Museum of Communism
Their slogan is “Dream, Reality, Nightmare, Occupation 68, Revolution 89”.
The museum opened in 2001 and is the first (and only) museum in Prague (maybe Czech Republic and Slovakia too) devoted to trying to explain and lay out the system established by the Soviet Union, and that existed here for 40 years.
This museum is in the same imposing building as the Casino, on a big shopping street (Na Prikope) off Wenceslas Square. Go up the wide stairs, and to the left for the museum. It’s a bit musty and dusty inside (as anyone with allergies will soon find out), and we joked that maybe it hadn’t been cleaned since Communist times!
We found the museum interesting, as most of this information is new to us (the reality of Communism is not really taught widely in our western school systems). But, actually all the exhibits are a bit old style/old school in the way they are presented—-maybe partly done deliberately to reflect the dreary, unstimulating Communist times? There are pictures, paintings, statues (of Marx, Lenin, Stalin), propaganda music of the era, and many posters. The many detailed information boards are all in English, German and Italian too, which is very helpful. They set out very nicely the background for the formation of Czechoslovakia, and the effect of the Nazis prior to the take-over by the Communists. If you have tine to read all the boards, you’ll come away with a much better understanding of the history and political turmoil of this region.
There is a kind of chronological flow, which is good, but some of the exhibits seem a bit random (like the factory/industrial corner), as though they’ve just collected up random items. But, still, it’s informative, especially as it relates to the Communist times in Czechoslovakia and in particular in Prague.
The rooms are titled: the origins; the dream; the reality; the nightmare; an interrogation room; cult of personality; and Velvet Revolution (1989). There’s a re-creation of a bland store counter with little food, and a typical classroom—with textbooks using the Russian Cyrillic alphabet and a poem on the chalkboard extolling the virtues of the tractor. There’s also a small Jan Palach exhibit, the student who set himself on fire in 1969, an act that was one of the sparks for the uprisings leading to the Velvet Revolution.
The best part is probably the 20-minute movie that loops continuously, with footage from those times, especially about the Velvet Revolution and interviews with ex-political prisoners. It’s all rather spine-chilling stuff.
There’s also a poster-board exhibit outside on the small roof terrace on North Korea and Communism—it’s fascinating and presents some pretty stark information and statistics.
What are the take-home facts?
We learn that daily life under the Communists was hard and dreary; that food items were very limited, in quantity and variety; that propaganda was pervasive, as was censorship; that propaganda against capitalism and the USA in particular was almost an obsession; that the army, the police and the secret police apparatus were dreaded and dreadful; that political labor camps existed; that the Communists didn’t shy away from chemical warfare; that Czech people chafed under the big Red yoke, especially after the failed 1968 Prague Spring uprising.
190 CZK/adult (about $7.60), open 9am-9pm daily, except December 24.
More information in the well-designed web page; www.museumofcommunism.com (in English and Czech)