Environmentalism facilitated Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution of 1989

A partial transcript of Episode 18 of THE ART MOVEMENT. To listen to the full radio show, CLICK HERE.

“I was talking earlier about The Velvet Revolution, which obviously occurred at the time of Gorbachev and the time of the perestroyka, aka restructuring, and glasnost, aka openness.

During this time, other former Soviet countries gained independence from what would become Russia. I love the story of the Velvet Revolution but I wouldn’t dare to call myself an expert on just about anything, so I will refrain not only from calling myself an expert on this particular historic moment.

Still, what I will say is that over the past few days, I have found myself reading about more and digging deeper to discover new things that I did not know about it and that have come to the fore through the work of contemporary and contemporary-minded researchers.

For example, I didn’t know the role that environmentalism played in the rise of democracy in Czechoslovakia but apparently, the pollution brought about by the factories in the country and the relentless efforts of the Communist party of address it worried people so much that they started to band together in their attempts to do something about it.

The protests were so big and effective that the Communists could not ignore it and towards the end of the ’80s, several of these groups were state approved, which was a huge victory for a country where such demonstrations were heavily controlled and really encourage people to stand up for their rights and for a greater and wider representation. One of the groups that caught my eyes and is talked about in the exhibition was formed by mothers, and was called Prague Mothers.

They marched through the streets of Prague with their prams, with great concern for the future of their children. And then there was also the much more famous Rainbow movement. There is a funny motto from the time that is prominently used in the exhibition, which was used by the environmentalists of the time and reads “Even Communists have to breathe.”

One of the ways in which these and other groups that eventually gave rise to democracy in Czechoslovakia were able to garner support was through petitions. Ordinary people would travel far and wide to get people to sign petitions to the point where the support for the movement could no longer be ignored.

There are also stories of groups that would travel to rural parts of the country to inform people of what was going on in the greater cities, during a time when official information was still heavily censored. Other things that played a great role was religion, workers rights but also popular culture.”

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The time Frank Zappa took a shot of Becherovka

A partial transcript of Episode 18 of THE ART MOVEMENT. To listen to the full radio show, CLICK HERE.

“That was the music of Frank Zappa. I remind you that for a full list of the songs played on the show, you can head on over to inartematt.com, where I post a full list of the songs during the week.

I love me some Zappa but I also played him for another reason. As I mentioned, the Historical Building of the Museum of Prague had that exhibition on the Velvet Revolution and among other incredibly cool things, including the democratic election Vaclav Havel, a dissident playwright, to president, Czechoslovakia named Frank Zappa as a cultural ambassador.

The reason why he has been on my mind quite a bit lately is because in that exhibition, on one of the screens showing images of people celebrating the rise of democracy in the country and everybody just happy to be alive in such a beautiful historic moment, there was footage of Frank Zappa being passed a bottle of Becherovka and actually taking a good swig of it. Which was shocking to see, given that Zappa did not drink — he was a renowned teetotaler — and yet here he was.

The atmosphere was so infectious that he too had to take a swig of alcohol and join in the frenzy. I think that goes to show just how amazing it must have been in Czechoslovakia at the time.

But that’s the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and of course, democracy had been a long time coming in the country. In 1968, there had been a Prague Spring, an odd period of liberalization that was, however, short lived when the Soviet Union decided to strengthen its stronghold on the country once again and resign it to the purgatory-like state that it had been under since the hell of Nazi German occupation.

The 20th century truly was a tough time for a land that was once one of the wealthiest jewels in the world.”

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Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show about the arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed. The show is hosted by globe-trotting art presenter Matt Micucci, featuring plenty of music, interview clips and thoughts on current events.

Listen to episode 18 via one of the players below.

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In this episode:

  • How environmentalism facilitated Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution.
  • Prague is expanding its art exhibition space.
  • Andy Warhol Superstar and artist Brigid Berlin has died.
  • Ancient Egyptian love poems.

And more, plus lots of music.