These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
From a child’s perspective, this is one of those things again that the regime got at least mostly right, if not outright right. There were at lest five different magazines specifically for children, with target audiences from 6 to 18 years. Unfortunately most of them do not exist anymore, except one and the last issues I have seen of that one do not hold a candle to what it used to be – too many advertisements, too little real content.
The magazine I am talking about is ABC mladých techniků a přírodovědců (ABC of young technicians and natural scientists). I still have a stack of old issues that I have not thrown away and sometimes I still go through them and occasionally learn a new thing or two.
That particular magazine has a unique format – there are articles about science, technology and nature and occasional story of course and I learned a lot about those things from it. But it also featured two regular features that no other magazine in our country at that time had – paper models and comics.
The paper models are what made the magazine extremely popular and famous, and in my opinion also most useful for a young kid. I know people, even in my family, who sneer at that notion, but the truth is that even today I and I am sure my brother as well are using the skills learned while cutting, measuring and gluing paper models together. And by using I mean getting paid, because making models gives one nimble fingers, teaches patience and trains spatial intelligence. It is a pity that since made from paper, those models were not particularly long-lived so none of them survived until today. They required way to much care and collected way too much dust to be kept in a household with three asthmatics.
The comics were, in my non-humble opinion, much better than whatever nonsense Marvel is peddling. There were no superheroes and no mages. Over the years there were multiple series, and they all excelled in the past in one thing – combining education with entertainment. One series was entirely devoted to Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle. One was about a robot uprising. And one particularly long-lived one was about a group of Pionýrs doing the things that kids do – going to school, going outside, camping, fighting etc.
It was full of covert propaganda of course, but even in retrospect it was mostly not propaganda that I particularly mind. Most of it was about the importance of having useful skills and knowledge, about not being an asshole and taking care of other people as well as yourself. Things that I personally think children should learn as a matter of course wherever they live.