Guarding against the 'loss of national memory': The communist past as a controversial issue in Czech history education

Jaroslav Najbert


In the first decade of the 2000s, a wave of qualitatively new anti-communist politics of memory resulted in a specific “upsurge of memory” in Czech history education. Various remembrance agents started to influence history education with the goal of turning schools into an area where Czech society could continue the process of dealing with the troubled communist past. Using new methods and media, such as emotional TV documentaries and debates with eyewitnesses of communist repression, civic society initiatives got involved in negotiating the public consensus over the question of how to teach and remember the history of state socialism. The author examines the context and consequences of this discourse of dealing with the past for history education, especially in the way this remembrance activism utilises the totalitarian paradigm. It is evident that the mobilisation of remembrance to serve present day citizenship objectives has resulted in recent controversies, as teachers had to deal with the dilemma of how to expose the historical significance of various memory-carrier groups in their classrooms. Based on the experience from an educational project in which students investigated family memory, the author advocates that teachers should encourage students to analyse familial and pop culture narratives in order to enhance their own understanding of how these reconstruct the past.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Jaroslav Najbert

Historical Encounters is a double blind peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the empirical and theoretical study of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education.

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