IYF (Mezinárodní organizace mládeže pro environmentální studia a ochranu přírody) se pokouší proniknout přes Železnou oponu

Jan Čeřovský
IYF (Mezinárodní organizace mládeže pro environmentální studia a ochranu přírody) byla založena v roce 1956 v rakouském Salzburgu, jako mládežnická sekce IUCN - Mezinárodní unie pro ochranu přírody a přírodních zdrojů. Ustanovující zasedání této organizace pořádala rakouská "Oesterreichische Naturschutzjuged" (organizace mládeže pro ochranu přírody), zakládající dokument byl podepsán zástupci mládežnických organizací z 12 "západo-"evropských zemí.


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IYF is trying a Breakthrough across the Iron Curtain

2010-10-05 12:45:15

Jan Čeřovský

IYF – International Youth Federation for Environmental Studies and Conservation was founded in 1956 in Salzburg, Austria, as a youth section of IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The establishing meeting was hosted by the organization “Oesterreichische Naturschutzjuged” (Austrian Nature Conservation Youth), the founding document signed by representatives of topical youth organizations from 12 “West” European countries.


In 1972 its objective was defined as follows: “IYF is the association of national and regional youth groups (upper age limit being 28) concerned with the study of the natural environment and the promotion of its conservation. Its main objective is to organize activities for young people and spread the message of conservation on an international basis.“ To this end IYF coordinated study camps, special courses, conferences and seminars.

This paper is trying to outline the history of IYF' s first contacts in the Eastern Block of Europe, the former Czechoslovakia in particular, during the period 1956-1972 . The author was personally involved in those efforts.

The First Steps

Since the emergence of the Iron Curtain, the involvement in the world-wide international nature conservation of the countries belonging to the Soviet Block has become to weaken. Only Polish specialists were able to attend the conference instituting the IUCN (IUPN at that time) in Fontaineblau, France, in October 1948. The already prepared delegation from Czechoslovakia has not been allowed by national authorities to depart.

The Soviet conservationists have started their participation in IUCN activities since 1954: this has permitted a certain revival of international cooperation for specialists from the “comrade” countries.

In 1956 the Czech Jaroslav Veselý[1] attended the Fifth General Assembly of IUCN in Edinburgh, UK. He was approached by the IYF President Jacques de Smidt, a Dutch student, with a request to recommend him in his country some appropriate contact person with the youth branch of IUCN just coming into existence. Jaroslav Veselý indicated Jan Čeřovský, his pupil, at that time the Editor-in-Chief of the Czech magazine ABC[2].

A passable channel for a potential cooperation was found in the Czechoslovak National Commission for UNESCO; this was due to close relations between the IUCN and UNESCO. Subsequently, Jan Čeřovský really did attend three international camps and General Assemblies of IYF (Evo, Finland, 1958; Winchester, UK, 1959; Burggen, Germany, 1960; he also was able to take part in the Lüneburger Heide Course in 1958 and in the annual meeting of NJN - Nederlandse Jeugdbond voor Natuurstudie - in Deventer, the Netherlands, in 1959; his attendance at the IYF GA in Italy 1957 was made impossible because of belated issue of the visa by the Italian authorities). In Winchester 1959, he presented an exhibition on nature conservation and youth involvement in it in Czechoslovakia: this had been warmly accepted and then kept by the British organizations as a travelling exhibit in UK. In his home country he has published a lot of articles in various journals and delivered many lectures to relevant audiences about the IYF and his personal experience.

Jan Čeřovský has not been the first and only participant from the “East” in IYF’s meetings. There also was a participation from the former Yugoslavia, where, however, the Iron Curtain has not been as much rigid as it was with the “true” members of the Soviet Block.

As Jan Čeřovský has not been a representative of any member organization of IYF, his status at the IYF General Assemblies has been that of an observer only. Nevertheless, he was trying to get some body from Czechoslovakia to become an ordinary member of IYF. With the aim to strengthen the relations between Czechoslovakia and IYF, upon the initiative by Jaroslav Veselý and Jan Čeřovský, the Czechoslovak National Commission for UNESCO invited Jacques de Smidt in his capacity of the IYF President to visit Czechoslovakia in May 1959. During his visit he was a guest of the above Commission. He had the opportunity of visiting institutions, gave a talk in the National Museum in Prague and made excursions to prominent natural sites both in Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia.

Young Naturalists in East Europe in the 1950/1960’s

At this place it seems to be fitting to draft a short overview of what the youth involvement in nature study and conservation at the break of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the East European Socialist Countries had looked like.

