Expert: anti-government movement serious problem for Czechia

According to the Ministry of Interior’s biannual report on extremism, the anti-establishment, anti-government movement in Czechia has been gaining strength and is now overshadowing the traditional xenophobic extremist groups. Where did this movement originate and how serious a threat does it pose? I discussed these questions with extremism expert Miroslav Mareš from Brno’s Masaryk University.

“It is quite a terminological challenge, because the governmental reports on extremism traditionally focused on hard-line extremist groups. If we look back to the mid-1990s, there were some racist skinhead gangs and neo-Nazis on the far right spectrum and the dogmatic communists or anarchists on the left side of the extremist spectrum.

Miroslav Mareš | Photo: Archive of Miroslav Mareš

“Recently, however, we can see the growth of this ideologically not so strongly profiled movement. They are strongly anti-systemic, partially share the pro-Kremlin narrative and they oppose the post-1989 developments in the Czech Republic, including the country’s pro-Western orientation and membership in NATO.”

How does this movement compare to the groups operating in the country before Covid-19?

“As I said, they do not have such a strong ideological background, but they are able to organize huge demonstrations and they are very active on social networks.

“They use disinformation, they use anti- systemic propaganda, and they are able to undermine the trust of many people in the so-called official media.”

Would you say the rise of this movement is the result of the longstanding undermining of democracy in this country by Russia?

“That is one of the most important reasons. Of course, we can see also the dissatisfaction of many people with the contemporary developments, and these are interconnected issues.

“We can see that many people who are frustrated by the recent political situation or maybe also by their own personal situation can be more vulnerable to this propaganda and share these new extremist views.”

To what degree has the war in Ukraine and Czechia’s support for Ukraine affected the activities of this group?

“I think very strongly, because many of the individuals from this team were already active during the Covid-19 pandemic, they were against the government measures. But they very quickly changed their position.

“So recently, this movement started to use the pro-Kremlin narrative. They are trying to stop Czech support for Ukraine and they also strongly criticize the Czech policy within the EU and within the NATO.”

Do you consider this movement to be a serious problem for the Czech Republic?

“It is a serious problem, because we can see that some of these people are ready to use violence and because this movement can have an impact on government policy, or at least on the public perception of the current pro-Ukrainian policy of the Czech government.”