Frantisek Starek was one of the leading figures of the Czechoslovak underground movement and culture. Due to his long-lasting activity, he has built a very rich and interesting collection. In this collection, a lot of material – often unique – about Czechoslovak counterculture and personal resistance can be found. The collection covers the time period from the seventies to the nineties.
Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
Provenance and cultural activities
This collection is basically Starek's personal fund and archive. It came into existence during Starek's long-time underground activity. He later became active in dissent and political democratic opposition along with his underground cultural activities. This activity was continuous during the era of state socialism, disrupted only by Starek's imprisonment.
Frantisek Starek (born 1952) is a former dissident, signatory of Charter 77 and active member and contributor to “second culture” – the underground movement.
The underground was a cultural movement which was not necessarily oppositional in the beginning. It was politicized and made oppositional due to the strict and repressive reaction to its existence by the communist regime. Underground subversion was not a direct assault on the communist regime, but rather a declaration of values and ideas (such as freedom of speech, art and expression),which were quite different from the normalized social majority. Some sort of subversion was also present in the effort to avoid the regime, to live autonomously, totally outside it. The underground was based on the philosophy and values of the American beat generation, and on art and music. An important source of inspiration was rock bands like the Velvet Underground and the artist behind this band, Andy Warhol. Despite this common ground it is not easy to generalize about the underground movement and its various aspects, because they might have consisted of different ideas and art forms.
Stárek took part in organizing lectures, musical events and performances, and disseminating samizdat literature. As a part of the well-known court trial with the underground band Plastic People of The Universe (1976), Starek was convicted of public offence and disorderly behaviour and imprisoned. The real reason for this was his above-mentioned activities and contacts with prohibited artists.
Along with his involvement in the underground, he also participated in the distribution of Charter 77 materials and in organizational tasks. He was also a signatory of Charter 77. His most important action in the field of second culture was his editorial work in Vokno, a second culture journal. Vokno became an information channel and shared platform of the Czech underground, which enabled communication and text circulation across the republic. Vokno was a samizdat journal published by a collective led by Starek. There were altogether fifteen issues published between 1979 and 1990. The unifying element of the content in Vokno was its orientation to second culture and the underground. Besides that, there were no other main topics, articles in the publication focused on visual art, music, literature, film, theatre, poetry, and other forms of art. This journal contributed to the further development of the underground movement and cultural opposition by providing a common platform for its leaders and participants.
Starek also actively collaborated with the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS – Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných) and other civic and opposition movements. On an international level, he kept in contact with the Polish Solidarity.
Starek's collection consists of quite a wide spectrum of personal materials connected to him, especially documentation from his three processes and lawsuits. It is also possible to find his writing, interviews, and photographic material; mostly personal but also covering some underground events.
This collection, as well as his entire life and activities, are connected to the Czech underground movement, where he was one of its leading figures. Starek has written some texts and created a few pieces of art, but his biggest contribution to the movement was his role as manager and secretary. Through his collection, it is possible to follow Starek's activities, his authorial creations, and witness his persecution. It enables us to view not only part of the Czech underground, but his disentail and democratically oppositional activity connected mostly with Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted. The collection is accessible via Starek's personal website.
This website was founded in the late 1990s when the internet in the Czech Republic was still in its infancy. Because of this, Starek's website was quite progressive and its launch was even mentioned in the media. Part of this website is also a link to a digitized version of the underground journal, Vokno. This digitized archive is now accessible to the public via the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted website (In Czech, Výboru na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných, or VONS.) Starek's website hasn’t been updated recently, so it is a bit out of date, and contains older material from the socialist period and from the 1990s. Starek plans to modernize his website and update and expand its contents.
Starek plans to include his collection to much bigger fund of the Czechoslovak underground. This collection was established due to preparations for the documentary series “Underground Phenomenon” (2012-2013) made by CT (Czech TV). This collection is currently also in Starek’s possession. He is in contact with Northern Bohemian State Archive about the possibility of taking over this collection. Starek wants this collection to be professionally curated by archivists and physically protected, but also digitized in time to be publicly accessible and to create one general resource, collecting sources connected to the Czech underground.
Description of content
Starek's collection is valuable source for researching alternative and autonomous culture, cultural opposition and one of its leading figures. This collection is strongly oriented to one person and connected to Czech underground movement. According to Starek, the main medium used by the underground was photography. Because of this, it is now the most common type of material available and the bearer of the underground’s memories.
The collection consists of Starek's works, mostly only as a photographs of document, his written texts and few specific pieces documenting underground life and activity (such as the Chronicles of the Pathological Orchestra of the City of Marianske Lazne) and photographic documentation of many underground festivities and events. Part of the collection is dedicated to the Vokno review, and connected with Vokno’s electronic database.
Another important part of the collection is a group of articles by Starek written after 1989, and published in different journals. Not all entries are legible, so this collection serves partly as Starek's personal bibliography. This collection is not professionally curated.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 10-99
- legal and/or financial documentation: 10-99
- paintings: 0-9
- paintings: 0-9
- photos: 100-499
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
Date of founding
Place of founding
Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Chmátal, Jonáš
cunas.cz. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cunas.cz
Fenomén Underground: Předci a paralely — Česká televize. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/porady/10419676635-fenomen-underground/412235100221006-predci-a-paralely/
Galerie NE - František Stárek Čuňas : Úředník undergroundu. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.galerie-ne.cz/profily/detail/id/110/frantisek-starek-cunas-urednik-undergroundu
Stárek, František , interview by Chmátal, Jonáš , March 30, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection