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Poll: Fifth of Czechs not knowing date of Czechoslovakia’s birth

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Prague, July 25 (CTK) – About one fifth of Czechs do not know when Czechoslovakia was founded and what happened in 1918, according to a poll by the NMS Media Research for the Post Bellum company, focused on this year’s anniversaries, that its authors presented at a press conference on Wednesday.

The poll, conducted on a sample of 1004 respondents aged from 18 to 65 years in June, also showed that almost a quarter of Czechs do not know what happened in 1968, one third have no awareness of the February 1948 events and almost a half about the 1938 events.

The pollsters asked about the significant anniversaries of the years ending with “8” that Czechs commemorate this year.

Along with 100 years of the establishment of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1918, those are the unfortunate anniversaries of the 1948 Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed the Prague Spring communist-led reform movement and the Munich Agreement from 1938, by which France, Britain, Italy and Hitler’s Germany forced Czechoslovakia to cede its border regions with prevailing German population to the Third Reich.

“The older the anniversary is, the lower knowledge about it people have. The only exception is the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918. The results differ according to the respondents’ age and these differences are immense. The younger the respondents are, the less they know about the anniversaries. This is sometimes striking,” said Kamil Kunc, from the NMS Market Research agency.

Seventy-nine percent of the polled said Czechoslovakia was established or WWI ended in 1918, 76 percent knew about the Prague Spring movement or the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, 65 percent knew the February 1948 events and only 54 percent were aware of the Munich Agreement, the cessation of Sudetenland and mobilisation in 1938.

However, out of the young respondents aged 18-34, only two-fifths know about the events 80 years ago, a half of them are aware of the 1948 Communist coup and a slightly higher share of the 1968 events.

Men have deeper knowledge about historical events than women.

Besides, the education and income level also play a role in the respondents’ awareness of the 20th-century history.

Post Bellum company director Mikulas Kroupa says a number of young people under 24 view history as something outdated and do not consider it a part of their lives. Consequently, these people succumb to manipulations more easily and more often lean towards extremism, he added.

Young people gain the most information about history at school.

The poll results prove that history at primary and secondary schools is still taught as “a certain depersonalised list of years and characteristics intended for tedious rote learning” without story-telling, Kroupa said.

Asked about the most significant domestics personalities, the respondents named the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (in office 1918-1935), Jan Palach, a 20-year-old student who burnt himself to death in January 1969 to rouse the society from lethargy following the 1968 invasion, Czechoslovak foreign minister Jan Masaryk (1886-1948) and the first post-communist Czechoslovak and Czech president Vaclav Havel (in office 1989-2003).

A total of 78 percent assess the first Czechoslovak president positively and only one in 100 perceives him negatively.

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