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Russians in Prague

  • Where: Václav Havel Library, Ostrovní 13, Prague 110 00
  • When: January 30, 2018, 19:00 – 21:00

On “Russian traces” in the Czech Republic in the past and nowadays.

Interwar Czechoslovakia was an important centre for the Russian émigré community, whose number included important scholars, literati and intellectuals. While Czechs celebrated the arrival of the Red Army in May 1945, for Russian (Ukrainian and Belarusian) exiles, who had in many cases become Czechoslovak citizens, the end of WWII spelled disaster: death, imprisonment, the Gulag. The situation was all the more painful given that speaking about their fates was barred because recalling the non-Communist “Russia outside Russia” had no place in the Soviet-Russian imperial narrative. Who were these Russians? How was Czech-Russian coexistence at that time? How does today’s Russia view its past? And what kind of Russians (East Europeans) live in Prague and the Czech Republic today? Are they enriching to us? Or are they a challenge or threat?

The spark for the debate is the new book Rusové v Praze. Ruští intelektuálové v meziválečném Československu (Russians in Prague: Russian Intellectuals in Interwar Czechoslovakia), which was published in 2017 by Vydavatelství FF UK. Taking part in the discussion of the transformations in the Russian presence in Prague and the Czech Republic will be Alexej Kelin, a member of the Czech government’s Council for National Minorities, journalist Ondřej Soukup and Slavic Studies specialist Mychajlo Fesenko.

Historian and philosopher Petr Hlaváček will moderate the debate.


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Letters to Olga – essays written in prison, letter

„I am a child of the age of conceptual, rather than mystical, thought and therefore my god as well – if I am compelled to speak of him (which I do very unwillingly) – must appear as something terribly abstract, vague and unattractive. But it appears so only to someone I try to tell about him – the experience itself is quite vivid, intimate and particular, perhaps (…) more lively than for someone whose “normal” God is provided with all the appropriate attributes (which oddly enough can alienate more often than drawing one closer). And something else that is typical of my god: he is a master of waiting, and in doing so he frequently unnerves me. It is as though he set up various possibilities around me and then waited silently to see what I would do. (…) His Last Judgment is taking place now, continuously, always – and yet it is always the last: nothing that has happened can ever un-happen, everything remains in the “memory of Being” – and I too remain there – condemned to be with myself till the end of time – just as I am and just as I make myself.“

Václav Havel:
Letters to Olga – essays written in prison, letter, August 7, 1980

The unbearable lightness of evilVáclav Havel’s Prague