We arrived in Prague after a seven hour train ride from Vienna. We had taken advantage of an airfare deal on Austrian Airlines and planned an eight day tour around Central Europe with Prague as our first stop.
Prague is an amazing city, combining the dreary look of a post-Soviet country with vibrant modernism and a populace excited for the future. Throughout our stay we did most of the normal tourist activities: a visit to Prague Castle, a walk across the Charles Bridge and of course spending time in the Medieval Old Town with its famous clock tower. We also paid an additional, last minute visit to the Czech Museum of Communism.
Every country has its own, unique way of addressing its past – both things of which they are proud and others which they are not. A visit to the Communism Museum was an experience in unintentional irony amidst the telling of a tragic story.
You can find the Museum in the middle of the main shopping district, next door to a McDonald’s and in the same building as a casino. Obviously the Czech people haven’t had too many problems ridding themselves of their Communist past.
While simple, the museum does a remarkable job of telling the complete history of Communism in the Czech Republic and the process through which it became a satellite of the Soviet Union. While not at all unbiased, it is this honest commentary into just how much the Czechs hated the Russians that tells the true story.
Yes there are artifacts and pictures and the history is well interpreted, but it is the way in which the museum presents the history that is most telling. The resentment and outright hatred is palpable and you get a real idea of the legacy the Soviet years have left in the country.
The Museum ends with a presentation of the Velvet Revolution, led by the playwright and national hero Vaclav Havel. The tour is also concluded by an unexpected sense of optimism and hopefulness that clearly had been missing for decades.
You can learn a lot about the history of the Czech Republic throughout its capital city, but the Museum of Communism is one of the few ways to learn about the people involved with the making of that history.