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MADE IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA

When light penetrates

into the dark corners

of the so complicated

mechanism of silence, it

remains motionless before

the beauty of indifference

turned stupid in the

madness of this age.

—Jindřich Heisler
, On the Needles of These Days, 1941

THE 1980S ENDED in Czechoslovakia with thousands of street demonstrators jingling house keys, poignantly announcing the advent of unimaginable political reforms after 41 years of absolute communist rule. Because this heterogeneous nation is so firmly rooted within the ancient history of Central Europe, and Prague in so many ways represents the quintessential medieval city, it is quite easy to forget that Czechoslovakia, as such, was not established until the autumn of 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is even more difficult to remember that the unbearable lightness of being an independent state lasted for the painfully brief

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