Martin C. Putna looks back at Central European Forum 2000, the “younger,
more subtle and better-looking brother of Forum 2000”, held on St.
Martin’s day in Bratislava, close to the cathedral where
Austro-Hungarian kings were crowned.
is a Czech literary historian. A graduate in Russian language and literature from Prague’s Charles University, he is now a professor at his alma mater. He lives in Prague and has published numerous books including the acclaimed biography, Václav Havel. Duchovní portrét v rámu české kultury 20. století (2011). Václav Havel. A Mental Portrait framed by 20th century Czech culture). In 2013 Czech President Miloš Zeman refused to confirm Martin C. Putna’s professorship in social and cultural anthropology but following a wave of protest he was eventually awarded the academic title of professor. Most recently he published a well-received book Obrazy z kulturních dějin ruské religiosity (2015, Sketches From the History of Russian Religiosity). “No, I’m not afraid of Russia because I know pretty well what one can expect of the current Russian regime – that is, only the worst, an assault on the freedom of our countries, on the legacy of the 1989 revolution, on our affiliation with the West. What I am afraid of is something else, something of which the clear outline has yet to emerge. I am worried about the size of the ‘fifth column’ which Russia’s regime has managed to create in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is obvious that Putin’s propaganda army includes both the extreme Left and extreme Right, the two opponents of present-day freedom and present-day Western civilization. Both draw on historic traditions of their own ideas: the extreme Left builds on the Sovietophilia of writers such as Fučík, Pujmanová and Jilemnický, while the extreme Right harks back to the 19th and early 20th century Russophile conservative nationalist politicians and literary figures such as Josef Holeček, Karel Kramář and Svetozár Hurban Vajanský. The present-day extreme Left and Right cannot boast publicly respected figures of Kramář’s and Vajanský’s stature. However, they have recourse to a network of online periodicals. Dozens of writers – under their real names or anonymously – have used them as a platform from which they inundate Czech and Slovak cyberspace with Putin’s propaganda about the Ukrainian ‘fascists’, the ‘rotten’ West and a Russia ‘defending herself’. Equally dangerous, because not easily explained, is the fact that Putin’s propaganda army now includes a number of mainstream politicians, regardless of whether they formally claim allegiance to the Left (like Miloš Zeman and some Czech social democrats) or to the Right (such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Ján Čarnogurský in Slovakia).”