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2020 | 27 | 3-4 | 591-604

Article title

Sovětským Orientem: meziválečné cesty československých spisovatelů do periferních oblastí Sovětského svazu


Title variants

Through the Soviet Orient. Interwar trips of Czechoslovak writers to peripheral regions of the Soviet Union

Languages of publication



Hlavním nástrojem a hybatelem modernizačního procesu je práce, která ve státě budujícím komunismus představuje nejen existenční faktor jako zdroj obživy, ale především faktor existenciální – smysl života, zdroj štěstí a spokojenosti – a současně médium socializace a disciplinace. Právě prostřednictvím práce sovětský člověk překračuje své individuální potřeby a zájmy, a stává se tak platnou součástí společnosti a „novým člověkem“.
The edition brings a commented selection of texts from reportage publications and travelogues of four Czechoslovak writers, which reflect their experiences gathered during their trips to and stays in “exotic” non-European regions of the Soviet Union between the two world wars. They are: Julius Fučík (1903–1943), a journalist, literary critic and columnist, Egon Erwin Kisch (1885–1948), a Czech-German journalist, reporter and writer from Prague, the Czech-German writer and diplomat Franz Carl Weiskopf (1900–1955), also born in Prague, and the Czech-Jewish writer, newsman and translator Jiří Weil (1900–1959). All of them were organized Communists (Weil was expelled from the Communist Party in 1935), travelling at an invitation of Soviet authorities, and their texts, which were published in Czechoslovakia and Germany between 1927 and 1937, presented a more or less idealized picture of the Soviet reality with a propagandistic air. The selected texts capture the authors’ impressions mainly from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but also from other regions of Soviet Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Altai Mountains. Julius Fučík and Jiří Weil were specifically interested in the Czechoslovak cooperative of emigrant workers and farmers, Interhelpo, established in 1925 and operating until the late 1930s off the town of Frunze (now Bishkek). In her introductory study opening the edition, the authoress outlines circumstances and conditions of travelling to the Soviet Union in the interwar period, particularly to the country’s outlying regions which were, due to their remoteness, poor road and railway infrastructure and sometimes also security situation, difficult to access for visitors from abroad. She also describes the trips of the four authors mentioned above to the Soviet Orient, sets their reflections into a broader period context, and indicates their typical motifs. The central theme here is a conflict of the exotic, the old backward world of traditions and customs of indigenous inhabitants, and modernity. In the perception of the authors, the modernity is a combination of three interconnected segments; the first one is a process of industrialization, converting backward regions into dynamic agrarian-industrial centers through electrification, development of transport infrastructure, and urbanization. The second segment is represented by a new organization of social relations based on social and material equality of citizens and reflected mainly in the emancipation of local nations and ethnics and also of women.
The third segment is related to a group of topics which can be summarized under a Foucaultian term biopolitics. It consists mainly of a fight against illiteracy and an emphasis on education, development of a medical care system, or building or leisure and cultural institutions (clubs, cinemas, theaters). The principal tool and prime mover of the modernization process is labour which is, in a country striving to build a Communist system, not just a factor of existence, a source of subsistence, but, first and foremost, an existential factor – the meaning of life and a source of happiness and contentment – and also a medium of socialization and disciplination. It is through labour that the Soviet man or woman steps beyond his or her individual needs and interests and becomes a useful part of the society and a “new man”.









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  • Soudobé dějiny, redakce, Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR, v.v.i., Vlašská 9, 118 40 Praha 1, Czech Republic


Document Type

Publication order reference


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