The biology officially had sadly been ruled by the false ideology of Trofim Denisowitch Lysenko[3]. His “mitschurinism” was also introduced into schools of all types and levels. For the ground and secondary schools the school gardens became obligatory: this, basically, has been a good progress bringing the youngsters closer to plantlife. At schools, groups of young naturalists were formed, in the out-of-school sector special institutions called the “Houses of Young Pioneers and Youth” with nature study departments and even “Stations of Young Technologists and Naturalists” have been established, both under the leadership of experienced or at least enthusiastic pedagogues. The strong promotion of the mitchurinism led to a priority orientation at gardening and farming in their activities: more intensively in some (particularly the USSR and Czechoslovakia), less in some other countries of the East European political block.

Fortunately enough, the Lysenko`s pseudoscience had almost no detrimental impact on nature conservation (with the exception of a certain harm done to the protected areas in the USSR during the Stalin`s and Khrushchow`s reign in the fifties.)

In Poland and in the USSR strong nature conservation NGOs with some tradition have existed: Liga ochrony prźyrody (League for Nature Conservation) in Poland, Bcepoccийcкoe oбщecтвo oxpаны пpиpoды (All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation) in the Russian Federal Republic. (The first one has been more independent, the second one more controlled by the Communist Party.) Both boasted a massive membership, and both had special youth sections and youth groups. The Russians, for example, organized the so called зeлённыe патpyйли (Green Guards): groups of youngsters practising nature study as well as pragmatic conservation activities. In Czechoslovakia Hlídky ochrany přírody (Nature Conservation Patrols) were organized by the ABC magazine (see the footnote2).

A popular form of outdoors nature study was the so called “expedition” – camps or trekking in the countryside sometimes also connected with a sightseeing of the cultural heritage. They were carried out by the Houses of Young Pioneers and Youth in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and Czechoslovakia, and by the Young Pioneers’ groups and also by school classes in the USSR.

Almost all above activities could have been carried out only in the framework of the communist and their young pioneers youth organizations or under their supervision, but in many cases they did manage to escape the political control or even to fight it successfully[4].

Independent groups of young naturalists existed at some East European universities: in Estonia, Jaan Eilart[5] founded in 1958 at the university he was teaching in the “Tartu Students’ Conservation Circle” as the first nature conservation NGO in that country; at the Greifswald University, GDR (Eastern Germany), there existed in the early 60s’ the students’ ecological “Jean Lamarck Working Group” with Michael Succow[6] as one of the leaders. Because of the contemporary political situation in those countries, any broader international cooperation (with the West) was impossible.

The first Nature Conservation Youth Camp in Czechoslovakia

With the intention to establish some constituted body to become potentially a Czechoslovak member organization of the IYF, making stronger contacts feasible, and enabling more young Czechoslovakians to get involved in international nature conservation, the National Commission for UNESCO in Prague convened during his visit in 1959 a meeting of the IYF President with representatives of the international department of the Central Committee of the ČSM (Československý svaz mládeže – the Czechoslovak Union of Youth[7]). (As already explained above, this had been the only way how to achieve a more intensive cooperation.) Unfortunately, the negotiations collapsed totally after when Jacques de Smidt had compared the ČSM with the German Nazi Hitlerjugend.

Jan Čeřovský continued his participation in IYF activities until 1960, when he was 30 – an age to be an “old sock” for the IYF. Inspired by his previous experience in the IYF camps, assemblies and courses, however, he had a strong wish to launch similar events in Czechoslovakia. There had been quite a few ones held in the late 1950’s, but all for the youngsters up to 15 years. It was necessary to start an action with young people aged over 18 - as he had experienced with the IYF. In 1959 Jan Čeřovský started to work in the Nature Conservation Section of the State Institute for Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature in Prague. After some vain tries with the ČSM, an idea did strike him: why not to organize youth nature conservation activities by the Institute he worked in? A working group has been established in the framework of the Institute.

In 1963 the above group organized the first Czechoslovak youth nature conservation camp. The site selected was a place called Čingov in the East Slovakian karstic highlands Slovenský raj (Slovakian Paradise)[8]. The local arrangements were perfectly cared for by Arnold Tóth[9] , the sponsorship granted by the State Institute for Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature in Prague jointly with its sister Slovak Institute for the Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature in Bratislava. Both institutions besides the necessary finances provided logistic support as well as delegated their scientific staff members to act as lecturers, workshop and excursion leaders. The recruitment of participants was made through Czech and Slovak universities (asked to delegate their students interested in nature conservation), and among the young professionals as well as volunteers under 30 years of age working in or with the State Nature Conservancy. Also two high school students and one young worker attended. The total number of young participants was 36.

The camp lasted from June 28 to July 8, 1963, with a rich programme of lectures, discussions, workshops, field excursions and some research work. It was opened by Jaroslav Veselý (see the footnote1). The participants have approved a resolution appreciating the camp, and also requesting more opportunities for youth education and activities in nature study and conservation. The document has been distributed among many relevant institutions and some points have almost immediately met their implementation. All participants later have kept their devotion to nature conservation, and many of them have become prominent scientists and nature conservationists.

