Path of light • Socialist Czechoslovakia
After WWII, Czechoslovakia was included in the post-war zone of political influence of the Soviet Union — the so-called Iron Curtain. The Communists received the greatest support of the voters in February 1948 and used support from Moscow and a political coup to essentially take over Czechoslovak state power. Despite their previous democratic promises, they legalized a totalitarian regime of government by a single party and empowered the grasp of Soviet despotism. Many innocent people were executed during the ‘manufactured’ political trials directed by Soviet secret police in the 1950’s. Over 200,000 citizens were jailed in newly constructed camps. Political relief finally arrived during the Prague Spring of 1968 when, for several months Czechoslovakia (among other things) renewed the possibility of travel abroad to the free world. On August 21st of the same year, Czechoslovak territory was invaded by a Soviet-led army that definitively broke the hopes of the nation for a freer life. Czechs and Slovaks would remain under Soviet occupation and wait for their freedom until 1989
Glass in the Socialist Times
Skloexport, a monopoly company for the export of glass, was established by the regime in the period after 1948. The nationalization of Czech glassmaking brought about irreversible losses while it enabled a swift modernization of operations and formerly unthinkable experiments in pattern-making. Czech art glass was born during this specific environment with the ambition to measure up to sculpting or painting and unique projects were born. The Czechoslovak presentation at the world exhibitions in Brussels (1958) and Montreal (1967) were phenomenal. These included smelted glass sculptures of the art duo Stanislav Libenský – Jaroslava Brychtová, the spatial objects of René Roubíček, inventive and perfectly executed designs of hand-made (as well as pressed) utility glass. All this served to bring Czech glass back to the center of world attention, despite the fact that it originated in a country governed by socialism. The glassworks in the area of Nový Bor became one of Europe’s primary areas for producing painted glass. Cut glass was primarily produced in Světlá nad Sázavou and Poděbrady. Machine production experienced enormous changes as new factories were built, and modern crystal glass was produced in quantity.