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Czechoslovakia: Children´s Media in Transformation

Martina Winkler

Résumé

This article deals with children´s media (film and literature) in Czechoslovakia from the 1960s through the 1980s. It puts to test the perception of 1968 as not only a culmination of reforms, but also as a watershed between the liberal 1960s and the normalized 1970s/1980s. An analysis of children´s media suggests that changes from the 1960s in perceptions of modern childhood were not reversed after 1968, but rather continued and perhaps even expanded.

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1While the year of 1968 epitomizes cultural and social change for many countries all over the world, it appears particularly meaningful in Czech and Slovak (respectively, until 1992, Czechoslovak) history. 1968 was the year of the Prague Spring, a project initiated primarily by the political elite and appreciated by both the Czechoslovak population and Western governments and media. The changes within the party structure, the abolition of censorship and the enthusiastic public life of this time can be seen as a culmination of a broad reform process that had started in the early 1960s. The Prague Spring was infamously interrupted, however, when troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria invaded the country on August 21st. The earlier reforms, now condemned as antisocialist counterrevolutionary aggression, were revoked step by step, until eventually, in April 1969, the general secretary of the communist party, Alexander Dubček, was replaced by Gustáv Husák. If Dubček had represented the liberating atmosphere of the Prague Spring, Husák became the embodiment of the era of normalization, which lasted from the early 1970s through to 1989.

  • 1 Pražské jaro 1968. Literatura - film - média, Praha, Literární akademie, 2009; Charles Sabatos, “Cr (...)
  • 2 Pavel Kolář, Michal Pullmann, Co byla normalizace? Studie o pozdním socialismu, Praha, Nakladatelst (...)
  • 3 Vítězslav Sommer, “Scientists of the World, Unite! Radovan Richta's Theory of Scientific and Techno (...)

2Not only the invasion itself, but also the decades before and after, have been scrutinized extensively. Scholars of various disciplines have made both the time of reforms since approximately 1963 and the era of normalization after 1969 their subject of research. Their interest in various aspects of cultural, political and social life in the 1960s has sparked studies on films of the Czechoslovak New Wave, politically critical novels that would have not been published in either the 1950s or the 1970s and 80s, as well as intellectual debates and economic theories.1 The 1970s and 80s, in turn, have been explored for their specific petty-bourgeois-meets-real-socialism-character, and historians have written on dissidents, repression and censorship, but also on social niches and a new concept of privacy and consumerism.2 The two eras – before and after 1968 – are mostly seen tacitly as divided by a deep and traumatic watershed. It is only recently that scholars interested in Czechoslovak history have begun to follow the example of research on Western history, and start asking about continuities, the long-term effects of the reforms and perhaps revolutions of the 1960s.3

  • 4 Jiří Knapík (ed.), Děti, mládež a socialismus v Československu v 50. a 60. letech, Opava, Ústav his (...)
  • 5 Czech and Slovak children´s culture were generally separated with very few overlaps. This paper wil (...)

3Children´s lives, culture and literature have been largely neglected in this field of academic research. Children´s history in socialist Czechoslovakia is a relatively new subject of interest.4 This paper aims to contribute to the growing field of research into socialist childhoods. At the same time, it attempts to link and possibly conflate the questions relevant to this field with a broader perspective on children´s history in the second half of the 20th century. With this aim in mind, I will raise the question whether and how Czech5 children’s literature and film transformed during the 1960s and how in turn media for children during the era of normalization mirrored and shaped political, social and cultural change. The books and films used in my argument do not constitute a fixed group but rather a sample of media for and about children that can be considered an important part of a general discourse of childhood. All of them were well known, critically acclaimed and sometimes the subject of controversy in journals and newspapers. Most important for my research question is the popular genre of the children´s realistic novel, as it deals with questions and everyday dimensions of children´s lives in very direct ways. As will become clear, however, the genre of the fantastic is also relevant, as are films of the New Wave, TV shows and children´s magazines.

  • 6 Judith Sealander, The failed century of the child: governing America’s young in the twentieth centu (...)
  • 7 See, most recently, Pavel Kolář, Der Poststalinismus : Ideologie und Utopie einer Epoche, Köln, Böh (...)
  • 8 An explicitly historical approach, focusing on transformation, has been pursued for instance by Jul (...)

4Children, it has been stated often and correctly, are of great interest in modern societies. They epitomize the future, embody the need for progress and growth, and legitimize governmental measures. A happy childhood is not only a task and a claim but also, if put into effect, evidence of success in politics and society. All this is true for both capitalist and socialist societies. However, while the concept of governing childhoods, and the outstanding meaning ascribed to children and childhoods have been analyzed in detail for North America, Great Britain and some other Western countries,6 systematic research on socialist childhoods is only just beginning. Probably the most important first result of this research is a new awareness of the complexity to be found in socialist societies. The “socialist bloc” was not monolithic, nor can culture and society be considered static and inflexible. This has been stated with increasing urgency for what we call the general (i.e. adult) history of socialism,7 but it is also true for the subfield of children´s history. Quite a few fresh studies – mostly focusing on the Soviet Union – have demonstrated the need to avoid the traditional but simplistic concept of “the socialist childhood”. Rather, varying circumstances due to political change, ideological preferences, social necessities, demographic structures and other transformations ought to be taken into consideration when we explore socialist childhoods.8

Children´s culture in socialist Czechoslovakia, 1950s and 1960s

  • 9 Hana Píchová, The Case of the Missing Statue. A Historical and Literary Study of the Stalin Monumen (...)

