Interpretations and Perspectives of the Great Conflict
Tomas Sniegon - World War I and its Meanings in Czech and Slovak Societies
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Centre for European Studies Lund University, Sweden
World War I and its Meanings in Czech and Slovak Societies
Abstract: The article focuses on two post-Communist Central European countries – Slovakia and the Czech Republic – and some important issues about the place of the memory of World War I in their historical cultures. The main questions are: how difficult is it to incorporate the memory of World War I into Communist, liberal-democratic and nationalist historical narratives in these two post-Communist countries at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century? And, why is it necessary for those people who ← 295 | 296 → experienced two brutal dictatorships during the last century – under the Nazis and Communists – only gaining their freedom after the end of the Cold War, to commemorate World War I at all? The author shows that, at least during the last half-century, both the Czech and Slovak historical cultures have almost completely ignored the memory of World War I. In addition, this war, described as the ‘Great War’ in a number of Western countries, was never seen as a crucial trauma in Czechoslovakia and its successor states. This fact becomes especially evident if Czech and Slovak memories of World War I are compared with memories of the same conflict in Western Europe, or with Czech and Slovak memories of World War I.
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