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Americans love Prague. They visit and have even moved there in considerable numbers. They like the place for a lot of reasons. One is that Prague is a very beautiful city. But another is that the Czech Republic has a widespread repuation in the U.S. (and more generally, I think) as a very liberal, democratic place. Czechs, we think, are different and long have been. In many ways, they are, of course. But as Mary Heimann suggests in her controversial book Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed (Yale UP, 2009; paperback, 2011), the Czechs (and Slovaks) were not as exceptional, historically speaking, as many think, and certainly not as exceptional as some historians have led us to believe. Czechoslovakia was not immune to some of the more harmful movements of the late nineteenth and twentieth century–strident nationalism, fascism, and communism among them. Sometimes Czech and Slovak leaders acted liberally and democratically; sometimes they did not. In that way, they were like all their European neighbors, that is, not exceptional at all. Listen to Mary explain why.


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