Nestled with irony between a McDonald’s and a casino is Prague’s Museum of Communism (only the KGB Museum has a more deliciously ironic location, next door to the heavily guarded U.S. embassy). It walks the thin line between being another tacky tourist trap museum (which I love) and an actual educational experience (which I also enjoy), with the over-arching message of, “Communism — that sure did suck.”
Tracing the history of Communism from it’s beginning and the founding of the Soviet Union to its rapid spread through eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War II, the museum makes no claim at being unbiased. The people who established the museum lived through Communism in what was then Czechoslovakia, and they make no bones about criticizing the political system and the paranoia, tyranny, and oppression that came with it. It’s a fascinating look behind the Iron Curtain and exploration of how ideas can so quickly become corrupted, how revolutionaries can so quickly become reactionaries. After strolling through so many artifacts of a dark time, it’s at least refreshing to end the museum with a detailed look through relics and video at the Velvet Revolution, the uprising and demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Communist Czech government in 1989.
And then one emerges onto Wenceslas Square, once the sight of mass demonstrations and street battles with police and soldiers, now a polished promenade for dining, shopping, saucy nightclubs, museums, and amazing architecture. A strange trip indeed, and one well worth checking out.