world would vocalize criticisms and complaints from intellectuals and working class people alike. In socialist Czechoslovakia, during the sixties and seventies, shifts in the political environment played an important role in whether this polarization of behavior, or dichotomy existed. A dichotomy with regard to vocalizing thoughts and ideas manifested as a result of hardships brought on by the failing communist ideology and fear of the consequences of speaking out against the regime. During the sixties and seventies, changes in Czechoslovak leadership and hardships paved the way for the transformation of the political environment from free to oppressive. With the outdated industrial factories of the 1930's and consumer goods shortage, the sixties was a decade of unrest and hardship. Fortunately, the post-Stalin idealists of Moscow allowed the nation to freely discuss economic reform. The economic reforms also followed social reforms and the rise on interest groups, a factor that worried Antonín Novotný, the president of Czechoslovakia . Therefore, with the rise in dissatisfaction came the rise of a different political figure, Alexander Dub?ek. Once Novotný was pressured into retirement in 1967, an era of open expression without censorship swept the nation. However, this came to an end with international intervention.

[...] However, as there were consequences because of the political environment (in 1978 for this story), even cultural expressions had to be restricted to the private world with private audiences in basements where the regime would not be able to exercise censorship. Likewise, this applied to other aspects of expression such as books, music, and literature in general. Furthermore, the notion of cultural freedom not only played a role in representing the dichotomy between the public versus private world, but it also defined national Czech identity. [...]


[...] After Dubèek came to power, the political environment allowed this dichotomy to temporarily disappear as interest groups and individuals were allowed to criticize and express discontent without fear of the consequences. The dual phenomenon of interest groups and the party allowed groups such as students, the KAN, K231, socialist democrats and even Slovaks to express their individual needs. This was allowed because there was no penalty for speaking out from the government. There was also open discussion and dissent toward Stalin's size fits ideology for socialist nations. [...]


[...] With the case of Czechoslovakia, being able to speak out freely and openly about taboo topics such as criticism of Marxism or human rights was not consequence free for much of the mid to late 20th century. When a stringent political environment was present and the secret police was used to carry out terror upon those who spoke out, people resorted to an underground world of expression, a private world. This private world was both cultural and political with the publication of journals and art exhibits. [...]

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