Czechoslovakia to celebrate 100th anniversary in 2018

Even though the country split up in 1993, exhibits and events are planned

The Czech Republic will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 2018. The country split up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, but both countries will be marking the anniversary anyway.

Exhibitions are planned at several museums and locations including Prague Castle, the National Museum and the plinth of the former statue of Stalin.

The First Republic was declared on Oct. 28, 1918, when novelist Alois Jirásek read the proclamation of the independence of Czechoslovakia in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue on Wenceslas Square.

The declaration was drafted by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and American sculptor Gutzon Borglum and presented to the US government on Oct. 17. It is sometimes called the Washington Declaration. It was published in Paris on Oct. 18, but the reading at Wenceslas Square is seen as the official start of the new country.

Independence came in the final days of World War I when the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart. It marked the first time since the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 that Bohemia was not under foreign rule.

Several big events are planned for 2018, but details on later ones are still a bit vague.

Prague Castle, which still functions as the seat of the president and has state offices, is having several exhibits. A look at renovations to the Castle itself during the First Republic called Prague Castle 1918–1929 has already started and will run until May 6, 2018, at the Teresian Wing of the Old Royal Palace.

In 2018, there will be three exhibits under the collective banner Founded 1918.

Founded 1918: The Labyrinth of the Czech History will run Jan. 8 to July 1 at the Imperial Stables. The exhibition will feature documents and objects showing key moments in Czech history from the 10th century till now such as Přemysl Otakar II’s funeral insignia, the Golden Bull of Sicily (granting royal rights to Bohemia), and documents relating Charles IV and Rudolph II. The Washington Declaration will also be shown.

Founded 1918: Elements of Statehood will run March 1 to Oct. 28 at the Prague Castle Riding School.

It is the main part and covers the history of state symbols. Visitors can see the highest state decorations awarded during the last 100 years, archival documents that will be changed during the exhibition, the presidential Škoda VOS car and prison letters from Milada Horáková, among other items.

The last part is Founded 1918: The Castle Guard, which will take place July 1 to Oct. 28 at the Teresian Wing of the Old Royal Palace. The Castle Guard was established at the same time as the new country. Hundreds of photographs and objects will show the history of this military unit. The exhibition will be opened during the Sokol Rally because its members were among those who guarded Prague Castle soon after the declaration of Czechoslovakia.

The National Museum will also be celebrating the anniversary. The long-term renovations should be partly finished so that the public can re-enter the building Oct. 28, 2018, to see a temporary exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary.

The National Museum is also currently holding a competition to find objects with interesting stories that show Czech and Slovak relations. People can participate up until Jan. 31, 2018. Some of the objects will become part of the anniversary exhibit, which will also be shown in Slovakia.

Repairs will continue until mid-2019. After the museum is completed, the temporary exhibit will close and permanent exhibits will open. The museum closed in July 2011 for what was supposed to be five years of renovation work. But the actual work did not start until 2015 due to legal issues.

The New Building of the National Museum, which used to house Radio Free Europe, currently has an exhibition on Masaryk as a Phenomenon, looking at the first president of Czechoslovakia. It runs until Jan. 31, 2018.

In Letná park, there is a large space in what was the base of the long-gone statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The nonprofit organization Post Bellum, in cooperation with the city, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and Czech Radio, is creating a multimedia exhibition that will run from October 2018 to summer 2019. It will be using video mapping, sound effects, audio recordings, photographs and historical objects to show the experience of previous generations who struggled to achieve freedom.

Old Town Hall is also undergoing renovations that should be finished in time for the anniversary. The tower is undergoing extensive repairs and the Astronomical Clock is being rebuilt. All of the repairs to the clock and tower should be finished by July 2018 so that they are functioning in time for the anniversary in October. The total renovations should cost some Kč 48 million.

During the celebrations of Czechoslovak independence, a mob in November 1918 tore down a Victory Column on Old Town Square. One thing that won’t happen in 2018 is replacing the column with a copy. City Hall had agreed to accept a copy made with private funds, but then changed its mind and withdraw permission for the replica to be put back in the original location. The 16-meter-tall column had been on the square since 1650 and celebrated the end of the end of the Thirty Years’ War, and in particular, a battle that occurred on Charles Bridge. Opponents say the column glorifies the Hapsburg domination of the country.

There are also public celebrations planned for October 2018, including concerts. Details on these are still tentative and will become clearer closer to the events.

The year will start with a public fireworks display at 6 pm on Jan. 1, which is the 25th anniversary of the split of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The fireworks will be launched from Letná park and will be visible from most of the downtown area.

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