So, how much do you know about
the European Capitals of Culture?
During its history, the city of Ostrava has undergone dramatic changes. From the first half of the 19th century to the outbreak of the Second World War, there was a certain balance between the development of culture and the development of heavy industry – the driving force of the city’s growth. In my opinion, the turning point came during the era of communism, when the balance between working life and cultural life was disrupted. The planners envisioned an ‘iron heart of the republic’, and the city grew and expanded as an industrial powerhouse. By 1989, when this era finally came to an end, Ostrava had become a one-dimensional city, focusing entirely on work.
Today, Ostrava’s industrial base is changing. The era of heavy industry is drawing to a close, and the new industries will be based on knowledge and intellectual capital. It is one of our main priorities to offer not only workers in these new sectors, but the entire population of Ostrava, the widest possible range of leisure and cultural activities.
The European Capital of Culture programme offers an ideal opportunity for us to clarify our priorities in the cultural sphere. It represents a chance for us to give the city what it currently lacks. Without Capital of Culture status this process would take longer – but it needs to be done. The Capital of Culture project is not only about cultural infrastructure. It will help to stimulate growth and development in all areas of Ostrava’s life.
Ostrava is now home to many prestigious and high-quality cultural events. However, despite this undoubted progress, the city still lacks the breadth of cultural activities which the third largest Czech city undoubtedly deserves – this is one enduring legacy of the communist era. We are currently faced with the prospect of some people – especially young people – deciding to leave the city. But what will persuade them to stay? They will stay if Ostrava becomes a city that can enable them to live life to the full. It is our task to help life in Ostrava to flourish.
I am fully aware of the necessity of supporting culture. To use the example of poetry: A nation without poetry has no literature – and a nation without literature does not truly exist. Yes, poetry is created and enjoyed by a relatively small proportion of the population – but if these people did not exist, the nation would not exist either. Culture is the lifeblood of our nation and our city.
Taken from a speech given by the Mayor of Ostrava Petr Kajnar at a press conference held on 25 March 2009 to announce Ostrava’s bid to become European Capital of Culture 2015.