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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 16. September 8th 1971

Morale weakened

Morale weakened

If he had agreed not to emigrate but to turn into an "itinerant showpiece of socialits culture" - forbidden at home, but exhibited abroad to fill the state's coffers with foreign exchange then a solution to his case might well have been worked out. But Krejca's own firm attitude, his stubbornly reiterated intention of staying put in Prague led to the authorities' repressive decision.

For Krejca was setting a very bad example The Czechoslovak leadership's present policy to humiliate people and to force then to go back on what they have said or signed so as to deprive them of all moral authority in the future.

One comes to understand how the absence of a cause to defend weakens morale and resistance within the country. In this respect the situation was better during the years of the German "protectorate" between 1939 and 1945 for all wars have an end. Physical terror indeed was more savagely inflicted but there was far less destruction of people's ethical and cultural values.

In the eyes of the Czechoslovak leaders, the danger of Krejca's attitude lay in the fact that if it had gone unpunished it would have encouraged other men to remain honest and true to themselves. So they punished him so as to scotch any dangerous ideas of the sort. And his was not the only case.

One of the country's best film makers, Vojtech Jasny, winner of two awards at the Cannes film festival for his films One Day, One Cat and Moravian Chronicle, and honoured yet again this year at the Festival Palace, has been to all intents and purposes expelled from Czechoslovakia. The authorities began by withdrawing his films from the regular circuits. Then Jasny was given to understand that he should abandon the idea of going on with a film he had been, planning to make for years. Finally, the new head of the Barrandov film studios, who had always been an uncritical supporter of the Soviet Union, spoke to him.

After the meeting, Jasny took the first available opportunity to leave the country. Because of his popularity and his spotless reputation, the authorities then tried to undo what they had done.

But Jasny would not budge. He explained his stand in one of his farewell letters. "If I could have gone my way in the cinema, I would have stayed. If all I wanted to do was film Czechoslovak fairy tales, I would have gone back. But I could not accept the prostitution into which everyone will soon be forced And I am not going to collaborate with what is going on in our country today."

A thing has happened to Czechoslovak theatre. Most theatre producers have been replaced by men whose lack of talent is, for the authorities, the best guarantee of absolute devotion. Preliminary censorship, a hollow hoax has been abolished and the producer made responsible for any undesirable public reactions in the course of a performance. All controversial plays have been gradually withdrawn from the theatres' regular repertories.

As if this were not enough, Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage suffered twenty-five important cuts because the audience attending the dress rehearsal - and it was a carefully selected audience - turned the show into a veritable political demonstration. But Brecht, once regarded as subversive in the United States, was not the only victim.

In Prague, the National Theatre's performance of Don Juan, Molier's subversive libertine, underwent extensive cuts; the dress rehearsal for Shakespeare's Henry IV unexpectedly aroused such a demonstration that government representatives attending the performance left the theatre when the curtain fell for the interval. The play was not performed again.

Russian classics have fared no better. Cuts massacred Gorky, Ostrovsky and Chekhov. Perhaps the crowning blow came when Alexander Griboyedov's play Gore ot Uma (Wit Works Woe) had to be banned two weeks before the ceremonial first night scheduled for the anniversary of the October Revolution.