Concept

Concept of the First World War Centenary Commemoration

 

  1. Introduction

Events of World War I, from which one hundred years will have passed by 2014-2018, meant a turnover in the history of the mankind. Over more than four years, the warring parties called to arms the order of 70 million soldiers; approximately 9.5 million soldiers were killed and died during war operations on both sides of the conflict, and additional 21 million were wounded. Not only military professionals and recruits, but also civilians fought and suffered. The Great War was unparalleled in its magnitude, intensity and the scope with which it swallowed whole societies in the involved countries. Outcomes of the war redrew the global political map and the wrongs it inflicted foreboded the conflicts to come later in the 20th century.

World War I or the Great War marked a fundamental change in the arrangement of Europe, shook fundamental social certainties and completed our nation’s emancipation process. Democratic powers seemingly strengthened their position as German and Turkish Empires gained a republican form and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy broke up into multiple successor states. The Great War also spawned the rise of Bolsheviks in Russia, which foreshadowed the arrival of two totalitarianisms – the Communist and Nazi one.

A part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Czech lands sent about 1.4 million men into combat in the World War I fronts. From among those affected by the war, practically all family had a relative killed in one of the fronts. For Czechs, Moravians, Silesians and other nationalities, the Great War nevertheless did not mean suffering only. It also led to national emancipation thanks to the effort by the Czechoslovak home and foreign resistance and outstanding achievements of our legionnaire forces in the Russian, French and Italian front. The state-constituting endeavour to restore our independent state came to head on 28 October 1918, when the Czechoslovak Republic was born to be built on the principles of democracy and freedom.

Elements of the Czech Republic’s state identity include claiming allegiance to the democratic principles of the Czech Republic in 1918 through 1938, but also to the emancipation effort of the Czechoslovak home and foreign resistance, both its political and military branch, and especially the endeavour by the Legionnaires. After the birth of the new republic, the Legionnaires became the mainstay of the Czechoslovak armed forces, of the new state apparatus as well as a number of social organisations. But it should nonetheless not be forgotten that even after the official end of the war and the birth of the new republic, armed conflicts broke out over disputed parts of Czechoslovak borders, both in the Těšín region and in Slovakia. Vigorous action by the Legionnaires, so-called Domestic Troops, whose members included former soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian military might, and volunteers from the ranks of gymnastic organisations (Sokol, DTJ, Orel) was decisive to establish the borders that we today take for granted.

One hundred years on from World War I, there is an opportunity to remember both victims among the inhabitants of Czech lands in the war fronts, heroic acts by the Legionnaires, but especially the process that led to establishing the modern form of our statehood. The present concept is meant to provide the framework of reference for remembering the story of how the Czechoslovak Republic came into being, whose constituting ideas the Czech Republic follows on. Not only state institutions, but also non-governmental organisations, especially the Czechoslovak Association of Legionnaires, are involved in developing and realising the present concept.

The rationale behind the present concept is to create the most favourable conditions for all involved entities and for the Czech society at large. An important task under the concept is also to deepen cooperation both among individual governmental ministries and departments as well as with a number of other institutions in realisation of specific projects and to create the most respectable framework for remembering and honouring individual anniversaries by coordinating the attendance by top governmental officials in domestic and international functions and events.      

 

2. Functions honouring the centenary of the state-constituting events 1914-1918 in the history of the Czech Republic and remembrance of World War I victims

Realising the society-wide importance of the upcoming World War I anniversaries and the constitutional role of the Czechoslovak Legions, the Czech Republic’s governmental authorities assume the overarching sponsor role. The Czech MoD with its specialist governmental institutions takes up the responsible and long-term assignment to honour anniversaries associated with the restored Czech statehood and remember World War I victims in the sponsoring and coordinating role. At the same time, the present concept incorporates the outcomes produced by an interdepartmental commission established to the effect.

The state-constituting aspect of Czechoslovak Legions in World War I, which has its crucial role in the state tradition of the Czech Republic, deserves a respectable commemoration underscoring the importance of extensive and emancipation action for constituting our modern statehood. Particularly in that dimension, a close cooperation is essential with the Czechoslovak Association of Legionnaires (ČSoL) that is involved, in the spirit of its traditions and hand in hand with state authorities, in cultivating the legacy of Czechoslovak Legions and the Czech Republic’s state traditions through its Legion’s 100 project.  

The Czech historical narrative should however not reduce World War I to a stage on whose background the carefully planned struggle for the restoration of modern Czech statehood unfolded in causality. The upcoming centenaries offer Czech citizens an opportunity to evaluate the then war experience.

