Václav Bartuška has been working in his current role as the government’s special representative for energy security since 2006, but those who remember him know his name from the beginning of the 90s, when his first book, the bestseller “Polojasno”, was published.
The aptly named title summarized Bartušek’s six-month experience as a member of the commission of inquiry into the intervention of November 17, 1989. In the early 1990s, he was highly skeptical about whether the truth would ever be found about how the regime actually, in its terminal phase at the end The 1980s worked and why it came down so easily and in many ways in an unexpected way. Is it at least partially clear today instead of “half-bright”?
They didn’t know anything about us
According to Bartuška, at the end of the 1980s, the students were basically an unknown protest entity for the State Security, with which, unlike the “established” dissidents, they had no experience. “It was shocking to us that they knew almost nothing about their opponents. They knew Disent and Havel well, but we students were all new to them,” states Václav Bartuška.
“They had no idea what was really going on. In the middle of that November week, for example, there is a report that ‘the students are said to be on strike…’!”
In the end, the work in the commission lasted for half a year, and during that time Václav Bartuška spent many hours talking to top officials of the State Security and the Communist Party itself. “I was shocked that they didn’t actually have anyone in our year. We found only a few whistleblowers among the lecturers at our faculty and one classmate who was a few years older. But not in our class.” The resulting impression was still depressing.
“The network (of StB colleagues) was extensive. Some were dangerous, some were not. Some just wrote and reported nonsense, others were active whistleblowers and liked to slander anyone. If you give people that option, many will take advantage of it.”
“You were pure despair. Even for General Lorenz”
The level of “craftiness” in Czechoslovakia, as Bartuška came to know it during his half-year work in the investigative commission, did not surprise him, it was rather shocking in what ruins the KSČ actually found itself. He had one of the bizarre experiences thanks to conversations with General Alojz Lorenc, head of the StB before November 1989. With his intelligence, Lorenc knew who he was working for.
“He was allegedly humiliated the most when Miloš Jakeš asked him in the summer of 1989 to find out who brought the recording from Červené hradek. At the time when it was already circulating in Czechoslovakia in countless copies. But how can you tell a fool who can destroy you that he is a fool?” asks Václav Bartuška rhetorically.
When you consider that the real head of that state was someone like Miloš Jakeš, you are horrified. That was sheer desperation. That system progressively degenerated. Against him, Adamec was a titan of thought.
However, Jan Dobrovský adds: “Even today, there are world politicians who recommend drinking savo or injecting it into your veins against covid.” Could the former general secretary be just a harbinger of dystopian times?
Russia as a threat
During the years that Václav Bartuška has been working for the Czech state in the field of energy security, the situation in this area has changed fundamentally. “My position was created because the energy sector simply has blackmail potential.” In 2017, he was also among those who prepared analyzes for the Czech government on which nuclear sources are possible for us. The results of these analyzes clearly warned against Russia’s participation in tenders. “Back then, it didn’t make us many friends in some parts of Czech politics. But then Vrbětice came. And suddenly it was clear.’
Listen to the first part of the evening with the Dobrovský & Šídlo podcast in Prague’s La Fabrice
Bartuška has also been lecturing at the New York University branch in Prague since 2003, and thus has direct experience with how the Russian threat was underestimated in the US until recently.
“At that time, I was sending the study program for my subject for approval. And there was a debate with headquarters in New York. Why should Russia be a security threat to Europe? After all, George Bush met Putin, they are friends…! I teach that subject all the time, but in recent years I don’t have to explain to anyone why I’m giving that lecture. But sometime in 2003, I was some kind of fool from the East,” Václav Bartuška concludes his excursion into the thinking of Western politicians in the past twenty years.
Bartušek sees the present realistically – there is a long road ahead with uncertain results. “I guess Europe will have to learn to be assertive again. Maybe even bad. The last year has been useful. All of a sudden we were talking – and it’s my job – with governments that we don’t officially talk to at all. And we buy raw materials from countries that we cannot consider beacons of democracy. We are vulnerable, and everyone knows it.’
In the player at the beginning of the article, listen to the entire podcast, recorded during the evening in Prague’s La Fabrica on November 7, at the end of which there was a ceremonial christening of the book selection from the Dobrovský & Šídlo podcasts from the years 2021-22 under the title “Můžu to dořict…?”.
Dobrovský & Šidlo. The Memory of the Nation Podcast
Your favorite podcast produced by Pámě národa. A regular dose of opinions, memories, information and sentiment. From the nineties to the present. What did we go through and how did we survive? Politics and history in a unique mix.
Listen to it on Seznam Zprávách, Podcasty.cz and in all podcast applications.