Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel and Czechoslovakia

90 years is a blessed age to die and the Cuban Marxist leader was fortunate to live that long. Donald Trump just tweeted that Castro is dead. Almost all Cubans in Florida are celebrating. They're obviously right about the overall sign of the sentiment. He was a dictator that was responsible for many crippled lives and the erasure of some 90% of the Cuban GDP. But in some way, it doesn't sound "cool" to celebrate the death of this no longer dangerous "hip" character from the world history.

My country had a special relationship to Castro. Like other kids in the Soviet bloc, we were trained to recognize him as a hero. But the relationships were more special. For example, a very large percentage of the machinery used in Cuba was produced in Czechoslovakia. Among many other things, that included a car owned by Fidel, Tatra 603, typically a car of the Czechoslovak VIP communists. At some moment, he switched from Tatra and Soviet limousines to Mercedeses, however.

In 1968, Castro needed to improve his bad relationships with Moscow so he – unlike the Romanian, Yugoslav, Albanian, and Chinese comrades – endorsed the occupation of Czechoslovakia even though he didn't send any actual tanks. For this attitude, Cuba was allowed to export sugar or something like that.

You may find an infinite amount of photographs from his 1972 visit to the "normalizing" i.e. neo-Stalinist Czechoslovakia.

A one-week trip to the High Tatras, Czechoslovakia's highest mountains (the Westernmost portion of the Carpathian Mountains) included hunting of the chamois. You may see that Fidel was given the uniform of the Czechoslovak gamekeepers. It wasn't too much different from the normal clothes that he used to dress. Because the weather was bad, Fidel had to wait and he played ping-pong in the meantime.

Our – much more boring – communist leaders gave him a special gift, a Spanish translation of the "Report Written While Hanging on the Rope" that a celebrated communist journalist Julius Fučík (who has lived in Pilsen for 25 years) wrote in the Prague-Pankrác prison before he was executed by the Nazis. Incredibly, only Czech, Spanish, and a Chinese version of the page describing the book exists on Wikipedia. Castro had to say that the Cuban revolutionaries were absolutely keen on Fučík even though what horny Mr Castro actually wanted to get were the bodies of singers Ms Pilarová and Ms Vondráčková. ;-)

The Czechoslovak communist elite is waving their hands to Castro.

After the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia turned from one of the best friends of communist Cuba to one of the most strict enemies of the regime. In particular, Havel wanted it this way. But other, less political Czechs liked to make fun of Cuba, too. Supermodel Helena Houdová was able to take pictures of the Cuban slums in 2006.

Needless to say, I may easily find texts by Castro that I could largely endorse. No, I don't mean this 2016 blog post praising his brother (the communist brother's name is Obama, not Raul, just to avoid misunderstandings). But I mean e.g. this 2010 Castro blog post talking about the poor education of the young Americans. They are trained to believe that Beethoven is a dog, Michelangelo is a computer virus, and Czechoslovakia has never existed, among other things. ;-)

Now, when Fidel is gone, Cubans should regain their common sense and beg to be accepted as a part of the U.S. with the same status as Puerto Rico.

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