Czech Republic television series to mark First World War Centenary

Posted on on 06 March 2014
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The Czech Republic's state broadcaster - Česká Televize - has commissioned a twelve part documentary series exploring the country's experience of the First World War.

The programme has asked members of the public to come forward with any objects they possess in relation to the conflict.

Working closely with the Military Historical Archive and Military Historical Institute, specialists have been carrying out research into the material brought forward by members of the public in order to place it into its historical context.

Director and screenwriter Pavel Stingl, who is developing the series entitled Raport o Velké Válce ('The Great War Report'), aims to provide a wide overview of the role of Czech soldiers during the war - with Czechoslovakia emerging from the conflict as an independent nation in 1918.

                                               Director of the series, Pavel Stingl

Items brought forward ranged from personal testimonies and frontline photographs, to film negatives and contemporary music.

The series aims to portray a "subtle but powerful image" of 1914-1918.

Where the Czechs fought will be an important focus of the series, including on the plains of Galicia and the Serbian and Italian mountains. The experiences of prisoners of war in camps in the Balkans and the role of the Czech Legion in Russia will also be explored.

One of the objects researched by the programme, image courtesy of Petr Zaruba/Czech TV Ostrava

Czech Legion

Ethinc Czechs and Slovakians began the First World War as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with significant numbers fighting for the Habsburgs.

However, as the conflict progressed, the pro-Entente Czech Legion was formed, with the aim of gaining independence from Austria-Hungary.

By the time independence was gained in 1918, the Czech Legion had not only fought on the Austro-Hungarian Front, but had become embroiled in the Russian Civil War fighting against the Bolsheviks - at times controlling key cities and sections of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Legion is considered have played an important role in the foundation of Czechoslovakia.

Memory of the Great War

The series will also explore monuments which were erected across the country in memory of those who fought and died in the First World War.

               First World War memorial, image courtesy of Petr Zaruba/Czech TV Ostrava

Martin Cervenka, who is part of the production team for the series, thanked members of public who had "entrusted us with your family heirlooms".

Mr. Cevenka also highlighted how the legacy of the conflict for Czechoslovakians and Czechoslavakia itself will be explored: "whilst members of the Czech Legion enjoyed fame and glory in the first days of Czechoslovakia, men loyal to the Habsburg monarchy fell silent".

It is hoped that the series will go some way in provoking discussion about the First World War, as Mr. Cevenka highlighted it has been overshadowed by Czechoslovakia's other experiences of the twentieth century. 

"With the coming of the Czech Protectorate [the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia] and the Second World War, people stopped talking about the Great War altogether".

"The silence which greeted the memory of the Great War in the era of communist totalitarianism much remains to this day".

Source: Česká Televize

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News