On April 26th, a unique exhibition entitled Czech-Slovak / Slovak-Czech Exhibition was ceremonially opened at Bratislava Castle by Andrej Kiska, the President of Slovakia, Peter Pellegrini, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, and Andrej Babiš, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. Occupying an area of approx. 1,400 m2, the exhibition maps the lives of Czechs and Slovaks in a common state, showing their successes and joyful moments as well as the crises and hard times of living together.
From April 27, 2018, visitors will be able to admire over 2,000 interesting items loaned from numerous co-operating institutions. The exhibition, prepared upon an agreement between the governments of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, is one of many events organised to commemorate the important anniversary of our statehood. It will be presented in the same form in Prague in the newly reconstructed Historical Building of the National Museum.
The Czech-Slovak / Slovak-Czech Exhibition brings attention to prominent political and cultural personalities who reshaped their era and the development of the society. Besides describing important moments in Czechoslovak history, the exhibition also aims to focus on many other areas which shaped the common state and influenced the lives of its people. The older generation shall be reminded of what life in Czechoslovakia was like; to the younger generation shall be explained the purpose of the country’s existence and its history, for example, through real stories of people who lived in the common state.
“Czechs and Slovaks do not and cannot look at their common history through the same eyes. We lived together through the turbulent 20th century – victories, defeats, and joyful occasions as well as moments of tragedy. Although there were many disagreements and critical moments in our life together, Czechoslovakia was a successful and world-unique project, including our breakup after which both the nations have been living separately but – in a way – still together. Thus, preparing an exhibition dedicated to our common century was a difficult task and, at the same time, a great challenge. I hope that we have succeeded and that we can duly contribute to the celebrations of Czechoslovakia’s 100th anniversary and to the proper explanation of why the relations of both our nations were, are, and hopefully will be unique and exceptional,” says Mr Michal Lukeš, the managing director of the National Museum.
“The joint exhibition project of the Slovak National Museum and National Museum of the Czech Republic tells a fascinating story of a common state. A state which had to win its place in diplomatic as well as military, economic and cultural ways. It had been born from the ruins of post-World War I Europe, experiencing periods of growth and decline as well as hardships of war and times of peace. The exhibition is designed as a narration of this story. We are particularly delighted with the large number of exhibits collected, not only from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also from our partners from France, Germany, and the United States,” adds Mr Branislav Panis, the managing director of the Slovak National Museum.
The exhibition covers fifteen topics which show the wide range of Czechoslovak history in the 20th century. Almost two thousand items document changes in politics, art, architecture, leisure time activities, industry, army and other areas, all of which played an important role in the development of Czechoslovakia. Visitors will have a chance to see such entirely unique items as the first Czechoslovak act, the pen of Matúš Dula with which he signed the Martin Declaration, M. R. Štefánik’s jacket which he wore on the day of his tragic death, presidential decrees issued by Edvard Beneš, Gustáv Husák’s typewriter, personal belongings of the paratroopers Kubiš and Gabčík, the golden rose donated by the Pope John Paul II to Velehrad Basilica in 1985, and the first Czechoslovak Olympic gold medal won by B. Šupčík in climbing in 1924. Further, the exhibition includes objects connected to the everyday lives of the common people. Visitors will be able to think back nostalgically to a package received by army enlistees, the plastic orange Tatra toy truck, household appliances, and products of such brands as ETA, JAWA, Tesla and Favorit.
Original documents to be seen for the first time in Slovakia and the Czech Republic
The National Museum and the Slovak National Museum, in co-operation with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Ministries of Culture of both countries, have achieved an exceptional diplomatic success. For the very first time, visitors of the exhibition in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic will be able to see numerous original documents which crucially affected our history. They include the Pittsburgh Agreement which laid the foundations of the common state, Czechoslovak ratifications of the Peace Treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain and Trianon, which made it possible for the common state to be formed, and the Munich Agreement, Vienna Arbitration, and the so-called Hácha-Hitler Declaration which ended the existence of the common state.
Czech-Slovak life stories and Object with a Story
The exhibition further includes life stories of “common” people who were influenced by the existence of Czechoslovakia. Without the common state, Czech soldiers would have never served and started families in Slovakia, as evidenced for example the story of Mr Rybář from Martin. Without mandatory quotas, Slovaks would have never arrived in Prague to participate in the construction of new neighbourhoods, as evidenced by the story of the Halukovi family from Prague, and would have never participated in the Spartakiade, which is described in the story of Ms V. Pavliková from Eastern Slovakia. These life stories, and many more, will be presented in “phone” boxes through video calls.
The people of the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also become involved in the exhibition by participating in the Object with a Story appeal. Thus, visitors of the exhibition will be able to admire selected donated items with the most interesting Czechoslovak past. Among them is a standard embroidered by Ms Ludovika Lacková of Ružomberok; she found inspiration in the meeting of Czech and Slovak politicians in Luhačovice in summer of 1918 and in their speeches on the common state. She had promised to embroider a standard, which she completed in autumn of the same year. It was christened by Andrej Hlinka and Juraj Janoška at a public meeting summoned by the Slovak National Council in Ružomberok on December 18, 1918.
The Czech-Slovak / Slovak-Czech Exhibition is intended for young visitors, too. By playing at little detectives and searching for leads from the life of the fictional character named Jozef Novák, they can learn about important moments in the history of Czechoslovakia.
For more information, see www.cesko-slovensko.eu or www.snm.sk