Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Muzeul Comunismului

Today I visited the Museum of Communism in Prague. First off, it's hard to see many traces of communism in Prague. The architecture is beautiful, far different from Romania, Moldova and Hungary's drab rows of buildings. There is a vibrant city center and English is spoken in many places.

The city has put the communist past behind it very well, and in the past few years, the Museum of Communism has been developed. Ironically, it is located (and advertized as) "above the McDonalds." This led to an interesting exchange when I asked a young woman working in a restaurant for directions:

"Excuse me, which way is the Museum of Communism?"
"The Museum of Communism. Where is it?"
"Where's the McDonald's?"
"Oh, turn right and it's straight ahead."

Funded by an American businessman, the text-heavy museum is filled with socialist mementos, trinkets and propaganda posters. For me, the objects in the exhibit were old-hat, but they were new and foreign for my traveling companions, four high school friends. I enjoyed reading about Czechoslovakia's specific communist history, which I haven't studied before, especially the events of 1968 and the Velvet Revolution. The museum was lacking in depth, which is endemic of any museum that has to cram itself in between a McDonald's and a casino. I bought one of the museum's self-published books for further reading.

What was surprisingly lacking in this museum was any happy remembrance of communist times. It seems impossible that every Czech and Slovak looks back at the communist era with sour memories. I wonder how much its American founder influenced things; sometimes it reinforced western stereotypes about communism that Moldovans have told me are incorrect. However, I do sense that the Czech Republic and Slovakia have moved on rapidly since 1989, unlike Moldova. Why have they moved on while Moldova has stayed behind? Well, I'm vacation, so I don't have time to fill in the blanks.


At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Kristen from Bucharest here!

When I was in Prague I slept the whole time because I got sick in Budapest... but I am sure it is a great place.

I think the Czechs have moved on since the end of communism there, although a large number of the people claim themselves as communists...

Hear the beer there was great. Sad to say, I missed out!


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