Although held at a national level only, the camp was also attended by one foreigner – John C. Boyd[10] from the USA, a biologist, fresh graduate of the Harvard University.[11]

As a follow-up of the event, similar camps were organized by several first camp’s participants in 1964 at a regional level: in the South-Moravian and in the East-Bohemian Regions. Their chief sponsors were the regional centers of the State Nature Conservancy.

Independently, a group of youngsters, mainly high school students, interested in nature study and conservation was established and developed their activities in East Bohemia, based at the Regional House of Young Pioneers and Youth in the regional town Hradec Králové. It was organized by the staff members of the House: particularly Eva Nováková[12] deserves to be mentioned here. The scientific leader of those activities and the real spiritus agens was František Procházka[13]. Most of the members of that group have later become leading scientists (botanists in particular) in Czechia, but also in some other countries after their emigration (f.i. in the USA).

First International Contacts among the East European Young Nature Conservationists

The Čingov Resolution has also requested to enable the young Czechoslovak conservationists international contacts.

First event was organized by the working group at the Prague Institute using the services of the Travel Bureau of the Czechoslovak Union of Youth. 36 young people, most of them participants in the above mentioned camps, traveled – at their own personal costs – to the USSR. They have visited Moscow, Leningrad (the present Sankt Peterburgh) and the capital of Ucraine – Kyev. A specialized programme was organized, after a previous agreement, by the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation. The excursionists visited relevant institutions in the above cities, were hosted by the Administration of the Prioksko-Terassnyi Zapovednik (Nature Reserve) near Moscow, and could study interesting boreal lake and peatbogs in the vicinity of Sankt Peterburgh. As it will be described later, the contacts established have also been beneficial for the later involvement of Russians in IYF actions.

In 1965 Jaroslav Veselý and Jan Čeřovský were invited by the West German Verein Naturschutzpark (Nature and National Park association)[14] to attend the European Conference organized by the Association in the framework of its Annual Assembly in Lübeck, FRG, in May 1965.

At the Lübeck event the contemporary IYF President Antje Rückert – a German university girl student, as well as Henry Makowski[15] were present. Jan Čeřovský did not hesitate to profit from this meeting a renewed and enlarged contact with the IYF for his country. First of all, he has ensured the possibility of young conservationists from Czechoslovakia to be invited to the IYF Lüneburger Heide Course (initiated and directed by Henry). In the years 1966 – 1969 about a dozen of young Czechs and Slovaks have passed that course[16]. Antje had agreed to invite to the next IYF Annual Assembly and camp in Austria in August 1956 two Czech young conservationists as guests. Moreover, an idea emerged, to organize, in cooperation with the IYF, i an international youth conservation camp in Czechoslovakia as the first East-West meeting.

In July 1966, the first Czechoslovak group of young conservationists had crossed the Iron Curtain – again thanks to the IYF. As a result of the contacts made in Evo 1958, Jan Čeřovský with a small group of his students spent wonderful inspiring days in a summer camp of Luonto-Liitto (Finnish member organization of IYF) under the midnight sun in the Lapland.

At the time of the camp in Lapland, Jan Čeřovský already had been entrusted by the IUCN to look after the IYF.[17] The last preparatory works for an international camp to be held in Czechoslovakia were under way.

East meets West in Czechoslovakia 1966

With a strong support by the Czechoslovak National Commission for UNESCO (already acknowledged several times in this paper), the Czech and Slovak Institutes for Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature pushed through the organization of an international youth conservation camp in Czechoslovakia, to be held in the summer of 1966, in a close cooperation with the IYF, as the first camp of its kind behind the Iron Curtain.

Profiting from the experience made by the first national Czechoslovak camp, Čingov in the Slovakian Paradise (Slovenský raj) has been chosen as the place of the “Ist Czechoslovak Intercamp”. Again, as three years ago, Arnold Tóth ensured good logistics, again staff members from the State Nature Conservancy, particularly from the both most important organizing institutes, served as expert lecturers. The preparatory works and the meeting itself was run by a Czechoslovak Committee, most members of which (including the President Zdeněk Černohorský[18] and the Secretary Jan Čeřovský) attended the whole event. A financial support from the Czech as well as the Slovak Ministries of Culture enabled the participation fee be kept very reasonably low.

The participants met in Bratislava during the 20th August 1966. The date and place was fixed for the reason that many traveled to the camp via Vienna from the just finished Xth anniversary IYF General Assembly in Austria. After sightseeing in the Slovak capital, visits at the Science Faculty at Comenius University and in a nearby nature reserve, the participants moved on August 22nd by bus and cars to Čingov, the place of the camp. Accommodation was in tents, meals served and meetings held in a local restaurant.

