Lenin and Friends: Prague’s Museum of Communism

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Scary Russian Doll? You're in the right place

Scary Russian Doll? You’re in the right place

Communism? A Museum?

What do you think of, when you think of Communism? Do you remember its successes? Probably not. Do you reminisce about how much better things were in Dubcek’s Day? Er, except they weren’t.

So when you think of Communism, what exactly do you think of?

Prague’s Museum of Communism may hold some of the answers. Dedicated to the works of Lenin, Marx, Gorky and the rest of the boys in red, it provides a small insight into the pre-1989 Czech Republic.

Right at reception, the postcards set the tone: “You couldn’t get laundry detergent, but you could get your brain washed” or “They coined the term politically correct fifty years before the West caught on” give you some idea of how things are now viewed.

Uncle Josef looks on...as the phone rings
Uncle Josef looks on…as the phone rings

Interrogation

Think Communism and you’ll probably think Secret Police, “disappearances” and interrogations. The model interrogation room here has a phone that rings, but is never answered, and an angle poise lamp with a fierce light to shine in your terrified face.

Despite all this, the room doesn’t terrify. Maybe it’s the coat stand, or maybe it’s the stapler on the desk. Either way, the effect was somewhat surreal, and more Magritte than malevolent.

Likewise the short film on Czech Communism and its blithe angle of “We never really liked Communism here you know, couldn’t wait to get rid of it”. Forgive me if I’m not entirely convinced.

The Boys in Red

The Boys in Red

Posters, Propaganda and Posing for Statues

I have to admit to a weakness for Communist Propaganda Posters. It’s just the way they’re all so blatant, like they expect everybody reading it to think “Darn! Really? I never ever thought of that. But they’re SO right”. It just makes me giggle.

There are some beauties here: No American shall get through our village! Brave North Korean mother throttles the Capitalist Devil!

And let’s not forget the statues and the busts: you really can’t accuse the Communists of lacking ego. Time was, they must have been running out of space to put the things. Well, there are a lot of them here (my favourite was Marx looming over reception like an elderly doctor). And then there’s Lenin, kindly-looking and decaying just ever so slightly…

Win a Medal? You'll have to get there first
Win a Medal? You’ll have to get there first

Things We Learned Today

Did you know that the Communists initially loathed sports? In 1950, the authorities imprisoned the entire Czech ice hockey team for treason, accusing them of attempting to defect when they travelled to the UK for a tournament. Most were in prison for less than 5 years, but their lives were shattered. And so was Czech ice hockey – the team were the World Champions in 1949.

And therein lies my criticism – some of the issues (such as sport) would be of huge interest to many visitors, who remember well the Eastern Bloc teams of the 70s and 80s, and those sportspeople who did defect to the West. It would be fascinating to hear their stories.

And what of trade during this period? Where did they get their supplies from? Is it true that Cuba kept them well-stocked with cigars? And then there was Alexander Dubcek’s loathing of all farmers and peasants (so much for Soviet self-sufficiency ideals). So how did people get fed?

Because Communism is a human story – one of oppression, lies and – ultimately – failure. Children born after the fall of Communism are now having children of their own. That’s 2 generations who never knew “the guys in red”. So if those stories aren’t told now, then when?

And the greatest irony of all? To quote a postcard, in order to find the Museum of Communism, you have to know this:

“We’re above McDonalds, across from Benetton. Viva la Imperialism!”

Oh, and next door to the Casino.

Good to Know

Website: http://www.muzeumkomunismu.cz/

Opening Hours: 9am to 9pm daily

Entrance Fee: 190 Czk per adult/150 Czk per child.

Plan on spending 1-2 hrs here. It’s worth the visit.

 

 
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