Prague Spring remembered at conference

Written by Shoshi Leviton 20, Co-Editor in Chief of The Colby Echo


On Sept. 20-21, Colby College hosted four distinguished guests to participate in a conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Prague Spring. The guests speakers included Iveta Coufalova, a Czech historian and magazine editor, Paul Goldsmith, an attorney and photographer, Petr Pavel, a Czech army general and retired Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and Petr Pithart, a former Czech Prime Minister and Senator in the Parliament. Pithart started off the conference by making a provocative claim, arguing that the Prague Spring should actually be called the Bratislava Spring. Guests continued to hold talks throughout the day on Friday. Talks included a panel on remembering the Prague Spring and an exhibition of photographs by Paul Goldsmith. The conference was sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the Colby Government department, and the Goldfarb Center. Julian D. Taylor Associate Professor of Classics and Director of the Center for the Arts and Humanities Kerill O’Neill explained how the event so naturally complemented the Center’s theme this year: “Presence of the Past”.

Reflecting on the conference, Colby Government professor Milan Babik, who organized the event, was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to interact with the invited guests. “It is not every day that we get to host the chairman of the most powerful military alliance on the planet,” Babik said in an email to the Echo. “[I also enjoyed] opportunity to get to know the guests informally: I took them on a day trip to the midcoast area, where we enjoyed lunch at a pub followed by a sail out of Camden harbor aboard a historic schooner. The latter filled them with so much excitement that for a moment they turned into little children, especially when the schooner’s captain allowed them to hoist the sails!”

“We were proud to join the Government department and the Goldfarb Center in sponsoring the Prague Spring conference,” O’Neill said in an email to the Echo , “because this program illustrates how important artists, writers, and thinkers are in navigating a culture’s contested history.”

The Center for the Arts and Humanities will continue hosting events throughout the year that highlight this theme, including a talk about Poor People’s Campaign on Wednesday, Sept. 25.