Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences
Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, cultural organization, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, the free dissemination of ideas, and the fostering of contacts among people. It brings together scholars, scientists, artists, writers, students, lawyers, businessmen, and others throughout the world who have a professional, family or other interest in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, their history, peoples, or their cultural and intellectual contributions.
The SVU was established in 1958 in Washington, D.C.. Local chapters of SVU have been functioning in major cities around the world. After the peaceful 1989 "Velvet Revolution", the SVU expanded its activities to Czechoslovakia and its succession states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
The general membership meets each year at the annual General Assembly, the highest statutory body of the Society. Its governing bodies, the Executive Board and the Council, are elected every two years. All SVU officers work as volunteers and receive no compensation from the Society.
- 1958-62 Václav Hlavatý
- 1962-66 René Wellek
- 1966-68 Václav Hlavatý
- 1968-70 Jaroslav Nemec
- 1970-72 Jan V. Mladek
- 1972-74 Francis Schwarzenberg
- 1974-78 Mila Rechcigl
- 1978-80 Jan F. Triska
- 1980-84 Leopold J. Pospisil
- 1984-88 Jiri Nehnevajsa
- 1988-90 Igor V. Nabelek
- 1990-92 Jan F. Triska
- 1992-94 Zdenek J. Slouka
- 1994-2006 Mila Rechcigl
- 2006- Karel F. Raska
The Society held its First World Congress in Washington, D.C. in 1962, attended by more than 200 scholars, scientists, and artists from all over the world. There were sixty papers read at these meetings, their subject ranging from linguistics to sociology and science. This was followed by the Second World Congress in 1964, on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. This time, about 120 papers were presented by scholars - not just by the Society members but also by a number of invited guests from all over the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and Western Europe. The papers covered most major fields of intellectual endeavor, including history, literature and linguistics, music and fine arts, social sciences, and the biological and physical sciences.
Since then, every even year, the Society has convened a world congress. The program includes presentations of scholarly papers, discussion panels, concerts, artistic exhibits and social events. The lecture program covers a wide range of subjects and disciplines, providing platforms for exchanges of views. The lectures, seminars and symposia, as well as printed materials are generally presented in English.
The first fifteen world congresses were held in the U.S. or Canada, usually on university campuses. The Sixteenth SVU World Congress in 1992 was held for the first time in Prague and Bratislava, a major event bringing together more than 400 active participants from overseas and some 1,000 from Czechoslovakia. Practically all subsequent world congresses were held in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
The SVU has established the practice of convening a special Regional Conference every other year, usually in between the World Congresses. These conferences are smaller than the World Congresses and are usually focused on one specific topic.
In November 2003, the Society sponsored "Working Conference on Czech & Slovak American Materials and their Preservation", held at the Czech and Slovak Embassies in Washington, D.C. The conference led to establishment of the new Czech & Slovak American Archival Consortium (CSAAC).
For its members, the SVU publishes a newsletter SVU NEWS/ ZPRÁVY SVU. In addition, the SVU members, as well as others, may subscribe to an English periodical of scholarly and literary substance, the semi-annual KOSMAS - Czechoslovak and Central European Journal.
During the communist era in Czechoslovakia, the Society published a Czech language and Slovak language literary and humanistic periodical: PROMĚNY - PREMENY/ METAMORPHOSES for nearly thirty years, which frequently included articles by forbidden authors.
Society's monographs include René Wellek's Essays on Czech Literature, the Anthology of Czech Poetry, edited by Alfred French, the voluminous SVU Congress Proceedings, edited by Mila Rechcigl, under the title, The Czechoslovak Contribution to World Culture and the two-volume set Czechoslovakia Past and Present, Joseph Chada's The Czechs in the United States, Roman Jakobson's Studies in Verbal Art, Matthew Spinka's English translation of Jan Amos Komensky's (Comenius) The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart, Peter Kussi's translation of Arne Novák's Czech Literature, and Anthology of Czech Prose, translated and edited by William E. Harkins, Václav Havel's essays Do ruznych stran,: Eseje a clanky z let 1983-1989 and Charta 77, 1977-1989, edited by Vilem Precan.
More recent titles include: On All Fronts: Czechoslovaks in World War II, edited by Lewis M. White; Zdenka Fischmann's Essays on Czech Music, edited by Dagmar White; The Taste of a Lost Homeland - An Anthology of Exile Poetry, edited by Vera Borkovec, Czech Americans in Transition, edited by Clinton Machann; Czech-American Historic Sites, Monuments, and Memorabilia and Czechoslovak American Archivalia, both edited by Mila Rechcigl, and Rechcigl's Czechs and Slovaks in America.
A detailed history of SVU can be found on the book: On Behalf of Their Homeland: Fifty Years of SVU. An Eyewitness Account of the History of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) by One of the SVU Founders and SVU President for Many Years Mila Rechcigl.