Martin Potůček was born on 2 September 1948 in Prague. He spent his childhood without a mother as she was arrested and sentenced for treason in 1951 for political reasons. The father shortly after remarried, and until 1960, Martin and his family lived without the mother. The then-declared pardon of political prisoners allowed the release of his mother from prison. Martin Potůček had then only learned of her existence and moved to Olomouc. There he began to study at the Secondary Technical of Engineering, completing his studies at a similar school in Brno, where he moved to with his mother in 1966. He considered the choice of this school as an only option, because of his mother's past, he did not have the possibility of free choice. After his graduation in 1967, due to the softening of the political scene he started to study at the Faculty of Arts, at UJEP in Brno. He studied there from 1967 to 1973. Together with philosophy, he firstly studied mathematics, later adding political science and sociology to his education. Martin Potůček became very active during the first years of his studies, subsequently becoming one of the leading members of the UJEP philosophy community. He was persecuted for his political attitudes at the end of his studies, graduating in 1973, at the "consolidated college". He was facing the disciplinary commission of the faculty, in 1970 because of his activity during the August 1969 events which saw him also briefly imprisoned. In his professional career, Martin Potůček devoted himself to sociology and the creation of mathematical models and methodology in research, cooperating with Technosport or the Institute of Social Medicine and the Healthcare Organisation in Prague, prior to 1989. After 1989, he devoted himself fully to his academic career, working at the Faculty of Social Sciences in the UK, becoming a professor of sociology in 1992. He co-founded the Social Policy department, where he became a professor of in 1998. In 1994-2003 he was the director of the Institute of Sociological Studies and in 2000-2018, the Centre for Social and Economic Strategies. He has completed many internships and guest professor posts at many foreign universities. He was an advisor to the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and the Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs. Martin Potůček was the chairman (1995) and the vice-chairman (1994, 1996), of the Czech Sociological Society. In 2014-2017 he chaired the Expert Committee on Pension Reform. Then in 1989, he became an important Czech sociologist and member of many organisations. His professional activity was connected within the sphere of business, yet it also enabled him to develop scientifically. Martin Potůček received his Ph.D degree in Management Theory in 1989. His unambiguous engagement in the opposition to the regime can be related to his student years at the Faculty of Arts, UJEP, in Brno. The materials that remained in his personal possession from that period - documents, student magazines, leaflets, and posters were donated by Martin Potůček in 1994 to the Archives of Masaryk University where they created an archive fund together with the organised collection of Jan Eliáš.
- Brno, Czech Republic
- Olomouc, Czech Republic
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Poznanović was born in Begeč in 1930, and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1956, under the guidance of Professor Milo Milunović.
Poznanović was among founders and editors Tribina mladih and among the first contributors to Polja where she worked as an art critic.
Bogdanka Poznanović taught artistic elements in visual research at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. She also founded the Visual Studio for Intermediate Research, which introduced video art into the teaching process. She also lectured with video projections in Ferrari (1984) and was guest professor at the University of Contemporary Art (DAMS) in Bologna (1985).
Bogdanka Poznanović received several awards, beginning with the second prize for painting at the exhibition Mladi – likovno stvaralaštvo [Youth - Art Creation] in Belgrade, and in 1959 and she won the Zlatno Pero prize in Belgrade in 1962.
Currently, the award given by the Videomedeja International Video Art Festival in Novi Sad bears her name.
- Novi Sad, Serbia
Vilém Prečan is a Czech historian who focuses on modern Czech history. He was born on January 9, 1933 in Olomouc. After graduating from the Brno Grammar School, he began studying at the College of Political and Economic Sciences in October 1951. After its abolition he was transferred to the Faculty of Philosophy and History at Charles University. He worked for two years in Bratislava and in 1957 he joined the Historical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Prague, where he devoted himself to the latest Czech and Slovak history. After the August occupation of Czechoslovakia, five armies of the Warsaw Pact were among the main initiators and editors of the documentary publication Seven Prague Days 21-27 August 1968, the so-called “Black Book”. The publication of this book resulted in political persecution in the years to come. In 1970 he was released from the CSAV, expelled from the Communist Party and prosecuted. In 1971-1975 he worked as a stoker at the Motol hospital, a cleaner, a warehouse assistant, a porter and in a cloakroom. In 1976 he moved to Germany, where he continued his scientific work and published a number of studies. He actively participated in exile activity, where he played an important role in the smuggling of literature and providing technical assistance to Czechoslovak opposition. In 1986, he was created in the exile the Czechoslovak Documentary Center of Independent Literature in Scheinfeld-Schwarzenberg, which collected samizdat and exile literature. He was among the most important personalities of Czechoslovak exile. For his scientific and social contribution, he received a number of awards, among others the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk III Class, awarded to him by the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel, on 28 October 1998, for outstanding merits in democracy and human rights.
