nisonen, riikka

A Mole Hole in the Iron Curtain

The joyful, curious and adorable little Mole (Krtek) has been a beloved and popular animated figure in a number of countries also outside its native Czechoslovakia already for decades. It was among the few ”socialist” products that became notably popular in the West and brought fame and significant financial profits for the Czechoslovak state. Hence, it became –borrowing the vocabulary of our times – a highly competitive cultural product.

The success story of the Little Mole is a unique case because it does not reflect the overall development of the Czech animated film industry in the post-socialist times. Czech animation witnessed exponential growth in the period between 1945 and 1989. After the collapse of communism and the introduction of the market economy this rise was followed by an equally rapid fall. The Mole came through these challenges and became even more popular. This paper will discuss Mole’s popularity which, as the paper argues, was increased in particular due to two factors: television broadcasting and Western cooperation and competition.

Importantly, the Little Mole became common culture for a whole generation of both Eastern and Western European children. The Mole, as many other children’s films and books made in Eastern Europe at the time, have been commonly presented as apolitical. Later, as the entire era of socialism has been presented as some kind of a black hole in the collective memory, the allegedly ”apolitical” products of popular culture were and have remained popular after 1989. Was it the alleged apolitical nature of the Little Mole which paved the way to a wider popularity in the West? In addressing the topic, different kind of sources will be used, in particular film journals, magazines and interviews but also archival sources.

Thursday 25 October 08:30-10:00 Panels III, Panel 7 Popular Culture in the Cold War Competition (Hall 7)