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Mining Review 17/7: Czech-Mates (1964)


Main image of Mining Review 17/7: Czech-Mates (1964)
Mining Review 17th Year No. 7: Czechoslovakia - Czech-Mates
March 1964
35mm, black and white, 3 mins
Production CompanyNational Coal Board Film Unit
SponsorNational Coal Board
ProducerJohn Reid
CommentatorJohn Slater

A party of Nottinghamshire miners visits Prague as the guests of the Czech mining industry.

Show full synopsis

This Mining Review item documents an official visit by a party of miners from coalfields in Nottinghamshire and South Wales to Prague, to meet their Czech counterparts.

Much of it is an excuse for a travelogue of one of Europe's most beautiful cities (and one which would be almost entirely unfamiliar to the newsreel's target audience), though there's also a brief trip down a Czech mine - but the lighthearted tone is maintained by comments on the idiosyncratic Czech pit helmet design.

What is almost entirely absent, aside from a concluding reference to "hopes of peace" (this was shown less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened to ignite the Cold War, and Czechoslovakia was the closest Soviet-backed country to Western Europe), is any reference to the political gulf between the UK and Czechoslovakia. During the 1950s, the country ran the most overtly Stalinist political system of any European state, and it had largely ignored the political thaw that came in the wake of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Joseph Stalin in 1956.

However, by the early 1960s, the Czechs were paying dearly for their isolation, with the lowest industrial growth rate in Eastern Europe. Under pressure from Moscow and more progressive elements within the ruling Czechoslovak Communist Party, in 1963 there was a general rethink of economic planning, which set in train a series of reforms that would culminate briefly in the so-called 'Prague Spring' of 1968. It is safe to assume that the cultural exchange documented by Mining Review was one of the earliest fruits of this more open attitude.

It was made two decades after Humphrey Jennings' The Silent Village (1943), the most powerful filmed expression of British-Czech solidarity. There, the events of Lidice, a mining community subjected to a Nazi massacre, were transposed to an equivalent village in Wales.

Michael Brooke

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Complete item (2:35)
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