ARTIST PROFILE

Jiří Žák

  • Czech Republic (b. 1989 in Zlín)
  • Currently in Prague.
The Epilogue of Long Friendship #5 Current Czech arms trade (research materials)

The Epilogue of Long Friendship #5 Current Czech arms trade (research materials)

  • 2019
  • Mixed Media Video Installation

  • The Epilogue of Long Friendship is an ongoing research of Czechoslovakia's arms export to Syria and its implications for the present days. See more info below.

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  • Epilog dlouheho pratelstvi 5
  • The Epilogue of Long Friendship #1 (short film - work in progress) - thumbnail The Epilogue of Long Friendship #2 (documentation/collages/drawings) - thumbnail The Epilogue of Long Friendship #3 (documentation/collages/drawings) - thumbnail The Epilogue of Long Friendship #4 (mural/drawing/flag)  - thumbnail The Epilogue of Long Friendship #5 Current Czech arms trade (research materials) - thumbnail The Epilogue of Long Friendship #6 Omnipol company - the heart of the Czechoslovak military industry (research materials) - thumbnail The Epilogue of Long Friendship #7 Education of Arabs in Czechoslovakia (research materials) - thumbnail

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    Ongoing long-term research project - The Epilogue of Long Friendship | 2018 - 2019

The Epilogue of Long Friendship is an ongoing long-term research project about the history of Czechoslovakia's military production and export to the Middle-East, mainly to Syria and its implications for the present time. The Czech Republic, former Czechoslovakia has a long history of the military industry and exporting weapons abroad, but it is mostly critically unreflected by its people. From the '50s till the year 89, Czechs had strong business ties with Syria (mostly exporting the weapons there, but not just that). Czechoslovaks were building refineries, sugar factories and other infrastructure in Syria and on the other hand, the Syrian people were coming to Czechoslovakia to study and so on. In the '70s and '80s was Syria the biggest non-European business partner of Czechoslovakia. This particular history is a sort of background story for another underlying topic of the research, which is the construction of Czech identity and its relationship with the non-Europeans. From my point of view, there are inconsistencies within the narrative about the Czech identity or so-called national character (which is a notion one has to be very skeptical of). Czech people view themselves most of the time as a very peaceful and tolerant nation, but the critique of the military industry is on the edge of public and intellectual interest. The project is divided into several chapters which each tries to examine a certain question: ________________________________________________________________ 1) Ideology vs Pragmatism: The Czechoslovak politics behind the arms trade was changing throughout the time and the logic of the motivations are not always clear. It was oscillating between the stances based in the ideological approach and on the other hand the purely pragmatic reason. The question of pragmatism was also related to the increasing power of technocratic thinking and structures in the communist leadership of Czechoslovakia in the '70s. The technocratic aspect is something which Czech liberal democracy inherited and it’s a strong in nowadays politics. ________________________________________________________________ 2) The Story of Khalid Bakdash: In this chapter, I want to explore a story of man, who embodies the entangled and ambiguous layers of Czech-Syrian relationships. Khalid Bakdash (Arabic Khālid Bakdāsh) was a Syrian politician. He was a prominent spokesman of the Syrian Communist Party. After he was elected to a seat in the Syrian parliament, he became the first Communist deputy in the Arab world. He visited a Czechoslovakia for several times and even spend a few years in the exile in Prague after the political turbulences in Syria in 1958. ________________________________________________________________ 3) The Debt: The question of the growing Syrian debt towards Czechoslovakia was often part of the negotiations and conversations. In this chapter, I’m going to tackle the continuity of the political regime in Czechoslovakia before and after the Velvet Revolution of 89. This very debt of arms trade was indeed something which was gladly passed from the hands of communists to the hands of liberals. What does this fact say about the concept of revolution in the understanding of Czechs? ________________________________________________________________ 4) Negative Hallucination: Czechs mostly ignoring the dark sides of their own military industry. This is an attempt to reflect the nature of this approach, which is defined by the national pride on the technical qualities of Czech weapons without thinking about their use and consequences of it. ________________________________________________________________ 5) Military industry between communism and capitalism; on the growing success of the weapons manufacturers in the age of liberal democracy. ________________________________________________________________ 6) The Problem of Ethnic Citizen: The construction of the Czech identity is inscribed in the way of how the state of Czechoslovakia was established. In this chapter, I´m going to try to untangle the history of Czech ethnical nationalism and to show what role was the founder and the first president of Czechoslovakia Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk playing in it. ________________________________________________________________ 7) The question of colony: A lot of post-communist countries are dealing with the growing nationalism and xenophobia in the face of the refugee crisis. Even in the Czech Republic, it’s often used the argument, that we didn’t have colonies so we are not responsible for the people trying to escape the war in the Middle-east. But historically, the country like Czechoslovakia had a strong interest and agenda in that region, the same as the West. Was the semiperiphery using the same colonial perspective and thinking to deal with the non-Europans as the former colonial empires? ________________________________________________________________ The first results of this long-term project will be presented in 2019 and it will continue to 2020. ________________________________________________________________ Keywords: Czechoslovak-Syrian relationships; arms trade; the debt; continuity between communist and democratic regime; semiperiphery with a colonial agenda; ethnic citizenship; Ideology vs Pragmatism; Khalid Bakdash;