After returning to Czechoslovakia he founded the Institute of Contemporary History of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences – where he was director from 1990 to 1998 – as well as a contemporary journal of Contemporary History. In 1995 he was appointed Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University and in 2005 Professor of History at Palacký University in Olomouc.
The bibliography of Prof. Vilém Prečan contains more than 200 scientific articles, studies, and monographs dealing with, among other things, the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. From his published works in recent years, he is distinguished by the three-volume edition of the complete set of documents of Charter 77, the extensive anthology of the texts of the exile magazine “Skutečnost” called “Hluboká stopa”, the set of exile correspondence “Václav Havel - Vilém Prečan: Correspondence 1983-1989”.
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
In 2010, Prpa returned to the Institute for Modern History.
Prpa’s research covers the history of the twentieth century, the intellectual history of Serbia, and the history of ideas pertaining to the Yugoslav states.
After the downfall of Slobodan Milošević, Zoran Djindjić, the democratic prime minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, asked Prpa to lead the Historical Archives of Belgrade. In an interview with COURAGE, she recalls her hesitation. Until then, she had only conducted research and had never led a public institution. Djindjić insisted by arguing that a democratic state should renew its institutions, and that intellectuals should take action. Prpa eventually agreed, becoming head of the Historical Archives of Belgrade in 2002. At the time, the archives had a very basic digital infrastructure, Prpa remembers, in part from the many years of sanctions during the war, and she also mentions the brainwashing during the Milošević regime. At the suggestion of the UK National Archives, Prpa reformed the Historical Archives of Belgrade, making financial reports and administrative issues available to the public on the institution’s website as well as creating digital catalogues and collecting user statistics. Transparency in administrative matters, particularly financial, used to be unpopular in post-socialist public institutions. However, despite some reluctance, Prpa persisted. When it came to content, Prpa strives to “return culture to history. You know, culture is somehow dodged by historians. Since I have been a historian of a different kind from the beginning, I identified with the social concept of history, or better: total history. So, culture was extremely important to me,” she explained during the interview with COURAGE. Prpa initiated the process of preserving documents with, starting with the Belgrade administration fond from 1837-41. Thus, a publication in six volumes about everyday life in Belgrade was created.
From Prpa’s own experience researching intellectuals, she knew the difficulties of accessing the private collections of renowned people, especially after a regime change. Prpa stated that “I thought that soon, many people who played extremely important roles in the history of the second half of the twentieth century, and who have marked the social, political, and cultural life of Belgrade, Serbia, and Yugoslavia, will be gone. We won’t have any direct or authentic documents from them -- only indirect documentation of their activities -- to understand why their ideas marked the end of the twentieth century.” So Prpa started an initiative, asking her contemporaries to donate their private collections to the Archive. Intellectuals included the sociologist Nebojša Popov and the historian Ivan Žuric, as well as outstanding artists like the ballet dancer Jelena Šantic (who would become one of the most important anti-war activists in the 1990s), a group of symbolists, and Jovan Ćirilov, who significantly impacted the Yugoslav avant-garde theatre scene. Prpa not only archived material, she also helped create publications, exhibitions and public events based on them. With the estate of the world-renowned ballet dancer Milorad Mišković for example, the Archives produced both a retrospective exhibition and a book. According to Prpa's assessment, the Historical Archives of Belgrade became “one of the most important cultural places in Belgrade. […] So, the Archives were not only a place where researchers would come, but also were cultural life took place in Belgrade.” Prpa's conflict with authorities started when, as the rehabilitation of Serbian nationalists from World War II were launched, the revision of World War II history became politically mainstream. Prpa countered the revisions, aware that she was entering a political battle over history. When Serbian politicians, backed by historians, attempted to portray Serbian nationalists (called Chetniks) during World War II as freedom fighters, their collaboration with the Nazis was downplayed. According to Prpa, “The Historical Archives of Belgrade are one of the rare archival institutions in Europe to have the complete documentation of the Gestapo […] as well as the complete documentation of the Banjica concentration camp with 24.000 inmates.“ Banjica was a large Nazi-established concentration camp in occupied Serbia, and was operated between 1941 and 1944. Under the administration of the Gestapo and collaborating Serbian police, political adversaries, particularly from the national liberation movement (communists), as well as Jews and Roma, were incarcerated and murdered. Prpa recalls: “so I decided to edit all the documents in eight volumes, and then I left. […] That is the least we can do for the victims. The youngest child was no more than a few months old, and the oldest person killed was almost 100 years old. That was part of my work in establishing the first chronology of the modern Serbian state between 1804 and 2004.” Until that point, Prpa financed her projects using public funding. But funding for the edition of documents about Banjica concentration camp was rejected by Belgrade authorities. Prpa eventually published the eight volumes through a private donation from her husband. In 2017, an exhibition was created, inspired by the publication.