5Stalinism in Czechoslovakia was stubborn. Long after other socialist societies had embarked on the journey called “thaw”, Czechs and Slovaks held fast to patterns of thought from the 1950s. A particular infamous monument – literally – of this situation was provided by the huge Stalin-statue in Prague, inaugurated only in 1955 (two years after Stalin´s death) and demolished again in 1962.9 Children´s literature and film might not have included such dramatic symbols of change, but a brief review demonstrates transformations in both themes and style.

  • 10 Marie Majerová, Literatura pro mládež a děti - důležitý prostředek socialistické výchovy nových pok (...)
  • 11 Olga Štruncová, Brigáda v mateřské škole, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1951.
  • 12 Ondřej Sekora: Mravenci se nedají, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1954.
  • 13 Anička jde do školy, 1962, Directed by Milan Vošmik.
  • 14 Helena Šmahelová, Karlínská číslo 5, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1961.

6After World War II, and in particular after the communist takeover in 1948, children´s culture in Czechoslovakia was strongly characterized by visions of a new and better society which would facilitate, among other things, a new childhood. Formally, films and in particular books for children were strongly promoted as significant means of education and thus instruments to engineer a better future.10 In terms of content, there were picture books that focused on children´s labor in a preschool-garden,11 (ill. 1) comic strips celebrating the work ethics of the industrious ant Ferda,12 (ill. 2) children´s films that had little girls discussing politics with their fathers,13 and novels about pioneers´ groups who organized neighborly help.14

Ill. 1: Štruncová, Olga: Brigáda v mateřské škole (Preschool children on duty), Praha: Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy 1951.

Ill. 2: Image taken from Sekora, Ondřej: Kousky mládence Ferdy Mravence: Aby bylo všechno lepší (1954) "To make everything better": in this comic strip the popular ant Ferda Mravenec explains how the five-year-plan and a new work ethic will improve life. This image is from Sekora, Ondřej: Kousky mládence Ferdy Mravence: Aby bylo všechno lepší, Praha: Melantrich 1954

  • 15 Among the many translations from Russian children´s books were: Sergej Michalkov, Táta, máma a já, (...)
  • 16 Most famous, beloved and re-published several times during the 1950s in Czech, Slovak and other lan (...)
  • 17 Probably most popular through the decades: Bohumil Říha, Honzíkova cesta, Praha, Státní nakladatels (...)

7Literature in particular reflected the strong Soviet influence, and the majority of translated books of this time were from Russian,15 but Czech children´s books from leftist authors were among the favorites, too.16 The ideological and pedagogical dimensions of these books were very dominant; apart from a certain uniformity, however, many books were not of low aesthetic or literary quality, as some scholars tend to imply – in fact, some of them turned into classics and are read widely to this day.17 Still, stories from this decade of determined social engineering often also appear overly optimistic and sometimes even awkward in their attempt for perfection.

  • 18 Martina Winkler, “Zwischen Zukunftsideal und Rebellentum. Das Thema „Jugend“ im tschechischen Film, (...)
  • 19 Jarmila Hanzálková, “Moje Jany”, Zlatý máj, 6 (1961), 6, pp. 281-282; Z. K. Slabý, « Na křídlech ml (...)
  • 20 Among these were scientific publications, but also popular books and brochures as well as a documen (...)

8Children´s literature and film, as well as media for and about young adults,18 began to change quite profoundly in the late 1950s and early 1960s. From the late 1950s on, little heroes in groups were replaced by individual children with feelings, and not every conflict was easy to solve anymore. In particular, the writer Helena Šmahelová contributed to a new interest in child psychology. By her successful attempts to (re-)introduce child psychology into literature and her interest in crises and traumata such as death, separation and loss, she tied in with Marie Majerová´s work from the 1940s, famous in leftist circles. Šmahelová´s short novel Karlínská č. 5 (Karlín street No. 5, 1961), funny and witty as it is, focuses strongly on socialist virtues and describes how children work together to help a friend and endeavor to achieve the status of pioneers. In particular in her novels for young girls (Magda 1959, Velké trápení/Big worries 1957), however, she began to explore individual emotions. This psychological approach was valued not only by young readers, but also by the general discourse on children´s literature and childhood: Šmahelová´s work was widely appreciated as an important new step in the development of children´s culture.19 This new wave in children´s literature found an equivalent in science: from the early sixties on, psychiatric and pediatric findings about children´s homes and the results of emotional neglect were published in various forms.20 The newly coined term “deprivation syndrome” described an extreme psychological status, but the basic concept of emotional needs already in very young children triggered intense public discussions and established a broad interest in child psychology.

9Šmahelová also criticized the structures and circumstances many children lived in: neglect by parents, disregard of children´s wishes and needs. Rather than describing and juxtaposing capitalist and socialist societies, however, Šmahelová grappled with a topic – or rather a topos – that was to become highly debated through the 1960s and in particular in the 1970s and 1980s: the phenomenon of a modern childhood. The socialist enthusiasm for unconditional technological progress remained important and visible, but children´s literature dealt with the aesthetic and emotional drawbacks of a modern society as well. Psychologically balanced coming-of-age themes were combined with reflections on social transformations and, in some cases, political criticism.

