Imagine a Soviet tank painted pink. What artist David Cerny did in 1990 to mock the Soviet grip on the old CSSR is by chance a good picture of modern day Prague.
Let’s step back seventeen years in time first and witness Cerny and his group of artistic anarchist paint a sober mud green army relict bright pink. And if this wouldn’t have been enough of an affront to the backward, socialist sympathizers among the Czech population, they erected a thing on top of it that can be best described as what it was, a gigantic pink middle finger explicitly showing what the art students wanted to express. You know.
The formerly green tank was allegedly the first of the flowery decorated tanks to roll into Prague in 1945 freeing the city of the Nazis. But as it is with dictatorships – whether left or right – they do not normally grant freedom to anyone, as it was the case here and that was why Cerny forty-five years later decided to paint the town red, well, the tank pink causing an international uproar.
Anyway, it was done within some hours in a very early summer morning that a Soviet symbol was turned into a bright, confusing post-modern piece of art; likewise it happened in a comparatively short period of time that a former Communist town (was) turned into a vibrant, westernized metropolis.
Since 1989 the Czech Republic is free, an independent nation and an equal partner country on European level since 2004. Except you cannot extinct forty years of Communist domination with a blink of an eye or for that matter with a signature on a proclamation. But you can try and run non-stop forward.
This seems to be what at least Prague has chosen. The Golden City has developed fast, democracy brought with its beneficial free market economy a huge gap between rich and poor.
But ways of thinking change slower than neon signs and experience is not exchangeable but a slow-fading good. Thus it is not seldom recorded, that some expatriates, especially if they come from a costumer friendly country as the United States, might for instance, find the Czech service sector lacking in friendliness. Non-Czech-speakers are not necessarily embraced with open arms, if not in explicitly touristy spots. The costumer is no yet king.
Communism glossed over – Like pink paint on a Soviet vehicle? Bear in mind that a large part of the Czech population still experienced the way of life during Communist rule. They were brought up to be functioning cogs of a telecommanded machine. The value of the individual was not at all appreciated and so don’t be too surprised to find the Czechs a little less outgoing and a little more reserved than other nationalities. But also find them being warm and hospitable towards friends.
Then look at the cityscape and you will see next to no traces of Socialist cement, on the contrary the city bursts with magnificent pre-Communist architecture and it seems as if Communism was merely a temporary interruption of century-old Bohemian traditions and cultural aspirations.