A century of scouting in the Czech Republic

Photo: CTK

The International scouting movement celebrated its 100th birthday on Wednesday, and Czechs, along with scouts from around 200 other countries, have been taking part in the festivities. There are now more than 45,000 scouts in the Czech Republic - a far cry from the 13 that attended the first Czech scout camp back in 1912. The rise in membership is impressive, but it's been a bumpy ride for the Czech scouting movement over its first hundred years. With a brief history of scouting in the Czech Republic, here's Rosie Johnston:

Scouting in the Czech Republic has had a rather turbulent past. In the last 100 years, it has been outlawed here on no less than two occasions.

Jiri Navratil has been involved in the Czech Scouting Movement for the last 70 years. He has been chairman of the Czech Scouting Association three times. Earlier today, he told me a bit about the organisation's rocky past:

"In this first century of scouting, scouting was only permitted here in the Czech Republic for around half of this time. This is because all of these totalitarian regimes, first the Nazis and then the Communists, hated scouting. They hated scouting first of all because of its so-called spiritual dimension, which is very important in scouting, and then because it is a democratic organisation."

During Communism, scouting went underground in what was then Czechoslovakia. Jan Zacek from the Scouting Association explains how scouting survived:

"Under Communism, most scout groups ran as different sorts of organisations. They set up as tourist groups, for example, or as pioneers. But, in fact, they didn't change their programme. They used the same programme, but it was illegal. They used the symbols and the medals of scouting, but it was not official."

When I asked veteran scouter Jiri Navratil about how the movement had changed over the years he had been involved, he said that the basic tenets had remained the same. But, he said, the movement had internationalised.

Mr Navratil thinks that scouting's problems are international as well:

"It is a pity that here in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere in Europe too - our Czech boys and our Czech girls are a little lazy, you know. They are always sitting and playing computer games, virtual games. But here, they have the chance to play a game which is not virtual but real. They can achieve real things, and that is really important for young people to do, even today. I hope they will accept this invitation."

If they do, then they will sit alongside the likes of George Bush, Bill Gates and Tony Blair, who all started out as boy scouts.

Photo: CTK
But what about the Czech scouting movement? Has it produced many famous scouts? Here's Jan Zacek:

"We have a lot of famous Czech scouts. For example, our former president, Vaclav Havel was a scout. The director Jiri Mezel, and Milos Forman too - they all were scouts."

With Czech scout membership at an all-time high, the future looks bright for scouting's next century too, here in the Czech Republic.