Prague Between the World Wars

After 1918 Prague became the centre of political power and this changed its position regarding the attention, prestige, money etc. The position of Prague mayor became a prestigious one and it was given to high- profile political personalities, just like it happens in the case of the other European capitals.

Although Masaryk was a very authoritative figure, the Prague mayor was to great extent independent. This was well apparent in the case of K. Baxa, the second mayor or Prague. His conduct was increasingly anti- Roma and even anti- Semitic, showing support for the Prague anti- Jewish manifestations of 1930, organized by supporters of the Czech fascist leader Radola Gajda. No matter the pressure that arose, it was impossible to get rid of him because of his party’s strong backing, thus he remained in the position until 1937.

The main tendency was the creation of an agglomeration, said in modern terms. Suburban parts and villages were to be integrated and turned into city quarters- Vinohrady, Karlín, Smíchov, Zizkov to name the largest ones, later more remote parts like Stodulky, Hostivar or Hloubetin. The emergence of “The Great Prague” is dated to January 1, 1922, when its legislature was done. It consisted of 37 districts and tensions soon were felt- there were substantial socio- economic differences between the new quarters and this was all the more visible with the Economic Crisis which came later.

The main task was, however, solving the problems, which remained as an outcome of the World War. The key problem was unemployment and this was dealt with setting public works by the City Hall. There was massive migration into the capital and a growth in birth rate in the first half of the 1920s. The German population, after some decline just after 1918, also grew and had, in average, good jobs and high rate of education. The Jewish population experienced some growth, but it was not substantial in the context of the city as a whole.
There was a notable rise in atheism and certain decline in the interest in church schools.

Speaking of architecture, the dominating style was cubism with round modifications, represented mainly by Josef Gocar. That was followed by a wave of functionalism, an example of its early stage being Veletrzní palace (The National Gallery) by Oldrich Tyl and Josef Fuchs, soon followed by many more, often built for big insurance companies, banks etc.

Neo- historism also had some impact, mainly on many newly built university buildings and the many monuments built during the period. There were major projects in the suburban areas too: the large area of Thomayer Hospital in Prague 4 for example.

The face of the centre was changing, multi-storey buildings were replacing the old fashioned houses, there were new banks, embassies, passages… Attention slowly shifted from Na porici street to Wenceslas Square, which became the new social and commercial centre.

Many important restoration works were also taking place. Notably there was the large project of re-construction of several parts of the Prague castle, including the completion of St Vitus Cathedral.

© 2008 |