  • 21 Josef, Bouček, Stane se této noci, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1966.
  • 22 Ota Hofman, Králíci ve vysoké trávě, Praha, Československý spisovatel, 1962. Important is the Slova (...)

10A good example of this trend is provided by Iva Hercíková´s novel Pět holek na krku (Five girls to deal with), published first in 1966 and turned into a movie in 1967: Hercíková linked the conflicts of a young girl with her peer group not only to psychological patterns of a certain age group, but also to the political situation. Nataša´s standing among the girls in her class is determined by her father´s position within the communist party, but her privileged economic situation still does not help her to win the other girls´ sympathy. On the contrary, her attempts to buy friendship are presented as pathetic and sad. The book deals intensely with inequalities in a supposedly equal and just society, and discusses the problem of how to balance the collective – so unambiguously positive in the 1950s – and the individual. In a similar way, in Josef Bouček´s Stane se to této noci (It will happen tonight, 1966) young František questions his father´s political commitment.21 The teenaged boy doesn´t feel loved by his father, who spends the majority of his time in party meetings and committees, and has trouble understanding the meaning of political work to the extent that he considers going to a boarding school. Although in the end he understands the situation in a supposedly better and “adult” way, the narrative engages in a discussion of the possible problems caused by active party membership and provides space for serious doubt in the socialist world. This kind of social criticism was frequent in films and literature of the time, though mostly just in media targeting adults or adolescents. Within this framework, children often played an important role as symbols of hopelessness, neglect and failure rather than of a bright future.22

Ill. 3: Still from the film Slnko v sieti. Director: Štefan Uher, 1963

  • 23 Ewa Mazierska, Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak cinema: Black Peters and men of marble, Ne (...)
  • 24 For instance Seriozhka, 1960, Directed by Igor Talankin; and, of course, Ivanovo detstvo, 1962, Dir (...)

11In the medium of film, a line of tradition can be traced back to Italian neo-realism with its exploration of conflicts among generations in the years after World War II and its impressive child-figures.23 In the context of contemporary film, Soviet pictures of the 1960s also used child figures in order to raise social criticism and explore the role of the individual.24

  • 25 Pavlína Formánková, Petr Koura, Žádáme trest smrti! : propagandistická kampaň provázející proces s (...)

12The fresh interest in child psychology also triggered a new concept of children´s agency. During the 1950, concepts of childhood as presented in Czech children´s literature followed traditions established in the early years of Soviet Russia. From the liberal Western perspective, some genres in literature and in particular political campaigns for children appear downright manipulative and abusive. One especially drastic case was the mass drive in support of a show trial and to ask for the death penalty. A group of defendants surrounding the lawyer and feminist Milada Horáková was sensationalized into a national fight against alleged traitors, and the entire population was expected to back the trial. In particular school children and pioneer groups were galvanized into action and wrote letters for a relentless and unsparing handling of the “nation’s enemies”.25 More casual were the regular celebrations of Lenin, Stalin and the Czechoslovak president Klement Gottwald in children´s magazines or the campaign against the potato-bug, supposedly sent to Czechoslovakia by capitalist villains from the US.

Ill. 4: Image from the book by Sekora, Ondřej: O zlém brouku bramborouku, Praha: Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1950.

  • 26 This terminology, of course, refers to Emma Uprichard, “Children as ‘Being and Becomings’: Children (...)
  • 27 Helena Šmahelová, Dora a medvěd, Praha, Albatros, 1968.

13Children were depicted as active, politically interested and involved in the great social project. On the spectrum of being and becoming,26 so important for perceptions of modern childhoods, Soviet children (and Czechoslovak children in the 1950s) were classified closer to “being”. Even learning and play, two of the most important elements of childhood´s “becomings”, were labeled as “work” and thus as socially and immediately important in the present, not only in a distant future. In the 1960s, a different perception of children´s agency emerged, when writers started their plea to take seriously not only what children do but also what they think and feel. In her Dora a medvěd (Dora and the bear, 1968),27 (ill. 5) Šmahelová, to mention her once again, tells the story of a little girl who, out of sadness over being alone (her father travels for months at a time), imagines her stuffed bear to be a real friend to talk to and play with.

Ill. 5: Helena Šmahelová, Dora a medvěd, (Dora and the bear) Praha, Albatros, 1968

14At the same time, when Dora is told a story about the sun going to bed, she replies: “This is not true. The sun doesn´t have a bed. Because it is a star. My picture book says so.” Šmahelová allows her heroine to create a completely fantastic world for herself and still to reject an adult´s claim as untruthful and, in fact, unscientific. The child decides herself about her world and thus repudiates the adult monopoly of truthfulness and realism.

  • 28 Pan Tau. Československá televize, 1966-1978, Directed by Jindřich Polák Klaun Ferdinand. Českoslove (...)

15The genre of speculative fiction, harnessing both realistic and fantastic elements, became extremely popular during this time. Books, screenplays and films such as Pan Tau and Klaun Ferdinand28 provided the ground for a cultural tradition that would make Czechoslovak production for children internationally famous for years to come. If childhood was presented as a world of miracle and wonder, this realm was not only one of escapism: The realistic framing, the often ironic tone and, in particular, the lightly subversive attitude carried a message to children in the “real world”. Particularly popular was the figure of Pan Tau: a man in a funny and old-fashioned outfit (ill. 6) who came to support children against the often suppressive power of adults.