The Czech nation was caught by the war at a time when the efforts of its political proponents to achieve a constitutional settlement as part of the Habsburg Monarchy got into a stalemate. Further development in the state bound by war measures indicated no rosy prospects for rearranging its constitutional position. Contrarily, with its fiascos in the battlefield, the Habsburg Monarchy, whose war endeavour the Czech society had to take part in, progressively lost control over conduct of own combat operations. It became increasingly dependent on the assistance of its German ally, which, coupled with growing economic problems, indicated the fatal fact: the state became increasingly incapable of delivering on its mission, thanks to which the inhabitants ceased to see the meaning of its existence. By impossibility or its unwillingness to disengage from war that had persistently entangled it into an ever-deepening crisis, as if the state wasted its legitimacy.

Seeking a constitutional alternative outside the framework of the Danube state conglomerate became one of the legitimate ways to get out of those destructive circumstances. The vision of an independent Czechoslovak state was not straight-forward and granted. From the very beginning, it was characterised by many variables. In particular, it depended on the victory of the Entente and grappled with unwillingness to disintegrate the Central European region for a long time. Including in the eyes of Entente statesmen, it was not until Austro-Hungarian Empire compromised its capability to stabilise the region, that the prospects for the Czechoslovak plan lost uncertainty. Besides patient political and diplomatic efforts, the whimsical factor of luck and coincidence, the Czechoslovak foreign troops played a central role in realising the plan.

Military resistance against Austro-Hungarian Empire, an extensive war effort involving almost 90,000 Czechoslovak Legionnaires directed against the Central Powers, gave the negotiators a strong argument attesting to the fact that the submitted visions and plans were backed by a host of people willing do sacrifice their life for turning them into reality.

The lot of war imposed upon the male population of the Habsburg Monarchy did not spare our predecessors coming from the Czech lands in any way. It struck them to an extent that has been unparalleled in our history so far. There was not practically any family that would not lose a member. The status of our knowledge of that painful chapter in our history is proven by the fact that we do not know exact number of those who fell, died or missing, that the data on the number of mobilised Czech soldiers are derived rough statistic estimates from the years between the World Wars.              

With a telling message, the fallen of World War I, be they legionnaires or not, often share the same lot in memorials scattered among communities in the Czech Republic. Much in the same way as those who survived and returned into the newly established state, they later shared the destiny of building together. Many died for Czechoslovakia shoulder-to-shoulder in the next war.

The upcoming commemoration of World War I, as a tragic historical event that impacted the families of our predecessors, should essentially take on the form of reverence we got used to show to our dead, as all victims among the citizens of the Czech lands deserve that simple honour.

 

3. Scope of ceremonies and remembrance functions

Activities associated with functions honouring the constitutional anniversaries and remembrance of the victims of World War I are intended to address the broadest spectrum in the population of the Czech Republic. Therefore, a broad variety of approaches – from popularisation and publicity to scientific is intended to be used.

As the events of 1914-1918 affected every family in the Czech lands and moreover stood at the restoration of the Czech or indeed Czechoslovak statehood, it is desirable that the activities reflected and covered both the personal dimension of war events and phenomena on family level as well as its social dimension on the level of the state and its traditions, with the international context definitely not left aside.

The planned activities have an integral foreign policy dimension, through which the Czech Republic joins the complex of worldwide World War I remembrance. Many projects will not do without cooperation with foreign partners. There are plans to widely employ exhibition and education projects delivered through the network of Czech Embassies and Czech Centres in foreign countries. It is also desirable to get compatriot communities involved.    

 

4. Principles of planning ceremonies and remembrance functions in 2014-2018

The first precondition for a constructive cooperation is sharing the information on the planned and prepared activities. It is therefore recommended that individual governmental ministries and departments represented on the working commission first systematically mapped out the prepared or already ongoing projects relating to the World War I centenary in their respective remits, in order for the data acquired for example in the form of questionnaire made it possible to develop a database of projects and activities.

To the effect of publicising and continuous development of such database, the MoD will set up a central internet portal that will offer current insight to events at hand throughout the 2014-18 period and also provide authoritative inputs for the interdepartmental working commission for their action.

Only registered organisations and individuals will be authorised to post contributions on the portal, which will enable the commission to have an overview of the quantity and nature of organisations involved in nation-wide remembrance functions. For central governmental authorities and their agencies, posting relevant projects and activities on the portal will be binding. 