The camp was attended by 44 young people coming from 12 European countries. From the East: 1 came from Bulgaria, 3 from the German Democratic Republic, 2 from Hungary, 4 from USSR – the Russian Federation, 2 from Yugoslavia; from the host country there were 14 young Czechs and Slovaks. The Western participant scope: Austria – 2; Belgium – 1 (IYF Information Officer Eric Corijn); Federal Republic of Germany – 5; Finland – 4; the Netherlands – 2; UK – 4 (including the new IYF President Jonathan Holliman).

The programme consisted of meetings – both formal and informal - in which the participants learned about the state of nature conservation in the countries represented, and about the youth involvement in these activities. They also have been informed about international cooperation, among the young naturalists/conservationists and their groups in particular. Besides short local field trips, whole-day excursions led to the Slovak Karst close at the Hungarian border, and to the bilateral Slovak/Polish national parks Pieniny and High Tatra. The last one – to the High Tatra National Park – culminated by a closing barbecue on the “Bear Meadow” in the park.

The participants have arrived at three general, but very true conclusions: nature conservation really is an urgent matter of international importance; a good global protected area network has to be created within a broader international scope and cooperation; it is necessary for young people to joint efforts in nature study and conservation. The lectures and discussion at the camp have provided some tangible highlights for the implementation of the above objectives.

At the end, the participants endorsed a closing resolution. This pointed out the need of nature conservation to spread all over the world, and of international contacts and understanding supporting this goal. They expressed their appraisal of the camp as a base and tool of future contacts and cooperation. They also expounded their admiration for the natural and landscape beauties and values of the area of the Slovak Paradise pleading for its careful protection in the interest of the whole mankind.

The whole meeting, finished on 3rd September 1996, was held in a cordial friendly as well as hard working atmosphere. The official languages of the camp were English and Russian. Much interpretation was needed, also in other languages, particularly due to the weak linguistic knowledge of the participants from the East.

Generally, the camp has been a great success opening new international contacts, as it will be described below.

Camps in the East do continue

After the success of the Czechoslovak Ist Intercamp, an idea has emerged to make such camps a tradition and organize them at least every second year, always in a close cooperation with the IYF.

Thus the Czechoslovak IInd Intercamp has been prepared to be held in summer 1968. In the meantime, the Intercamp idea has received a strong support from the Czech Ministry of Education thanks to Ms Danuše Kvasničková[19], at that time specialist in the Research Institute for Technical Schools in Prague, where she started her strong involvement in environmental education.

The Czechoslovak IInd Intercamp was ceremonially opened by a social evening held in Prague on the17th August 1968 under the sponsorship of the Czech Education Minister. After sightseeing in the capital of Czechoslovakia, the participants moved to the Krkonošský (Giant Mountains) National Park in North-East Bohemia, Czech Republic.

The number of participants has not been as high as at the Ist Intercamp. The meeting was attended by 21 young people coming from 10 different European countries. This probably has been caused by some people afraid of a potential military conflict between the host country enjoying the “Prague Spring”, and the Socialist Block led by the USSR and threatening the “brother country” by intervention. Alas, those fears have not been unsubstantial, and the Soviet military occupation did happen just in the midterm of the camp, on August 21st.

In spite of this painful event, the IInd Intercamp did continue until its planned end on the 1st September 1968. The participants visited some sites of interest in the National Park, listened to lectures, conducted discussions, and did some practical field work. The activities were run by the elected head of the “Campcommittee” Georges Bechet[20] from Luxembourg in four different languages. The mutual understanding was very good, and at the end the participants expressed their appreciation of all the support provided by the Krkonoše National Park Administration. At this place a gratitude should be contributed to Václav Veselý[21], one of the Czechoslovak torchbearers of the cooperation with the IYF in the late sixties.

From 2nd to 16th August 2009 the All Russian Society for Nature Conservation held at Khopersk State Nature Reserve (zapovednik) its IInd All Russian Seminar on Nature Conservation. This time the working meeting has been organized as a seminar with international participation. The chief of the seminar was Alexander - “Sasha” Innozemtsev,Vice-President for youth activities of the All Russian Society for Nature Conservation. Sasha had been head of the USSR group of 4 members at the Czechoslovak Ist Intercamp in 1966. The seminar was attended by 69 young people from Russia, some of them from very distant places in Siberia. A certain number of foreign guests from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and UK has been recruited mainly through IYF channels.

Hein van Bohemen[22] wrote about the Seminar:

A very intensive programme was devoted to the theoretical fundamentals of nature conservation, protection of flora, legal base of conservation in the Russian Soviet Republic, landscape, water and fish conservation, the role of state nature reserves in the system of conservation measures, dissemination of conservation ideas among the general public, land reclamation after exploitation of mineral resources. The presentations were based on studies made beforehand. The information was up to date, such as the presentation about the heat island effect in large Russian cities. This issue has recently become a global problem: data about this topic were already available 40 years ago!

The seminar has given a full review of nature conservation in the Russian Soviet Republic, besides that offered an exchange of information between participants from western and eastern European countries.

