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Pupils to hear of suffering under communism

CZECH REPUBLIC

Communism is on the curriculum once again in Czech schools after a survey revealed few young Czechs have knowledge of what life was like in the Eastern Bloc.

Even though it is 16 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, educational material on the country's recent history remains limited. And a report carried out last year by school inspectors found that the communist era was often left out of history lessons.

To fill that gap, Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need has joined forces with school authorities to launch a project aimed at teaching students about communism in their country, with emphasis on the suffering.

As part of the project, short films documenting events from the latter half of the 20th century will be shown to pupils, who currently have only the vaguest notion of how their parents and grandparents lived before 1989.

Topics will include the post-war political trials of the 1950s, the Prague Spring uprising of 1968, and the Velvet Revolution that marked the end of authoritarianism in the country. Schools are also being encouraged to invite people who suffered under the regime to discuss issues raised by the project Stories of Injustice.

Organiser Karel Strachota said: "We are hoping the project will help students to assess various interpretations from the period."

And senator Jaromir Stetina, who helped found People in Need and is spearheading a campaign for stricter controls of fascist and communist activities, said the need for action in schools was great as "the nation's memory of this period is being lost".

But Vojtech Filip, the Czech communist party leader, said: "This is feeding unbalanced, one-sided information to schoolchildren. It picks out excesses and pretends nothing else happened."

After the resignation of communist leader Gustav Husak in November 1989 and the installation of a democratic government, attempts to teach the period truthfully remained hampered by a lack of available materials.

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