Ill. 6: Pan Tau. Československá televize, 1966-1978, Directed by Jindřich Polák.

16While parents, grandparents and teachers have outgrown the world of phantasy and imagination and live in a universe of rules and regulations, Pan Tau – visible only to children – helped everybody to realize their dreams. A traditional romantic concept of childhood as a time of innocence and truthfulness was combined with a humorous appeal to take children more seriously.

Ill. 7: This new, romantic concept of childhood was expressed for example in 1960s Czechoslovak photography, such as Marie Šechtlová's work. Image copyright Marie Šechtlová.

17The topics of modern childhoods, children´s culture and child-rearing sparked debates in all kinds of media: in literature and film for and about children as well as in newspapers and cultural magazines. Particularly interesting from the historical point of view were the extensive debates in the journal Zlatý máj, devoted to the presentation and discussion of children´s literature.

Normalized childhoods

  • 29 See the debate in Zlatý máj 1964. To name but a few of the contributions: Petr Sadecký, “Proč mlčí (...)

18The often profound, sometimes astonishing changes in narratives for and about children during the 1960s can be perceived as part and parcel of the general transformations during this decade. This assumption would lead to the conclusion that the changes were limited to the era before 1968/69. Consistent with such a description is the fact that some authors of the 1960s were not allowed to publish anymore after 1968, such as Jaroslav Foglar, a beloved writer of adventure stories. As a proponent of the boy-scout movement in Czechoslovakia, which had been dissolved in 1950 in order to be replaced by the monopolistic pioneer movement, he was banned from publishing. During the 1960s, conditions relaxed, and Foglar’s beloved comic series returned to children´s magazines.29

Ill. 8: Jaroslav Foglar, comic strip Kulišáci, in ABC 8/7, 1963, p. 30.

  • 30 It has to be noted, though, that translation of Western literature for children, such as Arthur Ran (...)

19In the 1970s, his work was banished once again – his writings were too reminiscent of the “bourgeois” boy-scout movement and Western models.30 The employees of the publishing house for children´s literature (renamed Albatros in 1969) went through a thorough purge.

  • 31 Paulina Bren, “Weekend Getaways: The Chata, the Tramp, and the Politics of Private Life in Post-196 (...)

20From the early 1970s on, children´s media can be considered an integral part of the politics of normalization. In reaction to the strongly politicized public debates during the later 1960s and in particular to the mass demonstrations against the invasion in late summer 1968, a new directive was established which took the form of a specific social contract. The regime promised (and tried to provide) an improved standard of living, an economy focused not only on heavy industry but also on consumer products, and a new concept of privacy in exchange for political passivity and external compliance. Part of this contract was the establishment and promotion of niches of privacy. Quite different from the Stalinist years, normalized society provided many chances for escapism and de-politicization, such as pubs, the famous weekend houses (chaty), TV-shows31 – and children´s media. In particular the highly popular film adaptations of fairy tales can be interpreted as an invitation to escapism and, considering the great popularity of such films among adults, also as a sign of the infantilization of normalized society. While I do not want to object to this understanding in general ways, the last part of this paper will suggest a different and complementary approach.

21There is no doubt that the years after 1968 witnessed an important shift in cultural politics in Czechoslovakia. At the same time, however, many of the changes in the field of children´s media from the 1960s persisted and even expanded in the 1970s and 1980s. This suggests that we are looking at tendencies that cannot be accounted for exclusively against the specific Czechoslovak background of liberalization versus normalization, but rather they have to be put in the broader context of European and North American children´s history of the later 20th century.

  • 32 Peter Wagner, A sociology of modernity: liberty and discipline, London, Routledge, 1994.
  • 33 Ulrich Beck, Reflexive Modernisierung: Eine Kontroverse, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1996; Idem., (...)
  • 34 Meike Sophia Baader, “Die reflexive Kindheit”, in: Idem., Kindheiten in der Moderne: eine Geschicht (...)

22Sociologists have defined this era as particular and distinct from the “first” modernity of the early to mid-twentieth century.32 Several countries of Europe and North America were now, scholars argue, developing new structures of a “risk society”, characterized by the pronounced meaning of social networks, changing ways of communication and new practices of individualism.33 This concept of a second or reflexive modernity has been adopted by the educationalist Meike Sophia Baader for her research in children´s history.34 She scrutinizes realities and concepts of childhood in Western Germany from 1960 through the 1980s and finds not only an accelerated institutionalization and systematization of childhood, but also a tendency to think and discuss these processes in ways that differ from earlier decades. It is, Baader writes, a reflexive childhood we are looking at: characterized by discussions about the essence of childhood, debates about the spaces, rights and agency attributed to children and negotiations of the relationship of adults and children. The nuclear family ceased being the only and natural choice, and the fixed hierarchies of pedagogy, so important in the “first” modernity, lost their established authority.

23Many of the elements described by Baader can also be found in Czechoslovak media for and about children. While political and social structures did not allow for a range of activities that would have been comparable to the Kinderladen-initiatives in Western Germany or the free-school-movements in the US, the topics debated in Czechoslovakia were very similar to the ones in Western Europe and North America. Children of divorce, adoption, children and television and in general the concept of “modern childhood” were discussed in magazines, newspapers, TV-shows, academia and advice books for parents. They were also important in literature and media for children.

