Prof. PaedDr. Mgr. Miroslav Vaněk, Ph.D. is a Czech historian who specializes in modern Czech history. From 2000-2017 he was the head of the Oral History Centre of the Institute of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Since 2017, he has been the director of this Institute.
Miroslav Vaněk received a first in history, Czech language, pedagogy and psychology when graduated from grammar school. Later he received a doctorate from the Faculty of Arts of the Palacký University in Olomouc and is now a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University in Prague.
Prior to 1990, he worked as a primary school teacher. After 1989, he became interested in oral history largely due to his concentration in capturing the events of 17 November 1989 in Czechoslovakia. He then joined the Institute of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where he later participated in the foundation of the Oral History Centre. He focuses on the theory and methodology of oral history, political elites and dissent and independent musical genres. Since 2006, he has been working at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University, where he also founded the Master’s Program of Oral History - Contemporary History in 2008.
- VANĚK, Miroslav (ed.). Obyčejní lidé..?! Pohled do života tzv. mlčící většiny. Životopisná vyprávění příslušníků dělnických profesí a inteligence. Praha, Academia 2009. 3 volumes, 1306 p.
- VANĚK, Miroslav. O orální historii s jejími zakladateli a protagonisty. Praha, Ústav pro soudobé dějiny 2008, 135 p.
- VANĚK, Miroslav. Mocní a bezmocní? Politické elity a disent v období tzv. normalizace. Interpretační studie životopisných interview. Praha, Prostor 2006, 412 p.
- VANĚK, M., URBÁŠEK, P. Vítězové? Poražení? Politické elity a disent v období tzv. normalizace. Životopisná interview. Prostor, Praha 2005, 1970 p.
- VANĚK, Miroslav. Orální historie ve výzkumu soudobých dějin. Praha: Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR, 2004. 175 p.
- VANĚK, Miroslav – MÜCKE, Pavel. Velvet Revolutions: An Oral History of Czech Society. New York – Oxford, Oxford University Press 2016, 264 p.
- VANĚK, Miroslav. Those Who Prevailed And Those Were Replaced: Interview On Both Sides of A Conflict. In: Donald A. Richtie (ed.), The Oxford Handbook Of Oral History. Oxford University Press 2011, pp. 37–50.
... and others.
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Mojmir Vanek was a scientist, professor of history and journalism, dissident, organizer of Czech cultural life in Switzerland, and also chairman of the Swiss group of the Society for Science and the Arts.
Mojmir Vanek was born on February 9, 1911 in Přerov. He came from a family of teachers and musicians, which influenced his later interests and focus. He attended a grammar school in Přerov and as one of the best pupils of Czechoslovakia, he was awarded a scholarship by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Education to complete his secondary school in France at the Lycée National in Nimes. He then completed his Bachelor's degree at the University of Montpellier and later graduated from Charles University in 1936, where he received his law ldegree. He then completed his studies in Vienna and Krakow. Prior to World War II, he studied history and cultural history (including the history of music) at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Charles University in Prague while also working as an assistant at the Faculty of Law of Charles University.
During the war he worked as the presidential secretary of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts. During the Nazi occupation, they were granting support from so-called Jewish funds to young artists and musicians who often worked under the cover name, mainly for racial reasons, among others for example now famous Czech composer Miroslav Kabeláč. After the war, he was president Edvard Beneš's personal secretary and in 1946 he was released on the orders of President Benes and Minister Jan Masaryk to serve as Senior Counsellour at the UNESCO Secretariat, first in London and then in Paris where he became the first Director of the Arts and Music Section.
His work was interrupted in February 1948 when he was expelled from the Office of the President of the Republic on 26 February 1948 because of the decision of the so-called Action Committee. In 1949, he was arrested along with Milada Horáková and four other colleagues. On 21 July 1950 he was convicted by the so-called state court in Prague for alleged high treason and spying and sentenced to 18 years of heavy imprisonment. He served a punishment of eleven years, of which he spent seven months in solitary confinement at Ruzyne Prison without walks, visits or correspondence. The remainder of his sentence was served in Prague-Pankrác, Česká Lípa, Plzeň-Bory, Pardubice, Leopoldov, Uranium mines in Příbram, Mírov and Valdice. This conviction was expunged from his criminal record only in 1990, however, in 1960, Mojmir Vanek was released from prison during the amnesty conditionally for five years.
He then worked as a metal worker for a few years, and in 1967 he started working at the National Gallery in Prague. In 1966 he also became secretary of the Congress of the International Association of Fine Critics (AICA) in Prague, which he founded in 1946 while working at UNESCO.
In 1969 he went to Geneva, Switzerland, at the invitation of Musée d'art et d'histoire and where he also received the right to asylum as a political refugee in Switzerland. There he collaborated with the Musée d'étour d'Historia de Geneve. He lectured at universities in Geneva, Lyon and Tours. Mojmir Vanek is the author of about 20 studies, articles and translations of scientific papers and many dozens of articles in the daily press.
