Dr Matěj Spurny

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Matěj Spurný has been an assistant professor at the Institute for Economic and Social History of the Faculty of Arts, Charles University (Prague) and a research fellow at the Institute of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences (both since 2012). He was working as research fellow at the Institute for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam and collaborating with the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB). For his dissertation "Nejsou jako my" about ethnic minorities in postwar Czechoslovakia, he was awarded prestigious Czech academic and research prizes. Spurný studied in Prague and Berlin and received his Ph.D. in history at the Charles University in 2010. Since nearly two decades he also has been acting in the field of civil society, especially dealing with the post war forced displacement of Germans from Czechoslovakia and as an actor of the Czech debate about socialist dictatorship.


Research project at the Kolleg


The Ambivalence of Urban Modernity Modern urban planning dealing with the historical city. Czechoslovakia in comparison with East and West Germany (1956-1989). The aim of the project is to analyse, what happened, when, in poststalinist and late socialist Czechoslovakia, ideas of modernist cities and practice of modern urban planning faced the build environment of the historical city - and to compare the various faces and phases of the struggle between new and old in ČSSR with the development in the GDR and in West Germany. Besides of all differences, we can, concerning the topic of urban development, observe important parallels between West and East. The rise of urban planning and architecture in the spirit of modern technocratic thought, well known and described as an important aspect of post war western Europe, was in state socialist Czechoslovakia connected especially with the post-stalinist period of the late 1950s and 1960s, although the most ambitious projects were often realized or finished as late as in the 1970s or early 1980s. During these four decades (1950s to 1980s), we can not only in the West, but also under state socialist conditions, simultaneously depict the rising critique of the very technocratic urban planning, which went hand in hand with rediscovering the values of historical city and lived environment. This development and the mentioned parallels between West and East, open a whole range of questions. On the level of social and intellectual history I explore, which actors were advancing and forming urban modernity in all three countries, which people, communities or institutions were decisive in facing it by reintroducing the historical as valuable and which political or other instruments they used. At the same time, a more general question is of interest - namely the relationship between constructing urban modernity, the changing notion of dignified environment for human life and (in Weberian sense) the legitimacy of rule.

Main areas of research

  • Nationalism and ethnic minorities in central-eastern Europe
  • Social history of state socialism in Czechoslovakia
  • Post-war urban history in central-eastern Europe
  • Environmental history