Interestingly, the topic of repressions against Czechs was covered in prewar Czechoslovakia. For instance, the period press reported on the developments involving the Czech communes Reflektor and Interhelpo7, and several books describing anti-Czech repressions in the USSR were released, including the novel Moskva – hranice (Moscow–Border) by Jiří Weil. Books and recollections that relate the Soviet terror targeting specific Czechs were also published during the Nazi occupation. Examples include Josef Klička’s Neznámé sověty (Unknown Soviets) and Žil jsem v SSSR (I Lived in the USSR). However, this author was not accepted as relevant due to his pro-Nazi writings during the Protectorate period and was criminally prosecuted for them after the war. The topic virtually disappeared from newspapers and bookstores as well as from the Czech and Slovak collective memory after the war and the communist coup in 1948.
It began making its return to the collective memory very slowly and cautiously. Biography-oriented books written by former members of General Svoboda’s army corps, who had been through the Gulag camps over allegations of crossing the Soviet Union borders illegally prior to joining the Czechoslovak military force in the USSR, started to appear from the 1990s onwards. Vladimír Bystrov was also active, tirelessly commemorating the lives of Czechoslovak citizens of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian origins who were deported from Czechoslovakia after the war.
Following the year 2000, historians started to slowly discover and debate the topic of repressions of Czechs and Slovaks. In the Czech environment, this means primarily Professor Mečislav Borák and his ground-breaking papers: České stopy v Gulagu. Z výzkumu perzekuce Čechů a občanů ČSR v Sovětském svazu (2003), Moskevská pohřebiště. Češi a českoslovenští občané popravení v Moskvě v letech 1922–1953 (2013), and Zatajené popravy. Češi a českoslovenští občané popravení na sovětské Ukrajině: z historie Velkého teroru na Volyni a v Podolí (2014). At present, the topic is also being explored by our association, Gulag.cz as well as by the project titled Čechoslováci v Gulagu (Czechoslovaks in the Gulag) developed by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
The situation is similar in Slovakia. The country’s historians began focusing on this issue after 2000. Slovakia’s Nation’s Memory Institute began compiling a database of Slovak citizens deported to the USSR, and journalist and writer Peter Juščák described the topic aptly in his book, Odvlečení (The Abducted).
It appears that this topic is beginning to resound in the Czech and Slovak cultural environment and that it is just a matter of time before we witness more attempts at processing this difficult topic.
Autor: Štěpán Černoušek, 10. 10. 2023
This text is related to the article Gulag a sovětské represe – počty obětí z řad Čechů, Slováků, Poláků a Němců The Gulag and Soviet repressions: the numbers of victims from among Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, and Germans and was written as additional material *for the Gulag XR educational programme