Mojmir Vanek actively engaged in culture. He saved the famous Prague Quartet before the break-up and organized several series of concerts in Prague. Later, he also did the same thing for the Czech Nonet. In 1940 he was appointed to be a member of the Society for Contemporary Music. After the end of the war he became a member of the constituent committee of the Prague Spring International Music Festival. During his work at UNESCO, he was the main organizer of the International Art Festival, which was launched on 28 October 1946 by a festive concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. After February 1948, he could no longer continue his cultural activities until his emigration to Switzerland, where he continued to do so. Mojmir Vanek organized exhibitions of Czech art at the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, the Kunsthaus in Zurich, exhibitions of Czech graphics at the museums in Lausanne, Geneva and La Chaux-de-Fonds and others. In 1971, after the establishment of the Swiss Society of Science and Arts, based in New York, organised the Symposium “Culture and Freedom” to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Czechoslovakia. It was organized by Mojmír Vaněk in Geneva and many prominent scientists from all over Europe spoke at this symposium. This event had a huge response in the Swiss press. Likely it was due to this event that Mojmir Vanek and his wife Olga had their Czechoslovak citizenship revoked. Vaněk became an outstanding promoter of Czechoslovak music abroad and continued to host many concerts and exhibitions. For his cultural activities, he was awarded the French "Palmes académiques" in France and received a silver medal from Charles University in 1991.
He is also responsible for the fact that the Geneva City Council named one street after President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
- Geneva, Switzerland
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Vantzeti Vassilev’s problems with State Security began in the 1970s. Because of his "untrustworthy" origins, he was under control by the State Security. Due to this pressure, and unwilling to cooperate with the secret services, Vassilev left his job and started to work as a swineherd in his mother's village, Vranya Stena, in the Pernik district. He used this time to write the autobiographical novel Semenata na straha [The Seeds of Fear] based on personal experiences and stories he gathered from his father and other former prisoners. Out of fear of identifying those who had shared their experiences, he destroyed all relevant notes. In 1988, during a fair held at the Bulgarian-Serbian border, Vantzeti Vassilev escaped to Yugoslavia and from there to Italy. In Italy he worked as a gardener, translator for Russian evangelical immigrants. At the end of 1989, he emigrated to New York, where he worked as a night watchman, painter, construction worker, and truck and taxi driver.
Vassilev managed to escape with a copy of his manuscript. Another copy, left at home, was recovered in 2016, having been hidden in the ceiling of the old family barn. In New York, Vassilev became an author of memoir novels. There he finished Semenata na straha [The Seeds of Fear], a first-person account of the humiliation and oppression of a young scientist living under the totalitarian regime. The book was published in Sofia in 1991 with the financial support of Open Society Institute, and presented in New York.The second book by Vassilev, Vlakovete na Rim [Trains of Rome], was published in 2006. It was also translated into German (Die Züge von Rom) and presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009. In 2010 the next book, Razkazi ot newyorkskata biblioteka [Stories from New York Library], was published. He has participated in international literary festivals in Swansea, Wales, and Binghamton, New York. In New York, Vassilev established contact with a number of Bulgarian immigrants, such as Hristo Yavashev-Christo and his wife Jean-Claude, for whom he wrote the book Da opakovash vyatara. Po stapkite na Christo I Jean-Claude [Packing the Wind. In the Steps of Christo and Jean-Claude] (2013).
- United States
- Varna, Bulgaria
Vladimír Veit is a Czech singer, songwriter, composer, journalist and founding member of the voluntary association of singers and songwriters “Šafrán”, which between approximately 1972 and 1978 covered a group of folk musicians in Czechoslovakia until it was broken up by the State Security at the end of the 1970s. Alongside Veit, the group also included Vladimír Merta, Vlastimil Třešňák, Dagmar Andrtová-Voňková, and Jaroslav Hutka. Vladimír Veit started performing at the end of the 1960s – at first, playing Czech versions of songs by Bob Dylan or Donovan, and later his own material. Veit and Hutka went their separate ways as a music duo in 1968. However, they still write songs together today, and Veit writes music to accompany some of Hutka’s lyrics. Veit also writes music to other lyrics written by Czech and foreign musicians. Among his most popular works is the album “Texty”, where he linked works by 19th-century Czech writers (Neruda, Vrchlický) with contemporary texts by the former dissidents Václav Havel, Pavel Kohout and actor Pavel Landovský. As a signatory of Charter 77 and distributor of samizdat texts, Veit was coerced into leaving Czechoslovakia by the State Security (StB) as part of its Asanace operation. He left for Austria in 1981 and continued to produce music. In Austria, he released his albums “Texty” (1982) and “Quo vadis” (1984), which was recorded with the multi-instrumentalist Emil Pospíšil. They were both released by the exile publishing house “Šafrán 78”, founded in Sweden by Jiří Pallas – another member and organiser of “Šafrán” who had been forced to leave Czechoslovakia. Veit returned from exile in 1990. He continues to produce music and published his autobiography “Ještě to neskončilo” (It’s Not Over Yet) in 2016.
- Benešov, Czech Republic