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2011 | 3 | 346-382

Article title

Boj magické moci razítka s magickou mocí lidovou. Případ Jazzové sekce


Title variants

The Struggle between the Magic Power of the Rubber Stamp and the Magic Power of the People: The Case of the Jazz Section

Languages of publication



The Jazz Section was one of the most remarkable cultural institutions in ‘normalized’ Czechoslovakia. Established in 1971 as part of the official Musicians’ Union, the Jazz Section used its legal status to organize jazz and rock concerts and to publish a variety of books without the permission or consent of the state censor or other Communist authorities. From the late 1970s, the régime strove hard to close down the Jazz Section, trying a variety of means, but it survived until 1984. Only in 1986 did the régime find a way to prosecute its leading activists, and although two of the Jazz Section’s leaders were eventually given prison sentences, the trial was full of inner contradictions and the verdicts milder than usual or expected. This article explores why persecution proved so troublesome. It focuses on the impact of the Jazz Section’s legalistic strategy and on the role of legal concerns in régime behaviour. It argues that the understanding of law and its use in the ‘normalization’ of Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s differed substantially from the practices of the Stalinist 1950s, in that references to ‘law and order’ now had a central legitimizing function in the political and social discourse of the Husák régime. As demonstrated by the initial decision to persecute the Jazz Section, resorting to politically motivated repression remained an important disciplining instrument for the régime, but the urge to translate policies of repression into legal measures inhibited the authorities (the police, prosecutors, courts, and others) in their assertion of power, and created an ambiguous window of opportunity for independent social activism.








Physical description


  • 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


YADDA identifier

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