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Russians in Prague

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  • 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

„Once you’re here, however, whether you want to or not, you have to ask the question: does all of this have a meaning, and if so, what?… Ultimately, I can only find an answer – a positive answer – within myself, in my general faith in the meaning of things, in my hope. What, in fact, is man responsible to? What does he relate to? What is the final horizon of his actions, the absolute vanishing point of everything he does, the undeceivable “memory of Being”, the conscience of the world and the final “court of appeal”? What is the decisive standard of measurement, the background or the field of each of his existential experiences? And likewise, what is the most important witness or the secret sharer in his daily conversations with himself, the thing that – regardless of what situation he has been thrown into – he incessantly inquires after, depends upon, and toward which his actions are directed, the thing that, in its omniscience and incorruptibility, both haunts and saves him, the only thing he can trust in and strive for? “

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

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