Author: Pavla Petrová
After the Second World War, the territory of Czechoslovakia, as it was then known, fell under Soviet influence. This was one of the main reasons why the Communists seized power for 50 years after the "February revolution" in 1948. In 1960, the state changed its name to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Methods of totalitarian power and economic problems aroused ever-growing resistance, which culminated in the Prague Spring of 1968 and general liberalisation in all fields including the field of culture. All these efforts were suppressed in August of the same year with the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops. After an unsuccessful attempt at democratisation, the so-called normalisation started after 1969; it can be characterised as a period when all individuals and activities that did not agree with the Soviet occupation were persecuted by the state. Many important Czech personalities from the fields of art and culture were persecuted at that time. At the beginning of the 1980s, pressure for democracy started to grow more intensively, resulting in the "Velvet Revolution" in November 1989. This process brought essential political, social and economic changes to the Czechoslovakian society and it has changed the shape of culture in the Czech Republic (CR).
In 1993, the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic split into two independent states – the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic – after mutual agreement by both federations. The CR joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 following a referendum. Czechoslovakia was one of the founding members of UNESCO and, following the separation of Czechoslovakia, the independent CR became a UNESCO member state in 1993.
Until 1989, there was a dense network of ideologically controlled and endowed cultural facilities – libraries, cultural centres and houses, cinemas, theatres, museums, monuments, observatories etc. This network was centralised in the 1950s and structurally reorganised in the 1970s.
At the beginning of the 1990s, there was a mass privatisation and denationalisation of this network. All state institutions like book publishers and music industries, film studios, circuses or art agencies were privatised. Some state ideological cultural institutions were closed. State funds like the Czech Music Fund and others were transformed into foundations according to a new Act on Foundations (see also chapter 8.1.2).
Denationalisation of cultural facilities was a very important step in the process of democratisation. This process is also very closely connected with the Territorial Reform of Public Administration in the CR. The Act on Municipalities released the local authorities from organisational subordination to the state and it allowed them to establish cultural institutions. Many cultural institutions were transferred to them from the state level – mainly theatres.
The first period of territorial reform ended with the establishment of new higher territorial units – 14 regions, which were created on the basis of Constitutional Act No. 347/1997 Coll. The regions started operating on 1 January 2001, following introduction of the Act on the Regions. In the second period of reform of territorial public administration, dozens of museums, galleries and libraries were transferred to the regions on the basis of the Act on the Transfer of Certain Objects, Rights and Liabilities of the Property of the CR (see also chapter 7.1).
The first strategic document in the field of culture was elaborated in 1996 for the Ministry of Culture of the CR in the form of the White Book – a study that clarified the relation of the state to culture and gave examples of cultural policies from other European countries. It also included a proposal for modernising the grant system of the MC.
The first government policy on culture in the history of the CR was ratified by Government Decree of the CR No. 401 in April 1999 and it was called the Strategy of Effective Cultural Support.
In 2001, the government issued Decree No. 40 approving the Cultural Policy in the CR 2001-2005. Provisions connected with the membership of the Czech Republic in the European Union and reform of the public administration ranked among the main topics of cultural policy.
In November 2008, the government issued Decree No. 1452 approving the National Cultural Policy 2009-2014. This is a document that focuses on understanding culture as a discipline in which it is useful to invest time, energy, and human and financial potential (see also chapter 3).
In 2012, The Ministry of Culture plans to submit an Update of the National Cultural Policy for 2013-2014 with an outlook to 2015-2020 to the government of the Czech Republic.