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2-2014 / Studie a eseje / Jiří Hutečka

Comrades from the Front

Czechoslovak K.u.K. Veterans, Masculinity, and Memory of the First World War

Jiří Hutečka

Jiří Hutečka (*1979), Institute of History of the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Hradec Králové ,       Other contributions by the same author

The article aims at analyzing the process of remembering and memory discourses of the First World War as experienced by both Czech and Slovak veterans during the interwar years. Specifically, main attention is given to the vast majority of Czech ex-servicemen who spent the war in Austro-Hungarian uniform, which brought their memory of the war into a precarious position under the new state of Czechoslovakia. They had to cope with the fact that the years they spent in the trenches were not only completely overshadowed by the official discourse of the “heroic legionnaire” (i.e., member of the Czechoslovak Legion, a small minority of men who served in the war), but also with the fact that since early 1920s the general society sought to construct its (non-legionary) memory of the war around the more and more pronounced concept of the “good soldier Svejk”, i.e. a slacker subversive to the K.u.K. war effort, only waiting to go AWOL. As the hegemonic masculinity of the time tended to at least partially revolve around the image of heroic service (epitomized by the legionnaire myth), author follows several paths the K.u.K. ex-servicemen treaded in their effort to both fit into the general discourse of wartime “nation building” and keep in line with the hegemonic masculine image. As it is clear, after the Great Depression and especially during 1930s, their efforts in this area resulted into a group-specific collective memory of the First World War, emphasizing a well-fulfilled (even though unwilling) duty fitting of good men and citizens.

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