'The Prague Exit': representations of East German migration in the official press of the Czechoslovak Communist Party

Michalovska, Beatrice (2018) 'The Prague Exit': representations of East German migration in the official press of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3326240


East German migration via Prague in the summer and autumn of 1989 is not discussed in the English-language historiography as an important precondition for the revolutionary changes in Czechoslovakia in 1989. This research examines it and provides an alternative view of Czechoslovak social and political life just before the Velvet Revolution when the ruling Communist Party lost its grip on a regime which they controlled for more than four decades. 'The Prague Exit' analyses the linguistic representations of East German migration via Prague as constructed by the official newspaper of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, Rudé Právo. It explores how ideological language constructions present a minority group, and to what extent it reflected on the overall stability of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. A few core theories of Critical Discourse Analysis were employed to inspect how political and social elites constructed the discourse about the migrants' social identity in the country's press. The general migration narrative is further investigated in The Washington Post and The Times, as these newspapers provided an extensive coverage of the migration. This research found that East Germans were represented negatively because the Party perceived them as a threat to their political power and ideology. The migration narrative changed with time, which indicated a systematic construction of the migration discourse and changing perceptions of the relevance of its threat among the Party members. Their decisions regarding the border control to stop the unwanted migration exposed Party’s ideological instability and resolve just before the Velvet Revolution. Additionally, while the Western press represented East German migrants as vulnerable and mistreated human beings, their reporting was based on
counter-ideological stereotypes about systemic differences between the 'East' and the 'West'. The East German migration story was marginal in the wider conflict between socialism and capitalism during the last months of the Cold War, as observed in the press reports. Crucially, the analysis of the unpublished archival documents from the National Archive, the Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Archive of the Security Services, consulted in Prague, the Czech Republic, revealed disparities among the Western and Czechoslovak representation of the migrants. These documents presented the Communist Party members as alert about this migration yet pragmatic, calm and confident in their power to solve it and maintain the status quo - contrary to its self-representation in Rudé Právo or its panicking character, constructed in the Western press. These findings challenge the traditional perceptions of the Cold War history, and, most importantly, it presents East German migration as an unusual agent in the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Supported by funding from The 2016 Josef Fronek Scholarship for Czech Studies and the University of Glasgow Postgraduate Travel Bursary.
Keywords: Migrants, Czechoslovakia, 1989, revolution, Cold War, Europe, linguistics, critical discourse analysis.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
P Language and Literature > PG Slavic, Baltic, Albanian languages and literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Slavonic Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jan, Dr. Čulík and Mirna, Dr. Šolić
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Beatrice Michalovska
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30736
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2018 13:47
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2018 08:21
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30736

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