Last week, the first Mene Tekel festival dedicated to the history of totalitarianism in this country was held in Prague to coincide with the anniversary of the communist putsch in 1948. Taking its name from the so-called writing on the wall, which appears in the Bible's Book of Daniel and refers to the counting, considering and punishment of evil deeds, the Mene Tekel festival aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the oppression meted out by the communist regime in this country for more than forty years.
This year's festival focused on remembering and taking stock of the wrongdoings committed by the communists. Among other things, the event screened documentaries and held discussions on many of the infamous actions of the totalitarian government of that time, such as the show trial and execution of Milada Horakova. It also had a number of well attended talks in which aging former political prisoners recounted the mistreatment they had suffered at the hands of the communist government.
Artist Jan Rericha was one of Mene Tekel's organisers. He says one of the main impetuses for the festival was to allow people who had had to endure communist oppression to share the reality of their experiences with people who were too young to remember the harsh realities of those times:
"In recent years we have been lucky enough to be in close contact with the Confederation of Political Prisoners. Thanks to this we have got to know some amazing people whom we think are shining ethical and moral examples for this nation. They have something to pass on to people, especially to the younger generation."
Daniel Herman of the Czech Bishop's Conference was one of those who took part in some of the festival's discussions. He is also adamant that events of this nature need to be held to ensure that younger Czechs who may not remember the communist period are acquainted with the crimes of that era, which still cast a long shadow over Czech society today:
"For the younger generation the time of the communist regime is something like the time of the Napoleonic wars. They don't really know anything about it and only have limited information. I think that it's very important because it's part of our history. I think it's very, very necessary to know our history and to know the roots of some of our problems because I think the communist regime has left a legacy behind it. The economic remodelling of society is easy but moral renewal takes time. I think it's a process for maybe two generations. Because of that I think it's important not to forget the past. I think this festival is another stone in the mosaic of all this remembering."
The organisers of Mene Tekel hope to hold the festival again next year in conjunction with the sixtieth anniversary of the communists coming to power in Czechoslovakia in 1948. Anyone wanting to find out more can visit the festival's website at www.menetekel.cz.