Czech Republic: Jára Cimrman, Inventor of Round Stamps (2014)

Czech Republic CP#0829 {26 Nov 2014)

Czech Republic CP#0829 {26 Nov 2014)

The Czech Republic (Česká republika), also known as Czechia (Česko), is a unitary parliamentary republic in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the northeast. The Czech Republic covers an area of 30,450 square miles (78,866 square kilometers), has 10.5 million inhabitants with the capital and largest city at Prague, with over 1.2 million residents. The nation includes the historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia.

The Czech state was formed in the late nineth century as the Duchy of Bohemia under the Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the center of power transferred from Moravia to Bohemia under the Přemyslid dynasty. In 1004, the duchy was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire, becoming the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1198 and reaching its greatest territorial extent in the fourteenth century. Besides Bohemia itself, the king of Bohemia ruled the lands of the Bohemian Crown, he had a vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor, and Prague was the imperial seat in periods between the fourteenth and seventeenth century. In the Hussite wars of the fifteenth century driven by the Bohemian Reformation, the kingdom faced economic embargoes and defeated five crusades proclaimed by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the whole Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Protestant Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) against the Catholic Habsburgs led to the Thirty Years’ War, after which the monarchy consolidated its rule, reimposed Catholicism, and adopted a policy of gradual Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian Kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire and the Czech language experienced a revival as a consequence of widespread romantic nationalism. In the nineteenth century, the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and were subsequently the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.

The Czech part of Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in World War II, and was liberated in 1945 by the armies of the Soviet Union and the United States. The Czech country lost the majority of its German-speaking inhabitants after they were expelled following the war. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the 1946 elections. Following the 1948 coup d’état, Czechoslovakia became a one-party communist state under Soviet influence. In 1968, increasing dissatisfaction with the regime culminated in a reform movement known as the Prague Spring, which ended in a Soviet-led invasion. Czechoslovakia remained occupied until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed and a multiparty parliamentary republic was formed.

On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, with its constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia is sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce, a reference to the bloodless Velvet Revolution of 1989 that led to the end of the rule of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the formation of a democratic government.

Since the Coat of arms of Czechoslovakia was a composition of historic geographic areas forming the country, each republic simply kept its own symbol — the Czechs the lion and the Slovaks the double cross. The same principle was applied to the two-part bilingual Czechoslovak national anthem that comprised two separate pieces of music, the Czech stanza Kde domov můj? and the Slovak stanza Nad Tatrou sa blýska. Disputes occurred only with respect to the Czechoslovak national flag. During the 1992 negotiations about the details of dissolution of Czechoslovakia, on demand made by Vladimír Mečiar and Václav Klaus, a clause forbidding use of state symbols of Czechoslovakia by successor states was inserted into the Constitutional Law about the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

From 1990 to 1992, the red and white Flag of Bohemia (differing from the Polish flag only by proportion of the colors) officially served as the flag of the Czech Republic. Eventually, after a search for new symbols, the Czech Republic unilaterally decided to ignore the constitutional law on dissolution of Czechoslovakia (article 3 of law 542/1992 says the “Czech republic and Slovak republic shall not use national symbols of Czech and Slovak Federative Republic after its dissolution.”) and to keep the Czechoslovak flag with an altered meaning.

The national territory was divided along the existing internal borders. Nevertheless, the border was not clearly defined at some points and, in some areas, the border cut across streets, access roads and communities that had co-existed for centuries. The newly born countries were able to solve the difficulties via mutual negotiations, financial compensation and, finally, an international treaty covering the border modifications. People living or owning property in the border area, however, continued to experience practical problems until both new countries entered the Schengen Agreement Area in 2007, after which the borders became less significant.

Initially the old Czechoslovak currency, the Czechoslovak koruna, was still used in both countries. Fears of economic loss on the Czech side caused the two states to adopt two national currencies as early as February 8, 1993. At the beginning, the currencies had an equal exchange rate, but later on, for most of the time, the value of the Slovak koruna was lower than that of the Czech koruna (up to ca. 30%, in 2004 around 25–27%). Starting on August 2, 1993, the two currencies were distinguished by different stamps first affixed to and then printed on the old (Czechoslovak koruna) banknotes.