Besides the presentations and discussions, a lot of field excursions were oriented at study of forest- and rock steppe vegetation, forests, lakes, rivers. We also met with conservation clubs in villages and towns, were introduced to the state of agricultural lands suffering from an enormous soil erosion in the region. The visit of a beaver breeding center was of an eminent interest.

The main working language of the seminar was Russian, but foreign participants were divided into groups with two interpreters which stimulated the exchange of ideas.

Just at the time of the Russian seminar going to its end, some participants moved to Slovakia, to attend the IIIrd Czechoslovak Intercamp. This was held from 15th to 30th August 1969 in the Slovak TANAP – (High) Tatra National Park under the sponsorship of the East Europe Committee of the IUCN Commission on Education[23]. It was organized as a youth prelude to the international conference “National Parks – Benefit to Mankind” organized by the Tatra National Park Administration, the Slovak State Nature Conservancy, and the IUCN (Commission on Protected Areas) at the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the National Park`s establishment.

The camp developed along the traditional agenda scheme with lot of excursions within the Tatra National Park as well to the bilateral (Polish/Slovak) Pieniny National Park, and also some field work restoring footpaths and woodland in the park. The camp was closed by a two days conference pointing out the need of more young people getting involved in nature conservation, combating the lack of relevant education in some European countries. Special themes were, due to the site of the camp and the following conference, the impact of recreation on natural values and the relations between national parks and young people. It has been concluded, a better cooperation between conservation bodies and educational organizations – both governmental and non-governmental – was needed.

The camp was attended by 33 young people from 5 different countries. Most of them were of course the Czechoslovaks – 17; the second most numerous group came from Romania – 6. The West was represented by 5 Dutchmen- and women (including Hein van Bohemen), and 3 British (with Jonathan Holliman). 2 young conservationists were delegated from Bulgaria. The camp leaders from the host country were Štefan Homza[24] and Radek Roubal[25].

The good participation from Romania has reflected in the Ist Romanian International Youth Camp on Nature Conservation 1970. The Dutch participant Hein von Bohemen (see the note22) wrote about it: “The camp took place in the Retezat National Park. It was attended by students from the Romanian Nature Conservation Circle (Cercul de ocrotirea naturii) as well as young people from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Netherlands and United Kingdom. The main programme were full or half-day excursions to study the flora, vegetation and fauna of the area with an almost virgin natural environment. Also presentations about items concerning science, nature conservation and management problems in general took place.

East Europeans at IYF assemblies and conferences

For those lucky young people from Central and Eastern Europe who had been able to attend in late sixties and early seventies IYF actions, that opportunity has been a great benefit in their professional as well as personal growth. For many of them it has been the first trip abroad, particularly if the place of the event had been in the West, the first meeting with a broader scope of foreign colleagues as well as with already famous older scientists and conservationists. They have acquainted new broader knowledge in the field of their interest, they visited sites before familiar from books or films only. They have seen the real world not always corresponding with what they have been officially told in their home countries. In newspapers and journals they published reports about their experience, spoke about it in public presentations as well as in private talks. Like the western IYF members, almost all of them have become top specialists in their later life careers: the impact on this by IYF cannot be denied. At international meetings, new contacts have been established, some friendships made have had a lifelong endurance.

The most numerous group among them were young Czechs and Slovaks. As already pointed out above, they even were in the position to develop initiatives beneficial for their colleagues from other countries in that part of Europe. During 1966-1969 young people from Czechoslovakia regularly attended, thanks to invitations from the organizers, the IYF Lűneburger Heide course. Czech and Slovak observers and guests took part in the yearly IYF General Assemblies in 1966 (Salzburg, Austria), 1967 (Oxford, UK, combined with then international conference on nature conservation and youth), 1968 (Kuusamo, Finland) and 1969 ( Eisden, Belgium). There even were plans to host the 15th General Assembly of IYF in 1970 in Czechoslovakia: some more details about this collapsed project will be given in the last part of this paper.

It indubitably has been the Czechoslovak initiative which had brought people and organizations from several other countries to their contacts with the IYF. Russian delegates took part in the General Assemblies in Oxford, UK, 1967, two Russians were present in Kuusamo, Finland 1968: the latter GA was also attended by two Romanians.

Much efforts were developed to get an adequate participation from Central and Eastern Europe at the International Youth Conference on the Human Environment cosponsored by IYF at the Mac Master University in Hamilton, Canada, August 1971. In spite of promises made by the Czechoslovak SSM – Socialist Union of Youth, the Russian Lev Konstantinovitch Shaposhnikov[26] and several other influential bodies and persons, only one single participant from East Europe did arrive – Tanyo Michev from Bulgaria[27].