  • 35 Anonymous, “Chceme se vás zeptat: co závidí děti z vesnice dětem z města a naopak”, Ohníček, 21 (19 (...)
  • 36 Anonymous, “Plácky na vymření?”, Ohníček, 21 (1970), 3, p. 2.
  • 37 Markéta Zinnerová, Tajemství proutěného košíku, Praha, Albatros, 1978; In a less complex way, the c (...)
  • 38 Arabela, Československá televize, 1980-1981, directed by Václav Vorlíček.
  • 39 This topic is particularly relevant in the episodes Krtek a buldozér (1975), Krtek ve městě (1982) (...)

24Many texts and films for children grappled with the concept of modern childhood. Although often the basic line still claimed that socialist Czechoslovakia provided for a childhood everyone was supposed to be grateful for, as health care, education and housing were up to date and thus secure, numerous narratives suggest a more complex approach. Many stories were structured by a juxtaposition of countryside versus city, a traditional rhythm versus the modern schedule of life, children roaming meadows versus urban spaces. And while the city did have its benefits, the free spaces the countryside offered to children were often held in higher esteem. This contrast was only rarely presented in nostalgic terms. It was usually discussed as an open issue and a complex, often individual problem. Articles in the children´s magazine Ohníček (Little Fire), for instance, asked children to write about what they missed in cities and in villages respectively.35 In another article, the same magazine discussed the problem of too few playgrounds and a lack of space for children in cities in general.36 Many novels and films also grappled with this question, like Markéta Zinnerová´s Tajemství proutěného košíku (The secret of the wicker basket)37 where young Klárka has to make up her mind whether she prefers living in a village with her grandmother or would rather move to Prague with her parents and her little brother. Here, the joys of a fairly unrestricted childhood in the countryside are put in tension with the necessities and comfort of modern life (her parents drive a car and have a modern flat in the city). In the early 1980s, the TV show Arabela38 presented a humorous contrast of a traditional world of fairy tales to the modern world of a Czechoslovak child. When, by an unfortunate accident caused by a magic ring, the real world invades the sphere of fairy tales, the wolf gets shot and Little Red Riding Hood has to manage without him, and the destructive effects of modernity on traditional life become apparent. One princess´s admiration for the modern world goes so far as to deliberately spread garbage in the fairy-tale idyll – a funny, but still genuine way to tackle environmental issues and the problems of blind belief in progress. Also, the famous and beloved animated TV show about the little mole, broadcast as part of the children´s evening program Večerníček, often works with aspects of nature versus technology and thus develops an interesting environmental theme.39 As opposed to the extreme optimism of the 1950s, the debates of the 1970s and 1980s take into consideration the social, psychological and environmental costs of modernization. These costs, we learn, are often felt and understood first by children and animals.

  • 40 Lucie, postrach ulice, Československá televize, 1984, directed by Jindřich Polák.
  • 41 Mach a Šebestová, Československá televize, 1982 and 1985, directed by Jaroslav Doubrava.

25Another interesting aspect of children´s media of this time is the significance assigned to pedagogy. While probably every modern work of literature and film targeting children has a pedagogical dimension, Czech stories discussed pedagogical questions explicitly, and with astonishing frequency. The practice of “reflexive childhood” becomes very clear, when parents and children join to watch a didactic TV about pedagogy and agree on its foolishness, as in Lucie postrach ulice (Lucy, the menace of the street)40 or children quote pedagogical principles in order to evade punishment. It is once again Klárka in the Secret of the wicker basket who explains pedagogical principles to her father. He threatens her with a day spent doing household chores, because she has missed her curfew, but Klárka elaborates on what she had heard on TV: that work was to be a pleasure for the child and not a punishment, lest the child might be estranged from work, but daddy had obviously missed this important show on TV and demonstrated a different take on things. The basic idea of the TV-show Mach a Šebestová,41 (ill. 9) popular with both children and adults, was rooted in criticism of teaching methods in school, and the assumption that children learn much better when they can follow their interests.

Ill. 9: Still from the TV show Mach a Šebestová. Československá televize, 1982 and 1985, directed by Jaroslav Doubrava.

26Here, once again it is the unexpected power of magic that helps children do so. The boy Mach and the girl Šebestová are presented with a magic phone receiver that enables them to transform into anything and to travel through time. Living the lives of hares for one day, or experiencing a day in the Stone age proves far more informative than their clumsy teacher´s instructions. Pedagogy was a topic that was discussed specifically and at length by children, teachers, parents, grandparents and other caretakers (such as leaders of pioneer groups) in numerous books and films.

  • 42 My všichni školou povinní, Československá televize, 1984, Directed by Ludvík Ráža.

27Thus, pedagogy became a field of great social relevance and, at the same time, open to everybody involved, as the TV-show My všichni školou povinní (All of us who are required to go to school)42 demonstrated already in its title. More often than not, children´s media treated this subject humorously and in a tongue-in-cheek way. On the one hand, this strategy created a certain distance, and the readers (and censors!) could take the criticism with a grain of salt: it was just a joke. On the other hand, the humor fostered the statement that neither academic pedagogy nor everyday practices in school should be taken too seriously. When children criticised their parents or teachers, they questioned the hierarchies of the modern family and child-rearing. Jokes and irony supported the highly subversive act of talking back.

