European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Prague 2000

When the writers gathered to discuss Kafka at the beginning of 1968, they had perhaps not as of yet a clear inkling that this would start the Prague Spring. It ended in August when Russian troops entered. Interestingly enough during that period of wishing to give Socialism a human face, people discussing in the streets and various assemblies had three demands:

  1. abolish the secret police

  2. free elections

  3. do something about the youth

About the youth concern was mounting. The reason might be best described by Pier Paolo Pasolini who in an essay with the title „The Language of the Hair“ described how too long haired youth entered one of the more noble hotels in Prague, crossed the foyer and sat down at the end of the long hall on a couch. They did not say a word. Rather they let their hair do all the talking.

Prague has this unique cemetery with each grave stone reflecting the Jewish tradition of every visitor placing a small stone on top of the grave. It is a quiet way of stepping out of normal or daily life and enter in thoughts another terrain.

Kafka has left of course many stories but surely a favorite one can be just his comparison of language with people who wish to travel. Naturally there are those who want to get going right away. They are the first to be packed and the first to be standing at the front ready to go. But the others have not even started to pack. So while the first ones get impatient, the others take their time. That gives time to those who were ready first. Suddenly they remember that they have forgotten a toothbrush or some other small and very personal item. Hence they put down again the suitcases and return to the home to find that missing item just now remembered. Kafka adds that is why people can never travel together, and he added, language is like that.

Prague experienced after 1989 the velvet revolution with Havel becoming president. Loved in the West, he was nevertheless about to enter in the new millennium the many contradictions so typical for many Eastern opposition leaders becoming in the new regime the key officials. Those contradictions are not easy to be resolved. But it is an indication that the original wish to dismantle, for instance, the weapon industry for which Czech Republic has been famous, turned out to be mistake in the eyes of even the writers who supported Havel, since they saw them not being dismantled but others from foreign countries taking them over. Immediately this potential loss of profit made them become nationalists in terms of ownership and so they returned to what was after all a contentious business in the old days.

Why say all of this?

Somehow European Capitals of Culture cannot be reduced to a mere listing of cultural events as important as each one of them may be and surely are. For culture as search for truth has to start working through contradictions if memory flows between past, present and future are to be secured. After the Russians and others invaded Prague to squash the Prague Spring, artists created in the park something like a structure to walk through and without any sign or text everyone knew these were the stages they had passed through starting with 1945 and a close watch on trains. There is something amiss when such working through contradictions is not reflected in the official program.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 31.1.2013


Official text by the European Commission:

„Prague has chosen Cultural heritage as the theme for the cultural year of 2000. The programme includes traditional events in an innovative environment and projects specially designed for the year 2000.

The projects with a European dimension include:

Birth of a metropolis, an exhibition devoted to architectural thought and the birth of modern town planning from 1890 to 1937 in central Europe, which will compare Prague, Budapest, Cracow, Zagreb and Ljubljana.

The cycle of concerts given in January 2000 by the internationally famouis pianist, Yefim Bronfman, covering all the works of Beethoven.“



Also more information about Prague 2000 can be obtained from the report by Giannalia Gogliandro at











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