Overhaul of national anthem proposed – but will new versions prove too monumental for Czechs?

Photo: YouTube

Is it time to give the Czech national anthem an update? The Czech Olympic Committee has just unveiled a number of new versions of Kde domov můj, insisting that the 100th anniversary of the state’s foundation it is high time to at least consider an overhaul.

Photo: YouTube
The Czech national anthem is Kde domov můj, or Where is My Home.The song, which initially had two verses, dates from the 1830s and was written by composer František Škroup and dramatist J.K. Tyl.

With the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 the first verse became part of the new state’s national anthem, followed by a Slovak part.

Now, however, the Czech Olympic Committee has put forward a number of new arrangements of Kde domov můj.

Among them is an instrumental that would be played at sports occasions and is longer than the current, unusually short anthem.

Czech Olympic Committee president Jiří Kejval points out that another of the new arrangements contains the original two verses – and explains the general thinking behind the proposal.

“In 1993 when we became an independent state, the Czech Republic, only the first part remained. That’s one thing. The second is that the song is almost 200 years old. Maybe when we have the 100th anniversary of the Czech state it’s time to have a think about a new version that will be maybe more modern.”

Miloš Bok,  photo: CTK
Composer Miloš Bok is the creator of the new arrangements. At Wednesday’s launch he rejected the suggestion they might prove too bombastic for the Czechs.

“What would you prefer? If we ridiculed everything, if we were a small nation? Or would you prefer if we recalled who we really are? Unfortunately the modernist paradigm of the 20th century dictates that music not be monumental and looks at such music pejoratively. But I ask: If it wasn’t pejorative in Mahler’s day, why does it have to be now?”

Czech Olympic Committee chief Jiří Kejval says he understands that the long-standing version of the national anthem is deeply ingrained in the nation’s psyche. But he says his organisation’s aim is first and foremost to foster a debate on updating it.

Jiří Kejval,  photo: CTK
“What does it mean for Czechs? I would say 80 percent of the times that the national anthem is played are during sport.

“Maybe the discussion is also about how we see the historical context, how we see all the aspects of the national anthem.

“We would like to open a discussion and we think it is for 10 million people – everybody can definitely have their own opinion.”

How likely do you think it is that the anthem will actually be changed in the future?

“We’ve put a lot of effort into it and we’ll be very happy if we succeed.

The new versions of the Czech national anthem can be heard here: www.hymna2018.cz

“But it’s not dogma. We will be very careful and will listen to other opinions.

“And even if it doesn’t change, just having a discussion is a very good thing.”