  • 43 Hans-Heino Ewers, “Themen-, Formen- und Funktionswandel der westdeutschen Kinderliteratur seit Ende (...)
  • 44 For instance: James Krüss, Tim Tolar aneb prodaný smích, Praha, Albatros, 1971; Christine Nöstlinge (...)
  • 45 Lorentz Larson, “Astrid Lindgrenová”, Zlatý máj, 13 (1968), 10, pp. 678-679; Lorentz Larson, “Astri (...)

28While the explicit discussion of pedagogy as a part of structural transformations in children´s agency seems specific to Czech media for children, the general concept of literature and film as means to challenge hierarchies of age was not. The new ambition to take children more seriously, to ascribe them significant forms of agency and to confront them with topics such as death and sickness can be also traced in German children´s history, where this paradigm shift has been determined for the 1970s.43 Czech literature thus was a part of a general European and, in fact, modern phenomenon. Czech and Slovak children (and parents) benefited from literature translated from various languages, in particular Swedish and German.44 The significance of for instance Astrid Lindgren´s writings for modern childhoods was appreciated not only by translations of her books into Czech and Slovak, but also by articles celebrating her success.45

  • 46 Beck, Ulrich: Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, New Delhi: SAGE 1992.

29The third aspect of children´s media to be mentioned in this context relates to modern practices of individualization. Ulrich Beck has famously argued that the era of second modernity was characterized by a dissolution of traditional norms and collectives.46 Historical agents are now involved in various processes of construction and bricolage, patchworking together new groups, identities and standards. Practices of this bricolage can be new family forms and increased mobilities, but also novel styles of consumption. The usage of tape recorders and later personal stereos are cases in point here, as are TV shows allowing the audience to co-determine the narrative´s outcome. In the 1970s and 1980s, Czech media for children were clearly participating in this trend, offering children contests and opinion polls, asking them to send stories and pictures and to be active in media themselves. A broad and structured choice of children´s magazines for various age groups invited their readers to take part in a complex conversation. A strong individualising tone, often using the concept of bricolage in a very literal way, distinguished this new kind of children´s agency from the more collective one of the 1950s.

30In conclusion, it can be said that while 1968 was a break in many aspects of Czechoslovak history, there are still many continuities to be seen. Children´s media provide important sources here. These continuities can be attributed to the necessity seen by the regime to give the population some leeway, to provide, so to say, for bread and circuses. In addition to this line of argument, however, an analysis of the general European context, and its often close interaction with Czechoslovak discourses, suggests that many reforms of the 1960s actually transformed society in ways that were not to be reversed – one reason for this being that we are looking at very fundamental transformations of modernity here. The children´s 1968 in Czechoslovakia was in many aspects similar to the children´s 1968 in other European countries. A detailed discussion of this suggests that the concept of “socialist childhoods” as a distinct and isolated category might be too narrow and that an approach taking into account questions of transnational exchange and of general transformations of modernity might lead to more nuanced results.

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Notes

1 Pražské jaro 1968. Literatura - film - média, Praha, Literární akademie, 2009; Charles Sabatos, “Criticism and Destiny: Kundera and Havel on the Legacy of 1968”, Europe-Asia Studies, 60 (2008), 10, pp. 1827-1845; Peter Hames, The Czechoslovak new wave, London, Wallflower Press, 2005.

2 Pavel Kolář, Michal Pullmann, Co byla normalizace? Studie o pozdním socialismu, Praha, Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2017; Heidrun Hamersky, Störbilder einer Diktatur. Zur subversiven fotografischen Praxis Ivan Kyncls im Kontext der tschechoslowakischen Bürgerrechtsbewegung der 1970er Jahre, Stuttgart, Steiner, 2015. Paulina Bren, “Tuzex and the Hustler: Living It Up in Czechoslovakia”, in: Paulina Bren (ed.), Mary Neuburger (ed.), Communism unwrapped: consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe, New York, NY: Oxford University Press 2012, pp. 27-48

3 Vítězslav Sommer, “Scientists of the World, Unite! Radovan Richta's Theory of Scientific and Technological Revolution”, in: Elena Aronova, Simone Turchetti (eds.), Science Studies during the Cold War and Beyond. Paradigms Defected, New York, N.Y., Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, pp. 177-203.

4 Jiří Knapík (ed.), Děti, mládež a socialismus v Československu v 50. a 60. letech, Opava, Ústav historických věd. Slezská univerzita v Opavě, 2014; Frank Henschel, “All Children Are Ours - Children´s Homes in Socialist Czechoslovakia as Laboratories of Social Engineering”, Bohemia, 57 (2016), 1, pp. 122-144.

5 Czech and Slovak children´s culture were generally separated with very few overlaps. This paper will mostly focus on Czech literature for children. A comparison with Slovak material would be highly desirable but goes beyond the scope of this contribution. Unfortunately, Slovak children´s history is even less well researched than its Czech counterpart.

