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Czechoslovakia rediscovers its past in its own words

3 April 2020

First printing in Czech of landmark book on Czechoslovakia a decade after seismic first publication

The world’s first Czech version of landmark book about the history of Czechoslovakia has been published in the year marking the 30th anniversary of 1989 Czechoslovak revolution.

Czechoslovakia The State That Failed by eminent historian Mary Heimann has been launched in Prague to huge acclaim, a decade since the book first appeared.

The translation of the book was achieved within the Czech Republic in one year of crowdfunding, with jacket endorsements penned by the first Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Dignitaries at the launch included first Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart, former leader of Civic Forum and Charter 77 founder Jan Urban, former Minister of Justice Jan Kalvoda and the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic Nick Archer. Heimann’s contributions to the Czech nation were praised as examples of positive British involvement in Bohemian affairs alongside those of Wycliffe, Sir Nicholas Winton and Sir Roger Scruton.

Professor Heimann said: “The book seeks to balance the claims and counter-claims of all the peoples – Czech, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Polish, Ruthenian, Jewish, Roma – who were once citizens of a state called Czechoslovakia, itself a sort of microcosm of twentieth-century Europe. My purpose in showing the darker side of nationalism – in this case, primarily Czech and Slovak nationalism - was to illustrate for the general reader the inherent danger in perpetuating nationalist myths in which one’s own side is presented as the righteous victim and the injury done to others ignored or downplayed.”

Author Professor Heimann discussed the book with postgraduate students at Charles University ahead of the launch and press conference at Prague Business Club, and on 26 February gave exclusive interviews to the independent daily Deník N and the current affairs magazine Echo.

The Professor of Modern History at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion also gave an in-depth interview for Czech broadcaster DV TV.

The historic launch took place three months after Cardiff University’s Generation ’89, the Velvet Revolution witness event marking the 30th anniversary of the peaceful Czechoslovak revolution, at which former adversaries in the 1989 revolution met together to share memories in front of a live audience at Cardiff’s Temple of Peace.

A documentary film of the key witness statements is to be deposited in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives in a lasting legacy of this significant moment in history.

The archive is home to the growing Czechoslovak Special Collection including documents donated as part of Generation’89 from original publications by revolutionary leaders to ephemera from the 1989 demonstrations and General Strike.

Czechoslovakia The State That Failed is now available internationally in both English and Czech.

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