Publishing activities of nationwide significance on dedicated international websites will be instrumental to enhancing international awareness (e.g. Centenary News First World War 1914-1914 - www.centenarynews.com; First World War Centenary 2014-2018 – www.1914.org).

A systematic organised overview of projects and activities will facilitate coordination among individual organisations and individuals with relating or identical interests. In addition, it will enable inputs from other areas fostering the desired interdisciplinary mix.

            Individual organisations and individuals will determine and communicate their   priorities in due time. It is particularly essential to coordinate attendance of top state officials and prevent duplications and waste of effort (e.g. digitisation of the same titles by different institutions).

The matter of World War I is so complex, that it demands a very close and consistent cooperation of the involved institutions. The above-mentioned principles are designed to provide optimal starting conditions for an operative cooperation on both national and international level.

 

5. Priority activities (close cooperation with partners in italics)  

  1. Czechoslovak Association of Legionaries (ČSoL)
  • implement Legions 100 project in 2014–2020 and achieve all its objectives in close cooperation with state administration bodies,

Objectives:

  • raise awareness of Czechoslovak legions and their contribution to the Czech statehood revival,
  • strengthen national consciousness and pride,
  • provide access to information about Czechoslovak legions,
  • restore war graves of Czechoslovak legionaries abroad,
  • representation of the Czech Republic abroad,

Priorities:

  • Legiovlak train – build and operate a genuine replica of the legionaries' train from the period of Czechoslovak legionaries fighting at Trans-Siberian Railway to raise awareness of their endeavour (MT, MOI, regions),
  • Educative center with an exposition on the Czechoslovak legions – includes a lecture hall, legionaries' library, exposition on the history of Czechoslovak legions, digitization and research center with facilities for those interested in the history of Czechoslovak legions (MoD, MoC),
  • expositions in the Czech Republic and abroad on significant events in the history of Czechoslovak legions. Set up a long-term exposition at Křivoklát Castle on the history of Czech statehood with an emphasis on statehood activity of the Czechoslovak legions (MoD, MFA, MoC, regions),
  • organize lectures for Czech and Slovak public (esp. young people) to remember the role of the founders of independent Czechoslovakia; instructive lectures and seminars for primary and secondary schools and universities on the history of the 20th century (MEYS, MoC, regions),
  • take care of war memorials, graves and places of commemoration of Czechoslovak legions in CR and abroad – restore and maintain current graves, renovate destroyed graves and build new graves (MoD, MFA),
  • write, edit and publish materials according to specialization, scope and level of proficiency (MoD, MEYS, MoC),
  • ceremonies and memorials – organize commemoration ceremonies, military and historical reenactments (combat demonstrations for the public) and pilgrimages to place in foreign countries (MoD, MFA, regions),
  • organize periodic conferences focusing on events and personalities connected with the First Resistance
  • shoot a feature film or an actors' TV series on Czechoslovak legions (MoD, MoC),
  • make a computer game to arouse interest in the Czechoslovak legions among the younger generation (MoD),

 

  1. Office of the President of the Republic (OPR)
  • coordinate the President’s participation in events in the Czech Republic and abroad connected with WWI remembrance and with festivities accompanying significant Czech anniversaries coming up in 2014–2018 (others),

 

  1. Ministry of Transport (MT)
  • cooperate on Legiovlak construction and operation (ČSOL),

 

  1. Ministry of Culture (MoC)
  • implement the planned large-scale exposition project of Bohemian and Moravian museums called the Great War (MoD, MOI),
  • digitize and provide access to the cultural heritage connected with WWI (MoD)

The National Film Archive Prague (NFA), which receives contributions from the MoC, has prepared packages with documents and films on the topic of the start of WWI for Czech centers.

NFA cooperates on the EFG1914 online project (www.europeanfilmgateway.euwww.europeana.eu). The project initiated by Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (ACE) and co-financed by the European Commission within the CIP/ICT-PSP program is coordinated by Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF e.V. in Frankfurt am Main: http://project.efg1914.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/efg1914_factsheet_czech_update.pdf.

Along with 5 other partners from the V4 countries the Moravian Library in Brno contributes to 100 years – WWI, the project financed by the IVF (International Visegrad Fund). The main purpose of the project is to identify (select), digitize and provide online access to historical documents (periodicals, monographs) from the WWI period.

  • the Association of Czech Museums and Galleries, a professional society, will launch a campaign in all museums Museums and the Great War: 100 years from the start of WWI (MoD),
  • support the relevant accompanying events:

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI the Drama Department of the National Theater is preparing an extraordinary project – a play called 1914 directed by Robert Wilson, an internationally acclaimed director. The project will be realized under the patronage of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the play will be produced for the first time on 30 April 2014.