6 Judith Sealander, The failed century of the child: governing America’s young in the twentieth century, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003; Karen M. Smith, The Government of Childhood: Discourse, Power and Subjectivity, New York, N.Y., Palgrave Macmillan, 2014; Florian Eßer, “Fabricating the developing child in institutions of education. A historical approach to documentation”, Children & Society, 29 (2015), 3, pp. 174-183.

7 See, most recently, Pavel Kolář, Der Poststalinismus : Ideologie und Utopie einer Epoche, Köln, Böhlau, 2016, p. 31.

8 An explicitly historical approach, focusing on transformation, has been pursued for instance by Julie K. deGraffenried, Sacrificing childhood: children and the Soviet state in the great patriotic war, Lawrence, Kan, University Press of Kansas, 2014; See also Olga Kucherenko, Little soldiers: how Soviet children went to war, 1941 - 1945, Oxford , Oxford University Press, 2011.

9 Hana Píchová, The Case of the Missing Statue. A Historical and Literary Study of the Stalin Monument in Prague, Revnice, Arbor vitae, 2014.

10 Marie Majerová, Literatura pro mládež a děti - důležitý prostředek socialistické výchovy nových pokolení : Referát na 2. sjezdu čs. spisovatelů - duben 1956, Praha, Svaz čs. spisovatelu, 1956.

11 Olga Štruncová, Brigáda v mateřské škole, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1951.

12 Ondřej Sekora: Mravenci se nedají, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1954.

13 Anička jde do školy, 1962, Directed by Milan Vošmik.

14 Helena Šmahelová, Karlínská číslo 5, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1961.

15 Among the many translations from Russian children´s books were: Sergej Michalkov, Táta, máma a já, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1953; and, of course, Arkadij Petrovič Gajdar, Timur a jeho parta, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1955.

16 Most famous, beloved and re-published several times during the 1950s in Czech, Slovak and other languages, was Marie Majerová, Robinsonka, Praha, Melantrich, 1940.

17 Probably most popular through the decades: Bohumil Říha, Honzíkova cesta, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1954.

18 Martina Winkler, “Zwischen Zukunftsideal und Rebellentum. Das Thema „Jugend“ im tschechischen Film, 1952-1964”, in: Karl Braun, Christiane Brenner (eds.), Jugend in der Tschechoslowakei. Konzepte und Lebenswelten (1918-1989), Göttingen, Vandenhoeck, 2015, pp. 417-436.

19 Jarmila Hanzálková, “Moje Jany”, Zlatý máj, 6 (1961), 6, pp. 281-282; Z. K. Slabý, « Na křídlech mládí », Zlatý máj, 6 (1961), 7-8, pp. 289-296; Z. K. Slabý, O současné literatuře pro děti a mládež, Praha, Československá společnost pro síření politických a vědeckých znalostí, 1960.

20 Among these were scientific publications, but also popular books and brochures as well as a documentary. Děti bez lásky, 1963, Directed by Kurt Goldenberg; Zdeněk Matějček, Psychická deprivace v dětství, Praha, Státní Pedagogické Nakladatelství, 1963. This has been researched in more detail by Frank Henschel, “A project of social engineering: Childhood-experts and the ´child-question´ in socialist Czechoslovakia”, in: Acta historica Universitatis Silesianae Opaviensis 9 (2016), pp. 143-158.

21 Josef, Bouček, Stane se této noci, Praha, Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1966.

22 Ota Hofman, Králíci ve vysoké trávě, Praha, Československý spisovatel, 1962. Important is the Slovak film Slnko v sieti (Rodinné striebro), 1962, directed by Štefan Uher, and the Czech film Holubice, 1960, directed by František Vláčil.

23 Ewa Mazierska, Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak cinema: Black Peters and men of marble, New York, N.Y., Berghahn Books, 2010.

24 For instance Seriozhka, 1960, Directed by Igor Talankin; and, of course, Ivanovo detstvo, 1962, Directed by Andrej Tarkovskij.

25 Pavlína Formánková, Petr Koura, Žádáme trest smrti! : propagandistická kampaň provázející proces s Miladou Horákovou a spol. : historická studie a edice dokumentů, Praha, Ústav pro studium totalitnich režimů, 2008.

26 This terminology, of course, refers to Emma Uprichard, “Children as ‘Being and Becomings’: Children, Childhood and Temporality”, Children&Society, 22 (2008), 4, pp. 303-313.

27 Helena Šmahelová, Dora a medvěd, Praha, Albatros, 1968.

28 Pan Tau. Československá televize, 1966-1978, Directed by Jindřich Polák Klaun Ferdinand. Československá televise, 1959-1964, Directed by Jindřich Polák.

29 See the debate in Zlatý máj 1964. To name but a few of the contributions: Petr Sadecký, “Proč mlčí Jaroslav Foglar?”, Zlatý máj, 9 (1964), 3, pp. 104-108; Jaroslav Foglar, “Dejte mně konečně slovo”, Zlatý máj, 9 (1964), 4, pp. 160-163.

30 It has to be noted, though, that translation of Western literature for children, such as Arthur Ransome´s books or literature by Lindgren, kept being translated and published in 1970s and 80s Czechoslovakia. In Foglar´s case, it was his politically controversial position that made him seem potentially dangerous. An analysis with the benefit of hindsight: Růžena Hamanová (ed.), K fenoménu Jaroslav Foglar, Praha, PNP, 2008.

