Edvard Beneš in public debate at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries (example of a historic personality shaping national identity)
Abstract: In her study, the author discusses the role of historic figures on the shaping of national/state identity. On the example of Edvard Beneš, the second Czechoslovak president, she examines whether a historic personality makes part of the Czech national/state identity. Opinions on E. Benes’s policy and his person have always been contradictory and even nowadays E. Benes is a very controversial figure, as was demonstrated when the Czech Senate voted on his merits in 2004. In her work, the author analyzes the reactions provided by two groups of respondents: Benes’s contemporaries as well as witnesses of WWII, interviewed orally, and, in the second group, senators who voted on the Act acknowledging that: „E. Benes helped to establish the State.“
The author then confronts Benes’s picture given by the his contemporaries with that provided by modern historiography, finding that the two do not necessarily correspond. Most eyewitnesses express their admiration for Benes and support for his political decisions, stressing in particular the Munich pact, his abdication in 1938, problems with the Germans and his relationship to president Masaryk, while the senators most frequently mentioned the Communist seizure of power in 1948, the acceptance of the Munich pact and an agreement with the USSR.
The conclusion is that as well as other historic figures, Edvard Benes has become part of Czech national identity and has the right to rank among other great personalities of the nation.
Key words: Edvard Beneš, oral history, identity, discourse
Mgr. Gabriela Havlůjová je doktorandkou Ústavu českých dějin FF UK a dlouhodobě působí v Památníku Lidice. Zaměřuje se na soudobé dějiny, konkrétně poválečný vývoj Lidic (firstname.lastname@example.org)