 

  1. Ministry of Defense (MoD)
  • coordinate activities connected with WWI remembrance and with festivities accompanying significant Czech anniversaries coming up in 2014–2018,
  • set up a permanent exposition on Czech statehood and defense of Czech territory, which depends on the accomplishment of Czech government resolution no. 264 of 15 March 2000 to rehabilitate memorials commemorating struggle for freedom, independence and democracy with the aim of reconstructing the Resistance Memorial – Army Museum of the Military History Institute Žižkov (MoF, MoC),
  • carry out a large-scale exposition project on Bohemian and Moravian museums called the Great War (MoC, MOI),
  • support Legions 100 project (ČSOL) and cooperation during its implementation (MFA, MoC, MOI, MEYS, MT),
  • take care of war graves in the Czech Republic and abroad (MFA, ČSOL),
  • set up MoD Digital Library to centrally store digital data acquired during cooperation of memory institutions within the MoD (VHÚ, VÚA-VHA) and to make it available to public on-line,

Via its digital library the MoD will provide to local and international public free and user-friendly on-line access to a collection of military and military history literature as well the archive, which is unique in scope (circa 1,000,000 pages) and particularly in content compared to other European countries. (MoC, MOI)

  • set up a flexible Central Database of the Fallen, Deceased and Missing Soldiers during WWI connected with the Central database of war graves and the future MoD Digital Library.

The Central Database of the Fallen will be a database application available on-line, which will enable registered users from the general public to help create a database of war losses. This tool will connect various documents from the MoD Digital Library with specific persons whom they concern. The Czech public will have a tool which will make revival of memories of the fallen, deceased and missing ancestors a social project with far-reaching implications. In addition, it will be a general-purpose application to be used for all periods of Czech history. (MoC, MOI)

  • intensively and systematically digitize the archives, periodicals, monographs and cartographic documents stored by MoD memory institutions (MoC, MOI, MFA, ČSOL),
  • organize a series of international conferences focusing on the events of the respective WWI years: Čtyři léta do pole okovaná 1914-1918 (MoC, MOI, MEYS) and on the information on research and documentation projects in the Czech Republic as well as abroad,
  • present the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic when participating in ceremonies and memorials; organize a ceremonial parade on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak Independence (28 October 2018),
  • encourage specific cooperation with foreign archives which possess Czech history related  collections on WWI, the activity of the Czechoslovak legions and the establishment of Czechoslovakia. To enter into relevant intergovernmental agreements for this purpose (CR government, MFA).

 

  1. Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS)
  • education and awareness raising focused on enhancing the historical memory and the relationship with the home country (MoD, MOI, MoC, ČSOL, regions),
  • provide information, methodological and didactic support to teachers from education facilities of various levels via the existing methodological portal www.rvp.cz (ČSOL, MoD).

The National Institute for Life-long Learning will prepare courses on the given anniversaries and generally available and suitable learning aids (memorials of the fallen, museum objects, representation of the events in literature, songs, fine arts, etc.) (MoD, MOI, MoC, ČSOL, regions).

  • specify and work out in detail methodological procedures for the historians' and history didacts' conference (ČSOL, MoD),
  • publish organizational guidelines in the Collection of pedagogical and organizational information (information for schools on the most essential topics of the coming school year),
  • on a regular basis provide information and calls to arrange for a decent course of the state anniversaries and festivities in cooperation with and via a network of departments of education under regional authorities (regions).

 

  1. Ministry of the Interior (MOI)
  • digitalize the archives and cartographic documents stored by MOI memory institutions and make them accessible,

 

  1. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
  • provide support and cooperate when coordinating foreign activities connected with WWI commemoration and with ceremonies on the occasion of significant Czech anniversaries in 2014–2018 (MoD, ČSOL),
  • monitor relevant events abroad via CR diplomatic missions  (MoD),
  • digitize selected documents of MFA Paris Archive,
  • thematic expositions for Czech diplomatic missions abroad (MoD),
  • organize an international conference: Collapse of Austria-Hungary and Origin of Nation-States – preconditions, players, outcome.

 

  1. Higher territorial self-governing units (regions)
  • support expositions, publication, educative events, memorials, promotion activities, etc. related to WWI commemoration and ceremonies connected with significant Czech anniversaries in 2014–2018. 