31 Paulina Bren, “Weekend Getaways: The Chata, the Tramp, and the Politics of Private Life in Post-1968 Czechoslovakia”, in: David Crowley, Susan E. Reid (eds.), Socialist spaces. Sites of everyday life in the Eastern Bloc, Oxford, Berg, 2002, pp. 123-141; Jakub Machek, “‘The Counter Lady’ as a Female Prototype: Prime Time Popular Culture in 1970s and 1980s Czechoslovakia”, Medijska Istrazivanja/Media Research, 16 (2010), 1, pp. 31-52.

32 Peter Wagner, A sociology of modernity: liberty and discipline, London, Routledge, 1994.

33 Ulrich Beck, Reflexive Modernisierung: Eine Kontroverse, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1996; Idem., Risikogesellschaft: auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2016; Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1991.

34 Meike Sophia Baader, “Die reflexive Kindheit”, in: Idem., Kindheiten in der Moderne: eine Geschichte der Sorge, Frankfurt am Main, Campus-Verlag, 2014, pp. 414-455.

35 Anonymous, “Chceme se vás zeptat: co závidí děti z vesnice dětem z města a naopak”, Ohníček, 21 (1970), 1, p. 6; Anonymous, “Jak odpověděly děti z města”, Ohníček, 21 (1970), 6, p. 14.

36 Anonymous, “Plácky na vymření?”, Ohníček, 21 (1970), 3, p. 2.

37 Markéta Zinnerová, Tajemství proutěného košíku, Praha, Albatros, 1978; In a less complex way, the contrast of urban and country life was also discussed in Bohumil Říha, Adam a Otka, Praha, Albatros, 1970.

38 Arabela, Československá televize, 1980-1981, directed by Václav Vorlíček.

39 This topic is particularly relevant in the episodes Krtek a buldozér (1975), Krtek ve městě (1982) and Krtek a autíčko (1963). All episodes were directed by Zdeněk Miler.

40 Lucie, postrach ulice, Československá televize, 1984, directed by Jindřich Polák.

41 Mach a Šebestová, Československá televize, 1982 and 1985, directed by Jaroslav Doubrava.

42 My všichni školou povinní, Československá televize, 1984, Directed by Ludvík Ráža.

43 Hans-Heino Ewers, “Themen-, Formen- und Funktionswandel der westdeutschen Kinderliteratur seit Ende der 60er, Anfang der 70er Jahre”, Zeitschrift für Germanistik, 16 (1995), 2, pp. 257-278.

44 For instance: James Krüss, Tim Tolar aneb prodaný smích, Praha, Albatros, 1971; Christine Nöstlinger, Čo nás po kráľovi uhorčiakovi, Bratislava, Mladé Letá, 1978; Lindgren´s Pippi Longstocking was first published as a serial narrative in the children´s magazine Mateřídouška and later as a book. Astrid Lindgren, Jana Fürstová, Pipi Dlouhá punčocha, 1976; Astrid Lindgren, Emil Neplecha, 1975; Břetislav Mencák, “Upoutala děti celého světa. Nad dílem Astrid Lindgrenové”, Zlatý máj, 22 (1977), 10, pp. 674-681.

45 Lorentz Larson, “Astrid Lindgrenová”, Zlatý máj, 13 (1968), 10, pp. 678-679; Lorentz Larson, “Astrid Lindgrenová”, Zlatý máj, 16 (1971), 15, pp. 551-552.

46 Beck, Ulrich: Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, New Delhi: SAGE 1992.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Ill. 1: Štruncová, Olga: Brigáda v mateřské škole (Preschool children on duty), Praha: Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy 1951.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Légende Ill. 2: Image taken from Sekora, Ondřej: Kousky mládence Ferdy Mravence: Aby bylo všechno lepší (1954) "To make everything better": in this comic strip the popular ant Ferda Mravenec explains how the five-year-plan and a new work ethic will improve life. This image is from Sekora, Ondřej: Kousky mládence Ferdy Mravence: Aby bylo všechno lepší, Praha: Melantrich 1954
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Légende Ill. 3: Still from the film Slnko v sieti. Director: Štefan Uher, 1963
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Légende Ill. 4: Image from the book by Sekora, Ondřej: O zlém brouku bramborouku, Praha: Státní nakladatelství dětské knihy, 1950.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Légende Ill. 5: Helena Šmahelová, Dora a medvěd, (Dora and the bear) Praha, Albatros, 1968
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 473k
Légende Ill. 6: Pan Tau. Československá televize, 1966-1978, Directed by Jindřich Polák.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 42k
Légende Ill. 7: This new, romantic concept of childhood was expressed for example in 1960s Czechoslovak photography, such as Marie Šechtlová's work. Image copyright Marie Šechtlová.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Légende Ill. 8: Jaroslav Foglar, comic strip Kulišáci, in ABC 8/7, 1963, p. 30.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 692k
Légende Ill. 9: Still from the TV show Mach a Šebestová. Československá televize, 1982 and 1985, directed by Jaroslav Doubrava.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1783/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 371k
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Référence électronique

Martina Winkler, « Czechoslovakia: Children´s Media in Transformation », Strenæ [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 15 mai 2018, consulté le 23 septembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/1783 ; DOI : 10.4000/strenae.1783

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Martina Winkler

Hamburgerstr. 116
28205 Bremen
mwinkler@uni-bremen.de

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