Another potential candidate was Jan Dobrowolski[28] from Poland, at that time young assistant at the University of Science and Technology in Cracow, scientific leader of the Polish National Summer Schools on the Human Environment organized since 1968 as students` camps. Unfortunately, he did not manage to get his Canadian visa in time. He was able, however, to attend the International Youth Organizations` Environmental Seminar in Geneva in November 1971. Here he entered into personal contacts with leading IYF officers and started a cooperation: Jan Dobrowolski and some of his Polish colleagues attended the IYF General Assembly in Sweden 1972 as well as some other meetings.

The quick rise and fall of the Czechoslovak membership in IYF

As already described above, in the second half of sixties Czechs and Slovaks were on top of the cooperation with the IYF in Central and Eastern Europe. The wish has emerged again to become regular members of the IYF. But the problem was: who should be the member? There was no relevant organization to apply for membership.

Finally, the problem has been solved by creating a body with a long name – the Czechoslovak Coordinating Committee for International Cooperation in Out-of-school Activities of the Young Naturalists. The Committee was attached to the Research Institute for Technical Schools in Prague with Danuše Kvasničková (see the note19) as Secretary General and contact person, and leaders of such activities all over the country as board members. The body has been registered in 1968 as IYF member under the somehow clumsy name “Czechoslovak Co-ordination Committee for International Co-operation in the Sphere of Interested Activities of the Youth in Natural Sciences”. Štefan Homza (see the note21) were the chief representatives of the Czechoslovak member organization of the IYF.at the General Assemblies in 1968 (Finland) and 1969 (Belgium). The key supporting points of the Committee were the centers of out-of-school education and activities – the Houses of Young Pioneers and Youth and the Stations of Young Naturalists, run jointly by the Socialist Union of Youth and the Ministry of Education.

In late sixties, the IYF President Jonathan Holliman visited several times Czechoslovakia (once with Eric Corijn from Belgium) attending meetings, camps (such as the “Nature Conservation School” in North Bohemia run by the State Nature Conservancy), and visiting some groups (such as the young naturalists` club in the regional town Hradec Králové, one of the strongholds of the Czechoslovak IYF member). In January 1969 he announced the establishment of a “IYF Regional Centre” in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava[29]. The whole thing, however, has proved to be a short-lived bubble.

The growing enthusiasm for working together with the IYF, led in Czechoslovakia to the project of holding the IYF General Assembly in 1970 in the country. The site was chosen in the Protected Landscape Area Jizerské Hory (Iser Mountains) in North Bohemia, and the preparatory works pretty advanced. The Central House of Young Pioneers and Youth in Prague[30] was charged to be the chief organizer. It remains rather obscure, why at the last minute this institution has canceled the project, in spite of a strong support expressed by the Czechoslovak National Commission for UNESCO. (The rescue came from the Netherlands, where the 1970 General Assembly was held on the isle of Terschelling, this time with no young participant from the East.) Probably the strongest reason has been the so called “normalization” - a restrictive process after the short period of the “Prague Spring” returning the political situation in Czechoslovakia back into the rigorously communist times when some closer cooperation with the “capitalist West” has again become undesirable. The Coordinating Committee ceased to continue as a IYF member, all the promisingly started and developing activities faded out rather suddenly.

An epilogue

In 1974, however, green groups of young people in the Czech Republic under the name of the Hnutí Brontosaurus – Brontosaurus Movement began their work in the framework of the Socialist Union of Youth, and similar initiatives have grown also in other countries in Central and East Europe. Gradually they have been in the position to get involved internationally within the Regional European Section of IYF – the YEE – Youth and Environment Europe. In 1982 YEE has separated as an independent international federation – anyhow, in the framework of the IYF. Since 1994, the seat of the YEE Headquarters is Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic – doesn`t it sound symbolically?



[1] Dr. Jaroslav Veselý (1906-1985) was the most prominent conservationist in the former Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was the first Director of the State Institute for Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature in Prague. (The Nature Conservation Section of the Institute has become member of IUCN in 1958.) From 1956 to 1967 Dr. Veselý was member of several IUCN Commissions, 1960-1966 he served as Vice-Chair of the IUCN Commission on Education.

[2] “ABC mladých techniků a přírodovědců” (ABC of Young Technologists and Naturalists) has been founded under the leadership of Jan Čeřovský in 1956 and published in Prague in Czech since 1957, first as a monthly, later two weekly environmental magazine for youngsters. Starting with 50,000 copies it has soon become (from 1970 under the leadership of Vlastislav Toman and Karel Dunda) the most popular periodical for youth in Czechoslovakia achieving a number of almost 300,000 copies in the eighties. In early nineties, the publication has been acquired by the Ringier company, and subsequently changed into a yellow journal with strongly decreasing number of copies.

[3] Trofim Denisowitch Lysenko (1898-1976), President of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the USSR, was a biologist rejecting the genetics and promoting by force a pseudoscientific biological branch called “mitchurinism” after the Russian self-made gardener and plant breeder Ivan Vladimirovitsch Mitchurin (1855-1935) who often has been regarded as a parallel to the American Luther Burbank (1849-1926).