In an interview with COURAGE, Prpa explains that “Yugoslavia was quickly turning, already by the fifties, towards cultural pluralism--despite its one-party political system. […] So, you can say that until the 1980s, not only Serbia, but Yugoslavia, too, was pretty much open when it came to culture.” However, Prpa also notes ambiguities: “There was also repression, Popov’s books were forbidden, for instance, and some were imprisoned. But none of it had heavy consequences. […] People with big names in the cultural sphere headed important cultural institutions. It was not very important to be member of the party. I was never a member of the League of Communists. I refused, and nothing happened to me. Nevertheless, it was a question of choice. […] They might have tried to intimidate you, but it was possible to say 'I won’t [join]’.
”When asked how she understands the term “cultural opposition”, Prpa maintains: “The entire European culture evolved from self-critique. If anything characterizes the cultural sphere, then it is its never-ending criticism. Without that, you would essentially not have culture. Dialogue is its key feature, within itself and with the world. That’s why it is the most creative domain of human society. […] When you say „opposition”, you must ask, in relation to what?! In relation to everything, and anybody, and in relation to itself. That is essentially the core of the idea of progress.”Prpa describes the relationship between culture and politics as follows: “Politics, even the most democratic in the world, do not appreciate this kind of cultural dialectics. Because politics as social sphere essentially essentially functions due to stereotypes. These stereotypes are actually the reason why culture is eroding. So alone the methodology of these two differing social domains are in conflict. Politics are stereotypes, gosh!”.
With reference to the COURAGE research on culture in socialism, Prpa asks “Does democracy require courage too? The Black Wave was forbidden as much in French film as in Yugoslavian film. And France was democratic, and Yugoslavia was the communist state, right? So why does the democratic state forbid the Black Wave? It just disappeared -- is that right, or not? Let’s compare this! Why is culture so irritating to political systems? And what are the borders of freedom for culture in a democracy? Here also, the space is limited. It’s not a space of freedom. It’s a space of limits. And now, when individuals transgres those limits, they find themselves alone under the blue sky, and that’s it.”
Prpa explains that funding for a project like COURAGE also relies on stereotypes fostered by politics. Even so, Prpa holds that “the problem of culture is that it is universal. It is not local. It is not national. It is universal. And it strives towards metaphysics.” She wonders whether the COURAGE project isn't also following a stereotype “based on the Cold War system, by showing how culture in Eastern Europe was killed, destroyed […] and so on. And how in Western democracies everything blossomed, everything was fantastic: a space of freedom, and so on and so forth. Except Martin Luther King is dead, in the world's most democratic state.”Prpa also warns against using the term “dissident” in the Yugoslav context. First of all, she explains, dissidents in Yugoslavia were leftists. And second, the consequences of being a dissident were different. Thus, comparing such critical stances towards the regime between eastern Europe and Yugoslavia is not appropriate, she says, because it makes quite a difference „whether you lose your life because you are a poet, or that all that happens to you is that your book is banned“.
- Belgrade, Serbia