The National Museum has prepared a new exhibition The Fifties, which maps the events in Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1960. June 20, 2023, Prague.
Prague – One of the darkest periods of modern Czechoslovak history, the 1950s, is brought closer to a new exhibition at the National Museum. He describes the period of political trials, judicial murders and belief in a better world built at the cost of lack of freedom and crimes as a time that transformed society for decades to come. And some elements that the regime brought are still visible in Czech society today, according to historian Michal Stehlík. Stehlík told journalists today that the exhibition depicts the 1950s primarily as a time of great change.
It covers the period between 1948 and 1960. The Communist coup and the following years affected all areas of the social structure of Czechoslovakia, including the economy, culture, politics and foreign anchoring of the country, in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia became a major political force. The central point of the exhibition is the death of two communist leaders, J.V. Stalin and Klement Gottwald.
The exhibition on the presentation of many contrasts wants to form a comprehensive picture of the time through pivotal events. It begins with the sounds of war, shows currency reform, the trial of Milada Horáková and Josef Toufar, the propaganda film industry, contemporary press with themes of the Korean War, the collectivization of the countryside or the Third Resistance, but also the Olympic successes of Emil Zátopek and Ája Vrzáňová and exile and self-employed materials. The audience will see the dress of a Czechoslovak figure skater from the period before her emigration, Vladimír Zábrodský's hockey gloves, the uniform of the National Security Corps from the 1950s or a voucher from a forced labor camp.
The authors of the exhibition emphasize such aspects of the time as militarization not only of the vocabulary, which changes like this in every crisis, but also of general militarization. “The army at that time has the highest number in our history, 300,000 men in arms waiting for war against the West, war and the army appeared everywhere. A third of our industry is arms, this is a huge investment in the expected war in the first half of the 1950s ,” said Stehlík.
In each of the main parts, in addition to photographs, archives or museum exhibits, there is also an audio recording. In it, according to Stehlík, the authors of the exhibition attempted a kind of alternative history – it is a fictitious report of a journalist who tries to report on the given period as if he were not limited by censorship. “In politics, there is a report about the fact that he discovers that Soviet advisers are sitting everywhere who really make decisions about everything; in a report from society, he visits a butcher's shop after the currency reform and finds out that it is empty and for what reasons,” Stehlík described part of the exhibition.
On display is the engine of one of the fighters that crashed in Czechoslovakia in 1959 and the West German pilots were interrogated in Czechoslovakia for three months and persuaded to emigrate to Czechoslovakia; they refused and were returned to West German territory, Stehlík said. According to him, the unique medal dedicated by the Ministry of Finance and the State Mint to J.V. Stalin for his 70th birthday is also interesting. Two medals were produced, one of which was received by Stalin and the other is in the collections of the National Museum.