[4] The most strict control was executed in Czechoslovakia – at that time the most ardent satellite of the USSR. Before the communist takeover in 1948, the best nature study and conservation activities had been led by the Junák – the Czechoslovak branch of the Scout movement. This organization had been forbidden and accused of “servicing the western imperialists”. The stupid party bosses suspected every activity carried out in the free countryside be “scouting”, and even persecuted its leaders. Besides that also some rules for camping in the country were quite ridiculous: during the 1956 Young Pioneer Expedition “To explore the Treasures of the South-Bohemian Ponds” (which now are Protected Landscape Area and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) the children in the tents were allowed to sleep only in beds higher than one feet above the ground “for health care reasons”.

[5] Prof. Jaan Eilart (1933-2006) was a prominent Estonian botanist, conservationist and promoter of the Estonian culture. He also participated in IUCN activities: 1982-1990 he was Chair of the East Europe Committee, IUCN Commission on Education. His funeral in 2006 was attended by the President of Estonia.

[6] Prof. Dr. Michael Succow (*1941), a prominent German botanist and conservationist has received in 1997 the Right Livelihood Award – also called the Alternative Nobel Prize.

[7] Československý svaz mládeže – The Czechoslovak Union of Youth was an organization for young people in the age of 15 to 26 years. Its part was the Pionýrská organizace – the Organization of Young Pioneers for children of 9 to 15 years of age. After the Communist takeover in 1948 it became the only permitted youth organization, and all young people were forced to become members. The organization also had been officially described as “reserve manpower fund for the Communist Party”.

[8] Slovenský raj (Slovak Paradise) is a unique limestone and dolomite area up to 1,545 m a.s.l. with many excellent karst phenomena: about 350 caves, but particularly many deep canyons with waterfalls up to 65 m. It maintains an exceptionally rich biodiversity within natural ecosystems, mainly undisturbed forests covering 90% of the area. In 1964 it has been declared the first Protected Landscape Area in Slovakia, in 1988 upgraded to National Park. The National Park covers 19,763 ha plus a buffer zone of 13,011 ha.

[9] Professor Arnold Tóth (1911 - 2008) was a geologist teaching at the High School of Mining in the East Slovak district town Spišská Nová Ves. He served as voluntary Commissioner of the State Nature Conservancy, and has gained big merits in the promotion of the Slovak Paradise and its declaration for the first Slovak Protected Landscape Area. He was bearer of many high awards by the Slovak Mountain Rescue Service.

[10] John C. Boyd has at the camp made an acquaintance with a Slovak girl student, and later has married her. They settled for some time in Switzerland, where John had continued his biology studies in Geneva; both were in lively contacts with the IUCN Headquarters. Later they moved to England, UK, where John has tragically perished in a car crash.

[11] The camp – a quite unusual event at that time – gave rise to an interest by the local police. Some zealous local “comrades” informed the police that in the Slovak Paradise a meeting of antisocialistic hooligans was held, even with the participation of an American imperialist. It took some hard efforts to explain the real situation to the local authorities.

[12] Ms. Eva Nováková (1924 - 2003) was working in the East-Bohemian Regional House of Young Pioneers and Youth as staff member in its nature study department. She was an exceptionally charismatic personality skilled in organizing activities and evoking interest in nature study and conservation. In 1975 she was invited to head the Department of Education in the Krkonoše (Giant Mountains) National Park Administration, where she has worked very successfully until her retirement in 1993. In 1994 she founded, and until 2001 directed in the regional town Hradec Králové the Natura viva foundation supporting the nature conservation education of young people.

[13] Ing. František Procházka (1939 - 2004) graduated at the University of Agriculture in Prague and has become one of the most famous Czech botanists during the second half of the 20th century. He also was a keen nature conservationist: 1963-1986 he worked as head of one large department of the Czech Krkonoše (Giant Mountains) National Park Administration. In 1967 he was member of the Czechoslovak delegation at the IYF international conference and assembly in Oxford, UK; the following year 1968 he attended the international course in the Lűneburger Heide, Germany. In 2002 he was awarded the Prize of the Czech Minister of Environment – also as an appreciation of his meritorious past involvement in the work with young people.

[14] The President of the Verein Naturschutzpark was Dr. Alfred Toepfer (1894 - 1994), the famous Maecenas of nature conservation activities, also a keen supporter of the IYF during its first 15 years.

[15] Henry Makowski (*1927), a famous German ornithologist, conservationist, writer and film-maker, has been one of the chief initiators of young conservationist movement in Western Europe during the early fifties. He established, with a generous support by Alfred Toepfer (see note 14/), the International Conservation Youth Course in the Lüneburger Heide which he for many years served as its leader.

