Czech Attitudes To Refugees Are Still Evolving, Says Historian
Today is World Refugee Day, declared by the United Nations (UN) in 2000. Photo: Furniture bank for refugees, Brno, March 2022. Credit: CB / Brno Daily.
Prague, June 20 (CTK) – The attitude of Czechs towards refugees is changing, historian Michal Frankl, from the Masaryk Institute and the Archives of the Academy of Sciences, has told CTK. In 2015, “refugee” was a swear word, but great solidarity with refugees from Ukraine can be seen in the last year, he said.
Frankl said large refugee waves followed most of the major political changes of the 20th century, and were of great significance for the history of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.
Today is World Refugee Day, declared by the United Nations (UN) in 2000.
Frankl is leading an international team of historians to compare how refugees were defined, discussed, classified and received in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia and their successor states. His project seeks to show history from the perspective of refugees and the non-profit organisations that care for them.
According to Frankl, refugees are part of history. “The history of refugees in the 20th century is clearly linked to the emergence and strengthening of the nation state, which is a central concept in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia,” Frankl said, adding that refugees were part of the history of the Czechoslovak and Czech nation.
Frankl argued that the attitudes of Czechs towards refugees are changing, both due to the social and political context of our times, and the origins of the people fleeing and their reasons for fleeing.
He also pointed out that most people do not form their own opinions from personal experience, but rather through political and media messaging.
Frankl said refugee waves followed most of the major political changes of the 20th century, such as the end of World War I, the rise of Nazism, and the emergence of the Communist bloc.
In the past, refugees tended to come to the Czech territory from nearby, either the Habsburg monarchy or other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, but as time went on, the area expanded, he said.
In the 1990s, Frankl said, Czechoslovakia received refugees positively, and it was not a controversial issue. That attitude changed around 2000, he said, and after 2015 the word refugee became a slur.
Frankl said he hoped that after the Czech Republic’s strong solidarity with refugees from Ukraine, refugees would once again be discussed as a substantive topic. He added that it was important to think about individual people rather than the whole group.