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Czech youth - patriotism and formation of european identity (1/2)

Czech society is undergoing a fundamental transformation which has a number of dimensions and sizes. Macro-social changes having their source above all in Czech society may be considered one dimension, processes connected above all with European integration represent the second dimension of changes. The third dimension has its source in globalisation.

Integration into the social space of the European Union was taking place in the Czech Republic in various forms and fields for all of the nineties. The Czech Republic is also intensively preparing for formal incorporation into the structures of the European Union. The challenge which Czech society is facing is above all a challenge for the present young generation, which is the first generation whose socialisation began in the bosom of Czech society and will be crowned within European society. The character of integration and further formation of Czech society and culture depends, to a large extent, on the quality of this generation. The position of Czech society within Europe and the European Union will also depend on the qualities of the present young generation.

Due to these reasons it is important to map and analyse attitudes, value orientations, opinions, social competencies, life objectives and various skills of the young generation. In this paper we would like to deal with two categories which seem to be cardinal from the viewpoint of the integration of Czech society into the European Union, i.e. patriotism and the attitude of the Czech youth to the forming European identity.

The concept of patriotism has a rich historic connotation in Czech society. In the 19th century, patriotism was a source of revitalisation of the Czech nation. Select strata of the then Czech society revived the Czech nation through culture. After the second world war, during 40 years of real socialism, patriotism was ideologically reflected and presented at least with embarrassment but also often, in relation to the concept of internationalism, in a contradictory manner. Also at present, the approach of certain groups of the power elite to patriotism is contradictory and is often connected with nationalism. Certain constitutional officials devalorise Czech patriotism and perceive it as something already overcome, which does not belong to modern society. On the other hand, primitive crowd rituals recalling ancient Bacchanalia which take place after victorious ice-hockey world championships are considered to be adequate demonstration of patriotism.

Patriotism is sometimes understood to be something in opposition to European integration, to formation of a European identity and to application of multicultural features in modern society.

Europeanism and patriotism is one of the topics dealt with by the survey "Young Generation at the Beginning of the Integration of the Czech Society into the European Structure". This survey was performed within the framework of a grant of the Ministry of Education. The representative sample covered around 1900 respondents. The collection was performed through an interviewing network by means of a standardised interview.

The importance of the Czech statehood was ascertained by the question "What value does the Czech state - Czech statehood hold for you?" The value of the importance was found by means of the scale of grades 1 - 5, while 1 means the least importance, 5 - the greatest importance. The index was calculated for individual age groups as the weighted arithmetic average. The index may vary in the interval from 1 to 5.

Value of the Czech statehood in age groups
Age 15-18 19-23 24-30 31-45 46-60 61-
Index 3,73 3,93 3,94 4,12 4,20 4,34

As the table shows, there is a dependence on age; the value of the Czech statehood decreases with the decreasing age.

Opinions concerning the importance of patriotism in contemporary society in general and in relation to Czech patriotism were found through a set of opinions, given below, to which the respondent gave his views. This set also contained patriotism dimensions, by which patriotism is saturated, mapping which strata create the overall approach of patriotism. Grades 1 and 2 in the scale mean that the respondent did not agree with the opinion given in the thesis.

Do you agree with the given opinions?

A five-grade scale was used to give one's view [1].

  1. The nation ceases to be important in integrating Europe.
  2. Each nation, its culture and history have their own unique value. By ending and
  3. suppressing national values and specific features, human civilisation would be impoverished.
  4. Czech patriotism was important in the past century and at the beginning of the twentieth century, nevertheless at present it is overcome, obsolete and non-functioning.
  5. In the past it was important to belong to a certain nation or religion. At present everybody is responsible for himself and must look for ways in which to assert himself regardless of the borders of states, nations and religion. It is not important which state I live in but how I assert myself and what standard of living I achieve in a foreign country.
  6. Any man who lives in a country other than that in which he was born and spent his childhood is made poor because he always remains a foreigner to some extent. The way of life and the national culture have a greater value than having more money and a better standard of living in a foreign country.
  7. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because we have a famous history and we achieved a lot in the past.
  8. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because members of our nation have achieved excellent sporting successes.
  9. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because our culture is on an excellent level (we are a cultural nation).
  10. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because the Czechs/Moravians showed the way to other nations in the past. In the Middle Ages it was the Hussite movement as the beginning of reformation.
  11. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because the Czechs/Moravians showed the way to other nations in the past. In 1968 we joined socialism with democracy in the movement "socialism with a human face".
  12. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because in 1992 we divided the Czechoslovak state in a cultivated manner.
  13. I am proud that I am Czech/Moravian because the Czechs/Moravians are enterprising; they will not get lost in the world, they have ideas, are creative and have "golden Czech hands".

The chart compares, by means of the index (weighted arithmetic average), opinions of the young generation with opinions of the middle and older generation. Czech society as a whole, i.e. the young generation too, refuses the thesis that Czech patriotism is already overcome and also the thesis that a nation in integrating into Europe is losing its importance. This opinion is even supported by the young generation identically with older generations.

Opinions concerning the importance of a nation
Opinions concerning the importance of a nation

The young generation is the strongest in the opinion that each nation, its culture and history represent a great value which should be protected and developed. Living within the national culture and within the Czech nation means a great value for Czech people. For middle and older generations, living more modestly within the Czech culture means a greater value than living in a foreign country and having more money and a higher standard of living. It may be connected with the fact that the Czech Republic has been affected by several emigration waves and that a part of the Czech population for which "life within the Czech culture and Czech nation" has been a relatively lower value and "success, money and a higher standard of living" was a relatively higher value has left Bohemia first of all.

The young generation has shifted towards asserting oneself in a foreign country, as a whole, however, the index of the young generation is 3.27, which means that asserting oneself abroad is preferred, but this preference is not very considerable. What saturates Czech patriotism? As for middle and old generations, the order of what they are proud of in relation to the Czech nation is as follows: history, culture, sport, creativity of Czech people, historic stage - the Hussite movement. The "Prague spring" historic stage fails to fill the Czech population with pride. As for the young generation, the order of first places is different: sport, history, culture. The index values of the young generation are lower in all items.

Dimensions of patriotism
Dimensions of patriotism

What are the attitudes of the Czech population and the Czech young generation concerning incorporation into the European Union? This question was asked in the form "Are you a supporter of our incorporation into the European Union?" The respondent answered by means of a five-degree scale [1]. The index giving a picture of development of the attitude depending on the age was calculated for age groups.

The most favourable approach to incorporation into the European Union is in the age group of 24 - 30 years. In lower and higher age groups the interest in incorporation into the European Union decreases. On the whole the young generation (15 - 30 years of age) is a more distinctive supporter of incorporation into the European Union than middle and older generations. The population at retirement age has distinctly the worst attitude concerning incorporation.

[1] Scale No. 2: Degrees of the scale were verbalized by the following way: 1 - definitely no, 2 - rather no, 3 - I don´t know, I cannot compare, 4 - rather yes, 5 - definitely yes
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