[16] The invitees were chosen and proposed by the above mentioned working group at the Prague Institute, later by the Czechoslovak Coordinating Committee for International Cooperation in Voluntary Out-of-school Activities of Young Naturalists. In the mid sixties, in Czechoslovakia it had been possible for individual citizens to be allowed to travel to the West upon a personal invitation. Some course participants were supported (travel costs and leave) by their organizations (young professionals), others were ready to pay the trip themselves, and to make it during their holidays (mainly students).

[17] At the IX th General Assembly of IUCN (Luzern, Switzerland, June 1956) Jan Čeřovský has been appointed Vice-Chair of the IUCN Commission on Education with the IUCN-IYF cooperation being a part of his responsibilities.

[18] Dr. Zdeněk Černohorský DrSc., (1910 - 2001), Professor of the Charles University Prague and at the time of the meeting the Dean of the Science Faculty, a prominent Czech botanist and pedagogue, was in 1966 Chair of the Scientific Council of the Prague State Institute for Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature (the chief organizer of the camp). His name similar to that one of the Committee`s Secretary led to numerous confusions, until the participants solved the problem by a simple rule: “Černohorský is the old gentleman looking like a young one; Čeřovský is the young guy behaving like an old man.”

[19] RNDr. PhDr. Danuše Kvasničková (*1935) started her life career as high school biology teaacher. Since 1968 she started to work at the national level in pedagogics of science and environmental conservation. Particularly because of her excellent elaboration of school curricula of the above subjects for all levels of formal education, she has achieved an international fame. Author of many text-books, TV-programmes etc., she received the UNEP Global 500 award, and the prize of the Czech Environment Minister.

[20] Dr. Georges Bechet presently is Director of the Musée National d'Histoire naturelle (National Museum of Nature History) in Luxembourg.

[21] Ing. Václav Veselý (*1937), a forest engineer by training, was one of three first officers of the Krkonoše (Giant Mountains) National Park Administration (established in 1963). At the end of the sixties, he was the leading Czech representative at the IYF: he attended the Lũneburger Heide Course, and the IYF General Assemblies in Finland 1968 and Belgium 1969. In 1969 he was board member of the Czechoslovak member organization of IYF. In 2007 he retired from the post of Head of the Park`s rangers.

[22] Dr. ing. Heinrich Diederik Bohemen (*1946) of the Netherlands is an internationally recognized expert in ecological engineering. At the break of the 1960's and 1970's he was one of the IYF leaders, particularly responsible for IYF's contacts with Eastern Europe.

[23] The East Europe Committee (EEC)of the IUCN Commission on Education was established during and international conference on conservation education in Prague and in the Krkonoše (Giant Mountains National Park.. (At the conference Jonathan Holliman was present as representative of the IYF). The first leading officers of the EEC were Prof. Dr. Tadeusz Szczeşny from Poland as Chair, (Ms) Ing. Mária Lexová from Czechoslovakia as Secretary. Although attached to the IUCN Commission on Education, this first organized international conservation body in East Europe dealt with matters broader than education only. In 1993 all the subregional Committees of the present IUCN Commission on Education and Communication have been united into one European Regional Committee.

[24] RNDr.. Štefan Homza (1939 – 2009) was a geologist, 1966 – 1976 working as nature conservation officer in the Slovak Ministry of Culture (at that time the Slovak national department with competence in nature conservation). In late sixties, he was the Slovak contact person with the IYF, attended the IYF General Assembly in Finland 1968.

[25] Dr Radek Roubal (1920- 1989) was lawyer and an enthusiastic nature conservationist. 1955-1961 he worked professionally in PR in the Tatra National Park Administration, 1968-1981 he was officer in the SÚPSOP – Slovak Institute for Protection of Monuments and Conservation of Nature in Bratislava.

[26] Lev Konstantinovitch Shaposhnikov (1915 – 1979), Russian ornithologist and conservationist, Secretary of the Nature Conservation Committee, USSR Academy of Sciences, later Director of the Central Nature Conservation Laboratory, USSR Ministry of Agriculture, held from 1960 to 1978 the post of Chair, IUCN Commission on Education.

[27] Tanyo Michev (*1939, a prominent Bulgarian ornithologist and conservationist presently is Associated Professor at the Central Laboratory of General Ecology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

[28] Prof. Dr. hab. Jan Wincenty Dobrowolski Dr. h.c. (*1945) is an internationally recognized specialist in interdisciplinary studies on more efficient primary prevention of environmental risk factors for human health. He is professor at two universities in his native town of Cracow, Poland, and served as visiting professor at 12 universities in Europe, Africa, America and Asia.

[29] See IYF Information Sheet, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 1969.

[30] Two young ladies working in the Central House of Young Pioneers and Youth in Prague as leaders in the Science Department were delegated to the Lüneburger Heide Course 1969 to get some knowledge about IYF and the international youth activities and cooperation in nature conservation in general. Their institution, however, did prefer the cooperation with another international agency which was in the position to offer more lavish events than IYF had been. This also might be one of the reasons leading to the collapse of the IYF project.

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