Open Letters

The Open Letter of the Society VERITAS

The Historical Society for Updating the Legacy of the Czech Reformation VERITAS is through this letter appealing to the Czech professional and clerical public.

We turn to all of you, because we are quite worried. In 1989, we were hoping that pursuits to deform interpretations of our past, so common during the times of Communist supremacy, would pass out of our professional and public life. These pursuits concerned the class interpretation of history.

We regret to say, that such misinterpretations appear again. Various authors make use of the fact that efforts of the Czech Reformation, especially those of the Hussite movement, were interpreted from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism and sometimes Hussites were even regarded as predecessors of communists. Later Czech Reformation was ascribed similar features. At the same time, the contribution of the Hussite movement and the whole Czech Reformation (claims on freedom of conscience and religious tolerance, which has been recognized in Bohemia and Moravia and in the last third of the 15th century was even legalized) to the treasury of European culture. Religious freedom was elaborated and guaranteed under new conditions in the Charter of Rudolph II in 1609.

Another contribution of this document was a state policy of dual nation, i.e. peaceful coexistence of several religious confessions, which was guaranteed in other countries much later. That is connected with the fight for peace in Europe which the Utraquist king George of Poděbrady strived for.

Only just these values — creating a humanistic legacy of Czech history — were rightfully highlighted by František Palacký, Karel Havlíček Borovský and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.

These values are now wrongly being overlooked and completely different values are being highlighted. Especially the legacy of the times of Counter-Reformation as of the most important period in our history in which only the Czech Lands were again implemented into civilized Europe.

We understand very well that democratic society guarantees various opinions of individual groups. However, we can see, that media, especially press and television, give preference to such interpretations that supress traditions of the Czech and World Reformation and classify them as minor or even objectionable.

Voices that point that out are being ignored and contributions that call for correction of utterly wrong information are being put off for various reasons. Furthermore, works that have already been published are branded controversial by the other party. Such actions are unfortunately at variance with principles of democratic society.

We beg you for help in our pursuit to eleminate such tendencies.

This letter was passed at the General Assembly of the Society VERITAS on May 30, 1998.

On behalf of VERITAS

PhDr. Vladimír SAKAŘ, CSc.
the moderator

Published: The Bulletin VERITAS, No. 7/1998, p. 15.

The Open Letter Addressed to the Minister of Education of the Czech Republic

Prague, June 12, 2000

Your Excellence,

the General Assembly of the Historical Society VERITAS, held on May 27 in Prague, appeals to you for intervention in the matter of curriculum of History in our schools.

We are discomforted by the extent and content of this subject. One lesson a week is not quite enough to cover the subject matter from Prehistory through Modern Era, if it should include information of European extent.

Proceedings that we have learned about in press (e.g. information provided by Johana Grohová and Simona Holecová in MF DNES of April 3, 2000) make us feel concerned. According to them, education is not enough European and that children are still taught History as formed by Palacký and his contemporaries. A remark that history of individual countries cannot be changed because of one's wish must be added to this. After November 1989 we should have gotten back to the conception of history of the European type of nation, but in our opinion this represented something else than both authors of the article and probably participants of the debate the authors referred of had in mind.

European awareness cannot be achieved through outbalancing knowledge of history of our nation and laying emphasis on history of minorities (i.e. Romany, German and Jewish in Bohemia and Moravia). The intention should be to include these sections in history of Czechs and Moravians and avoid any limitations of its interpretation, however critical, but still leading to consolidation of identity of Czechs and Moravians. The Czech children have the right to learn about history of their nation as well as children belonging to Romany, German and Jewish minorities.

The information about the forementioned proceedings lacks the topic “Contribution of our nation to Europe and mankind” (e.g. Charles IV, the Hussite movement and reformation, religious freedom and freedom of conscience guaranteed in the Czech Lands from the hussite initiative as early as 1485, contribution of the Czech science and culture to Europe and the world). We can neither highlight the period after the year 1620, simply because it represented occupation of our lands with appaling consequences.

The fact that our lands are inseparable from Europe and that our history is a part of the European history was recognized by Palacký as well as later on by T. G. Masaryk. Demands to limit information on the Czech history may be interpreted as efforts to suppress the conception of history of a democratic country in the traditions of Masaryk.

We also demur at strange claims of ecumenical religious history, which should banish knowledge of true religious history from people's minds — e.g. facts that also some Germans professed to be hussites or opinions that the Counter-Reformation, victory of the imperial army in the Battle of the White Mountain and defeat of the Czech Estates did not mean a lot, despite the fact that as a result of all forementioned events Czechs and Germans were equally affected and impoverished in case they held onto their faith and conscience. Such “ecumenical history” would probably result in deletion of these facts and thus misinterpretation of history. Ironically, by suppressing the knowledge of our own history and our identity, we give a loose to pseudo-radical tendencies, especially political extremism and chauvinism as recently pointed out by Jefim Fištejn.

Right now, in the anticipation of joining the EU, we need to be a compact and confident unit. Any flagellation is inappropriate and have deplorable consequences, because it results in racism.

We apply to you, Your Excellence, to heed the call of teachers of History and try to take remedial action. Our only wish for our children is to provide them such an interpretation of history that is not corrupted by tendencies applied in the after-Munich (so-called “second”) republic, which are far from every rational German's thinking.

We also have to take into consideration that after the anticipated joining the EU, Czechs will become a minority — smaller in number than Romanies, of which there are by 2 million more than Czechs, Moravians and Silesians in total. That is why, this Czech minority needs to regard itself as a minority nation, conditions of which will be such as to prevent its spontaneous destruction. It is still true, that those people who do not esteem their own nation and land, do not hold other nations in high regard and as a consequence of it xenophobia and shovinism grow. We would like to protect our descendants from such a future.

Members of the historical society VERITAS greet you with a plea of proper consideration and revision of utopistic plans.

On behalf of the Historical Society VERITAS

PhDr. Vladimír SAKAŘ, CSc.
the moderator

Published: The Bulletin VERITAS, No. 9/2000, pp. 10–11.