Czech Repoblic Oral History Center, Prague

18 July 2011

Miroslav Vanek (right) interviewing Miloš Jakeš, former General Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (1987-89).

The Oral History Centre (COH) was established in 2000 as a research department of the Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Science in Prague. It is led by Miroslav Vanek, president of the Czech Oral History Association (COHA), recently elected president of the International Oral History Association (IOHA) for 2010–2012, and non-official ‘guru’ of Czech oral history. Pavel Mücke, senior researcher, at the Oral History Centre, provides an overview of the centre’s work as it continues into its second decade.

‘To date, the centre has transcribed, digitised and archived some 700 interviews through various projects, financed mainly by the Czech Grant Agency and Grant Agency of Czech Academy of Sciences. The collection is varied, including interviews with university students today, those who were part of the “youth generation” in the 1980s, communist elites and dissidents, Czech emigrants and reemigrants, and with workers and intelligentsia class members from 1970s and 1980s. ‘The COH has recently received funding by the Czech Grant Agency for a further oral history project (2011-2015). The project aims to document the everyday life of people before and after 1989. The focus will be on members of the following groups: white collar workers, representatives of the financial sector, people employed in the agrarian sector and members of the armed forces of the state (soldiers, security, police and firemen). The outputs should contribute to the knowledge of the nature and specifics of the normalization regime and later democratic transformation.

‘The grant will support the collection of a further 150 interviews, to enhance the existing COH’s collection. The aim is to then analyse the whole collection of 850 interviews as offering a specific perspective on Czech and Czechoslovakian society during the last forty years. ‘The growing popularity of using interviews to interpret the past is an exciting moment. It is important however that oral history is not used to politicise history by prioritising the stories of certain individuals. In current times in the Czech Republic we are witnessing a great return of ideology and forced attempts to limit academic and scientific freedom. We believe the best response is a social science research project, based on methodologically sound oral history, undertaken in a transparent, non-ideological way, with a focus on dissemination and educational activities.’ l For more information on the COH please contact Pavel Mücke, or visit the website at

Source: International News Section of UK's Oral History Journal, Spring 2011

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