The so-called ‘máničky’ represented the spirit of freedom and resistance to the authoritarian regime
“Better late than never”, some might say upon learning that the Czech Supreme Court has overturned a verdict from 1966, which sentenced 14 young men for protesting the forced cutting of their hair by the police.
Back in the 1960s Czechoslovakia was part of the Communist-ruled Eastern bloc of Europe, which resulted in a serious curtailment of personal, collective and economic freedoms for the people living there. Government control extended even into things like fashion and grooming.
Long hair worn by men was seen as a decadent influence by the West and a political statement of resistance and opposition. In a sense, it was. That decade was a cultural transformation milestone in many countries and the influence of new ideas, music and youth culture permeated even through the Iron Curtain.
The Czech government, however, responded harshly against this budding counter-culture movement by instituting a series of measures, such as the prohibition of long-haired men to ride on public transport, enter cinemas, theatres or pubs.
This culminated in a campaign, which had police chase and arrest such males, known as “máničky” (a derogatory term likening them to girls) and forcefully cutting their hair.
A case of robbed youth
The youth, however, organized a protest in Prague in August 1966 chanting slogans, such as “Give us back our hair!” or “Off with hairdressers!”. This resulted in the arrest of 140 people and in the conviction of 14 of them, with seven men sentenced to serve prison terms of up to 16 months.
That kind of story reminds us why we need to constantly cherish the liberties that we take for granted and even trivial in our day and age.
The Court’s decision to annul the verdicts in this landmark protest case brings long-awaited justice to these men (8 of whom have already passed away) who were wrongfully prosecuted and convicted over five decades ago.
The case itself was brought to the court by two of them, Martin Maryska and Miloš Turek, and they can also seek material compensation from the Ministry of Justice. The ruling, however, applies to all 14 men, even if posthumously.