 

6. The general concept

            With the aim of organizing ceremonies commemorating significant historical events connected with the Czech nationhood revival we count on active involvement of the participating ministries in the preparation of the memorial events in the form of comprehensive programs for general public in compliance with the priorities of the respective partners.

            We expect the memory and educational institutions as well as nongovernmental nonprofit organizations to contribute to the 100th anniversary with thematic expositions, publication, conferences, lectures and promotion. The concrete form of this activity will be archived and arranged on the web site chronologically, geographically and by institution type.

            It will be possible to carry out further research on WWI after compilation of an infallible documentation base accessible to public and registering foreign collections which include Czech history related documentation.

            The 2014-2018 period is in this regard a unique opportunity to map in detail the cultural heritage of WWI as preserved in institutions as well as private collections in the Czech Republic.

   

ceremonies and memorials

These events require organizing a commemoration ceremony:

  • beginning of WWI, commemoration of the fallen, Prague, 28 July 2014
  • launching Legions 100 project, Prague, October 2014
  • oath of allegiance by the Czech Druzhina, Kiev (Ukraine), 28 September 2014
  • formation of the Nazdar Company, Paris, Bayonne (France), October 2014
  • Czech Druzhina in Poland and Slovakia, Tarnów, Zborov, January – April 2015
  • the fallen of Nazdar Company, La Targette (France), May 2015
  • Fighting at Dobrudja, Medgidia (Romania), September 2016
  • Battle of Zboriv, Tarnopol retreat, Kalynivka, Ozerna (Ukraine), July 2017
  • Battle of Bakhmach (Ukraine), March 2018
  • Remembrance of the endeavour by the Legions in Russia, Mariyanovka, Zlatoust, (Russia), 25 May 2018
  • oath of Czechoslovak legionaries in Darney (France), 30 June 2018
  • Battle of Doss Alto (Italy), 21 September 1918
  • Battle of Terron (France), 18–22 October 1918
  • establishment of Czechoslovakia, CR, 28 October 2018
  • Truce at the Italian front, 3–4 November 2018
  • End of WWI, commemoration of all fallen, Prague, 11 November 2018. 

            On the occasion of WWI remembrance and as part of festivities connected with historical state-constituting events which will take place in 2014–2018, the ČSOL, MT, MoC, MoD, MEYS, MOI, MFA and regions will organize accompanying events, which will appropriately complement the aforementioned activities.

                              On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Independent Czechoslovakia (28 October 2018) a ceremonial parade of the ACR units will take place.

 

memory institutions

archives

  • digitization of the archives and on-line access
  • publishing of sources
  • keep record of personal documents (memories, diaries, memoirs, personal correspondence) from the WWI period in the CR archives – a questionnaire via the Archiving and Documentation Service of the Czech MI

museums and galleries

  • editing (thematic catalogues of collections)
  • keep record of personal documents, pieces of visual arts and collection objects from WWI in Czech museums and galleries – an MoC questionnaire via the Czech Association of Museums and Galleries in cooperation with the Central Registry of the MoC collections

libraries

  • digitize periodicals and monographs and provide their on-line access
  • compile thematic bibliographies (the First Czechoslovak foreign resistance, Czech lands and WWI, etc.)

research institutes (public research institutions)

  • grant support of topics connected with the 100th anniversary of WWI

 

educational institutions

  • support of educational and memorial events of schools and other educational institutions connected with historical events of the period in question,
  • support of theses and dissertations on the WWI

 

nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations (unincorporated association o. s., beneficiary society o. p. s., foundation)

  • cooperate during the compilation of Central Database of the Fallen, Deceased and Missing Soldiers from WWI – connect digital data from documents stored in the MoD Digital Library with records in the Central Database of the Fallen, Deceased and Missing Soldiers from WWI and the Central Database of War Graves (ČSOL etc.)

 

cooperation with the media

  • initiate media cooperation with Czech Television, Czech Radio, possibly with Czech News Agency. The suggested portal site will be the central source of information about the ongoing activities for other media.

   

7. Financial resources

No requests for additional budgetary resources will be granted for this year. In line with the proposed plans and measures the financial requirements of the respective ministries or entities will not be specified and priorities will not be defined until before the 2015–2018 period.

 

ACRONYMS

ČSOL – Czechoslovak Association of Legionaries

MoD – Ministry of Defense

MOI – Ministry of the Interior

MEYS – Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports

MoF – Ministry of Finance

MT – Ministry of Transport

MFA – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

MoC – Ministry of Culture

OPR – Office of the President of the Republic

VHÚ – Military History Institute

VÚA –Central Military Archive

VHA – Military History Archive