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The Upheaval in Czech Textual Culture 1948-1953 (completed)

The project investigated the changes in Czech textual culture between 1948 and 1953.

About the project

This project investigated the period when the communists took over and consolidated political power in Czechoslovakia. As an integral part of this process, they installed a new textual culture. They did so by using the entire repressive apparatus. They aimed at securing the communist party’s almost total control with the production of meaning in the public realm, and partly also in the private realm.


The project aimed to describe this change as a permanent interchange between political actions and discourse. A particular challenge is to reveal the role of texts in the political terror and the traces of the terror in the texts of the period.

The project’s basic hypothesis is that the total number of text genres becomes fewer in the course of the 1948–1953 period, and that the individual genres level out both semantically and pragmatically. This forcing into conformity reduced citizens’ opportunity for collective reflection and action.


Methodologically, the project made use of an approach which can be summarised as ‘communication-ethnographic’. In addition, the tradition from Slavic language and literary studies, with its well-developed semiotic conceptual apparatus for contextual analysis, was utilised.

The following was also studied:

  • literature and non-fiction
  • written and spoken genres
  • official and forbidden texts

The project considered the materiality of texts and the period’s text technology, broadly understood. Especially detailed studies were carried out on texts which were obligatory reading during the mass campaigns of the time and which aimed at forming a ‘new type of man’, and texts which had, in other ways, a particular rhetorical effect, e.g., the mass-produced reports from staged political trials, instructions to political cadres and questionnaires (used in a disciplinary way).


"The Upheaval in Czech Textual Culture 1948-1953" is a subproject in the interdisciplinary project Tekst/Historie.


The project has received funding from Anna Ahlströms och Ellen Terserus Stiftelse.


Articles and parts of books

Gammelgaard, Karen (2010). Czech Classified Advertising under Stalinism: Transformation of a Genre. Slavonica 16 (2), 79–95.

Gammelgaard, Karen (2008). Coping with Stalinist Panegyrics: a semantic and pragmatic analysis of a Czech text. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 9(1), 48-70.

Gammelgaard, Karen & Hedin, Tora (2008). Fremvæksten af den tjekkiske totalitære diskurs 1948-1953. In I. Lunde & S. Witt (eds.) Terminal Øst. Totalitære og posttotalitære diskurser, Oslo: Spartacus, 150-168.

Madzharova Bruteig, Yordanka  (2010). Czech parliamentary discourse: parliamentary interactions and the construction of the addressee. C. Ilie (ed) European Parliaments under Scrutiny: discourse strategies and interaction practices. (DAPSAC 38). Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 265-303.

Madzharova Bruteig, Yordanka (2008). Parliamentary genres and political change: Textual developments in debates of the Czechoslovak Parliament 1948-1953. Tielemann, N., Graf E., Zimny R. (eds) Beiträge der Europäischen Slavistischen Linguistik (POLYSLAV) 11. München: Otto Sagner, 142-150.


Conference papers

Gammelgaard, Karen. Tjekkiske rubrikannoncer under stalinismen. 17. Nordiske Slavistmøde. Schæffergården, Danmark, 6.-11.08.2007.

Gammelgaard, Karen. Stalinisme, tjekkiske litterær modernisme, genre og teksttype. Totalitære og posttotalitære diskurser: litteraturen og historien. Universitetet i Bergen, 26.-27.01.2007.

Hedin, Tora. Rudé právo – från politisk agitation till officiell statspropaganda. 17. Nordiske Slavistmøde. Schæffergården, Danmark, 6.-11.08.2007.

Hedin, Tora. Förändringar i tjeckiska massemediala texter efter kommunisternas maktövertagande 1948. Totalitære og posttotalitære diskurser: litteraturen og historien. Universitetet i Bergen, 26.-27.01.2007.

Hedin, Tora (with Ludmila Pöppel). Språk i totalitära samhällen – utveckling och variation. Förberedande konferens inför VIII ICCEES World Congress 2010. Stockholm. 9.11.2007.

Madzharova-Bruteig, Yordanka. Czech parliamentary genres during the de-democratization period 1948-1953. Polyslav XI. Humboldt University, Berlin, 27.-29.09.2007.

Madzharova-Bruteig, Yordanka. Chair of the session "Language Policies". Life in Motion: Shifting Spaces, Transcending Times, Crossing Borders. Masaryk University and University College London, Brno, 28.-30.06.2007.

Lectures for general public

Gammelgaard, Karen. Språk og totalitarisme. Faglig-pedagogisk dag, Universitetet i Oslo, 8.1.2010.

Gammelgaard, Karen. "The Upheaval in Czech Textual Culture 1948-1953": et eksempel på anvendt litteraturvidenskab? Introduksjonsmøte for nye masterstudenter, Litteraturprogrammet, Universitetet i Oslo, 8.1.2009.

Gammelgaard, Karen. Hva gjorde stalinismen med det tsjekkiske språket? Internseminar for ansatte ILOS, Universitetet i Oslo, 27.03.2007.


"Tyranniske tekster"


Bradley Abrams, Martin Franc, Karen Gammelgaard, Tora Hedin, Pavel Janáček, Jiří Knapík, Jakub Končelík, Yordanka Madzharova-Bruteig, Petr Šámal, and Jiřina Šmejkalová. Textual culture and political change: the Czech case 1948–1953 and 1989–1993. Proposal for researcher project, The Research Council of Norway. June 2007.

Tags: Czech, Political rhetoric
Published Oct. 27, 2020 12:21 PM - Last modified May 20, 2022 3:00 AM


Project manager: 

Karen Gammelgaard


Detailed list of participants