Projekt: A History of the Czechoslovak Association of the Disabled (Šinkovec)

Forschungsprojekt an der Universität Kiel von Pavel Šinkovec



Foto: The closing ceremony of the First Czechoslovak Deaf Spartakiad in Gottwaldov (1955); (Source: Exhibition “The Czech Deaf: 1814–2014“, FF UK, 2014)


The project Czechoslovak Association of the Disabled (Svaz československých invalidů– SČI) should fill a research gap in the field of institutionalized care of disadvantaged groups in the environment of state socialism. The analysis will point out both specific as well as general trends of the way of socialist modernization and the status of Czechoslovak disabled people in the period of 1948 through 1989. In the first place, the research should provide a complex biography of SČI, with its structural development, including the “pre-history” of institutionalized care of the disabled in the Czech lands, centralization of the institutions after WW2, organizational changes and links to politics. In order to follow the context of political, ideological or social changes, several topics can be recognized. Firstly, the period of Stalinism, with the main focus on “ideology and utopia” in connection to physical disability is to be surveyed. On one hand, the inherent component of the communist ideology was its humane, modernistic and egalitarian nature. The disabled people were to participate actively in the formation and building of a new society, which was seen as their full social emancipation. Thereby, the socialist regime asserted its moral superiority both to fascism and capitalism. On the other hand, integration of the disabled into the production can be perceived rather as a utilitarian and pragmatic attitude. Due to the ubiquitous and preferred social values of youth, health and work performance and favouring of other areas of social policy, the disabled remained a rather isolated, marginalized and neglected social group for most of the period of state socialism. Surveyed activities and agenda of SČI (i. e. political communication, cooperation with research and educational institutions, legal and financial assistance to its members, cultural, recreational and sport activities, health and educational publications and lectures or founding the co-op enterprises) will help to understand the consequences and manifestations of modernity (e. g. in the field of consumer society or expert knowledge – medicine, pedagogy, psychology, ergonomics, etc.) in relation to the physically disabled. 

The analysis of SČI ´s membership should show the dynamics of perception of disability over time, e. g. war invalids, the eradication of some diseases or the arrival of new ones (such as chronic asthma, cardiac diseases, and diabetes). Other aspects, which are to be examined, are employees, the source of their compassion, education, attitude, application and production of expert knowledge.

The most prominent sources, after the destruction of the majority of the main collection of SČI, are those of regional and district organizations of SČI, their co-op enterprises of disabled, party and state collections (Central, regional, district and local Committees, National Committees, Ministries of Healthcare, Social services, Interior, Workforce and Foreign Affairs - clippings archive, Office of the Government Bureau), other collaborating institutions and organizations (Czechoslovak Union of Physical Education and Sport, Union for Cooperation with the Army, Universities), and last but not least, journals and periodicals (e.g. Elán, Speciální pedagogika).