The Myth of the Golden Republic: Czechoslovak Propaganda and Nationalism in the Twentieth Century

September 13, 2005 // 12:00pm1:00pm

In reference to the traditional Czech motto "the truth will prevail," President Eduard Benes commented that he never expected the truth to prevail unaided, betraying his commitment to the use of propaganda. The truth in his case was that Czechslovakia ought to be independent from German and Austrian dominance. To that end, Andrea Orzoff explained how Benes used propaganda to install modern Czech nationalism in the 20th Century.

The myth of the Czech nation was centered on the image of zlata Praha, or golden Prague, which was open to all ethnic groups and upheld the values of pacifism, liberalism and democracy. These values were based on the writings of Tomas Masaryk, who Orzoff stressed was the first to refer to Czechoslovakia and its neighbors as the "new Europe."

Propaganda was used after WWI to help return the country to normalcy after the empires that controlled the country were defeated. By using doctored photographs and films the Czechoslovak government hoped to win hearts and minds to win public support at home and abroad. In Benes's foreign ministry, the so-called "third section" funded arts and philosophy projects in order to acquaint Europe with the Czechs as "the Switzerland of the East." Meanwhile, politicians began developing relationships with journalists, started newspapers and creating campaigns to hail Masaryk and the Czech nation. This pro-Masaryk propaganda aimed at deligitimizing political opposition, allowing Benes to push through his policies.

Far from being a legitimation for hiding facts and information (as was the case in communist countries), Orzoff's account of inter-war propaganda offers a glimpse into the origins of the "myth of the golden republic" which helps to explain the goals and dreams of Benes's government. In this case, propaganda was used to help unify and strengthen a struggling state in order to allow it to function as a sovereign nation.

Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Emily R. Buss // Program Assistant

Wilson Center Photo Gallery

Browse or share photos from the Wilson Center’s events.

To Attend an Event

Unless otherwise noted:

Meetings listed on this page are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required unless otherwise noted. All meetings take place at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Please see map and directions. Allow time for routine security procedures. A photo ID is required for entry.

To confirm time and place, contact Maria-Stella Gatzoulis on the day of the event: tel. (202) 691-4188. Check this page for the latest updates and notices.