21. 10. 2008 10:25

Men Of October 1918 International Scientific Conference.

Information about the Men of October 1918 two-day international scientific conference.

The conference was organised to mark the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Czechoslovak state and with the aim of assessing this tipping point, using the examples of the life and work of its founders and opponents, by five facilities, led by the Institute of Czech History at the Arts Faculty of Charles University, the Masaryk Institute and the Archive of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, under the patronage of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

A two-day international scientific conference entitled Men of October 1918 has been held on Thursday 23 October 2008 in the Hrzán Palace in Loretánská ulice, Prague 1. The conference will discuss the people who contributed to the establishment of the Czechoslovak state, as well as its political, military, legal, social, etc. formation. We also commemorated the representatives of the various attempts aimed against the formation of the state (at least in the form in which it came into being in the end). By linking biographical aspects with contemporary ideologies, political culture, legal and scientific theories and concepts of the state, developmental reflexes or other alternative views, the public activities of representatives of domestic Czech and Slovak politics in the period of the 1918 revolution has been assessed.

The organisers was not concerned to assess the activities of the leading representatives of the foreign resistance, to whom significant attention has been paid in previous historical research. The aim of the conference is to commemorate the renewal of modern Czech statehood and its actors and analyse and interpret the political and social actions of the personalities in this context.

Attention was paid:

a) To five “men of October” who contributed to the declaration of an independent Czechoslovakia, its immediate formation, taking over power, the establishment of new power centres, maintenance of the integrity of the historical territory of the Czech state as well as the newly formed Slovak parts, building new methods of governing, ensuring a legal framework, dealing with social and national conflicts, etc. Using the examples of Antonín Švehla, František Soukup, Alois Rašín, Jiří Stříbrný and Vavro Šrobár it is possible, we believe, to show the methods and problems linked with the end and beginning of modern countries, the transformation of the acceptance and exercise of power, the adoption of a correct and lawful system, the transformation of political elites and their newly found political and social responsibility. Through these people it is possible to look at the establishment, development and functions of new, extraordinary and non-standard bodies, their character and form resulting from the “revolutionary atmosphere” and “revolutionary methods” of dealing with current problems. Through these specific people and their decisions, the conference can examine questions of continuity and discontinuity of power and governance, political legitimacy, representativeness, etc.

b) Similarly designed contributions about other important political and public figures during the period of the revolution who stood side by side with the above people in the Czech lands and Slovakia. The selection of these people is not limited to the environment of politics, but also applies to the no less important areas of the economy, capital and culture, which are inherently linked to public events. There has also been discussions, for example, about the politician Antonín Kalin, the head of the Sokol movement Josef Scheiner and the poet Viktor Dyk.

c) Figures in the opposing camp, the displaced pro-Austrian “activist” representatives of Czech political parties and groupings (such as Bohumil Šmeral, Zdeněk V. Tobolka), representatives of Catholic political trends (e.g. Jan Šrámek, Andrej Hlinka) and representatives of national minorities in the new state. We think it is important to look at the biographies of pronounced social groups linked to the old state that were exposed to a certain uncertainty due to the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic and the deconstruction of its imperial predecessor, i.e. representatives of the aristocracy, Austro-Hungarian generals, and the bureaucracy and state administration. The fate and decisions of the last governor in Moravia, Baron Karl Heinold, and General Paul Kestřánek, for example, has been examined.

Those who are interested, primarily from the ranks of historians and political scientists who meet at the conference of their own free will, promise to include a number of biographical sketches in their contributions, primarily of persons linked to public affairs, i.e. statesmen and politicians; but in this context they will also look at whole social groups and the reaction to October 1918. We expect that the conference has  not been a series of individual monologues, but that it also ignite critical discussion. Expert contributions made at the conference became the core of the subsequently published symposium. We trust that the primarily biographically focused conference has offered sufficient space for a more general and issue-based understanding of the events in the autumn of 1918 and has enabled new views and interpretations of questions and topics.

Luboš Velek and Jan Bílek

Organisers institutions:
Masaryk Institute and the Archive of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v. v. i.
Charles University in Prague
Arts Faculty
Institute of Czech History
Historical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v. v. i.
CEVRO Insti University
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic
PhDr. Luboš Velek, Ph.D.
Mgr. Jan Bílek
prof. PhDr. Milan Hlavačka, CSc. 
PhDr. Lucie Wittlichová

print article   email   facebook   twitter