The first stamps of the Czech Republic were issued on January 20, 1993. Before then, stamps of the Czechoslovak Republic were in use and were still valid until September 30, 1993. Stamps of the Czech Republic are inscribed Česká republika.

On January 1, 2009, Slovakia adopted the Euro as its currency with the exchange rate of 30.126 SK/€, and the €2 commemorative coin for 2009, Slovakia’s first, featured the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in remembrance of the common struggle of the Czechoslovakian people for democracy. By a quirk of fate, the welcoming speech on the behalf of the European Union on the occasion of Slovakia’s entry to the Eurozone was delivered by Mirek Topolánek, the prime minister of the then-EU presiding country, the Czech Republic, naturally in his native language while other guest speakers used English. The Czech Republic continues to use the Czech koruna, or crown.

The Czech Republic joined NATO on March 12, 1999, and the European Union on May 1, 2004. On December 21, 2007, the country joined the Schengen Area.

Today’s stamp was issued on November 26, 2014, and has a Česká pošta ordering number of 0839 and a WNS catalogue number (by the Universal Postal Union) of CZ037.14. The round multicolored offset stamp has a diameter of 35 mm and is perforated 12×12 accompanied by a unique atypical modification used as a security feature. Individual stamps on a print sheet of 25 are separated by a diecut between the perforation lines to make them easily detachable from the sheet. The non-denominated “Z” stamp was designed by Jaroslav and Michal Weigelovi with the typeface created by Petr Foltera. This seems to be a personalized stamp prototype under the theme of “My Own Stamps” with customized text relating to the fictitious story of “Jára Cimrman – Inventor of the Round Stamp”.

Jára Cimrman is a Czech fictional character created by Jiří Šebánek, Ladislav Smoljak and Zdeněk Svěrák, and is described as a “universal genius, inventor, sportsman, criminalist, poet, writer, and philosopher”, Jára Cimrman won the voting for The Greatest Czech in 2005 (only the fact that Cimrman is fictional prevented him from actually winning). He is presented as one of the greatest Czech playwrights, poets, composers, teachers, travelers, philosophers, inventors, detectives, mathematicians, amateur obstetricians and sportsmen of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Cimrman made his first appearance on a regular radio programme Nealkoholická vinárna U Pavouka (“The Non-Alcoholic Wine Bar chez Spider”) on December 23, 1966. Although the character was originally meant to be just a modest caricature of the Czech people, history, and culture, he became an immensely popular protagonist of modern Czech folklore, and an ersatz national hero. Cimrman is both the major character and the putative author of a great number of books, plays, and films. Žižkovské divadlo Járy Cimrmana (Jára Cimrman Theatre in Žižkov) is one of Prague’s most frequented theater houses.

The physical and facial appearance of Jára Cimrman past his childhood years is a great mystery, as (we are told) there exist no photos of his person. In some of many lectures on Jára Cimrman it was declared that from the few details known (a “T” as a remnant of him hitting his head repeatedly against a fence), a few hundred possible silhouettes were created.

According to his biographers, Jára Cimrman made extensive contributions to all of mankind in many areas. He proposed the Panama Canal to the U.S. government, while composing a libretto for an opera of the same name. He reformed the school system in Galicia. With Count Zeppelin he constructed the first rigid airship using Swedish steel and Czech wicker (the wicker being for the cabin). He was deported from Germany as an anarchist, his personal documents carrying a note that he was “a source of unrest.” This led the Swiss company Omega to offer him a job to improve the unrest – balance wheel – for their Piccolo line of ladies watches. (N.B. the Czech and German words for a watch’s balance wheel (“nepokoj”, “Unruhe”) mean “unrest.”) While in Switzerland, he introduced (and practiced for some time), under the difficult Alpine conditions, the profession of obstetrician. He conducted investigations into the life of Arctic cannibalistic (who eat their fellows) tribes; and once, while running away from the furious tribe, he missed the North Pole by a mere seven meters, thus almost becoming the first human reaching the North Pole.

In Paraguay, he supposedly created the first puppet-show. In Vienna, he established the school of criminology, music and ballet. He corresponded with G.B. Shaw for many years, but unfortunately the dogged Irishman never replied to him. He invented yogurt. He generously helped many great scientists: He carried on his own back the 45 tubs of pitchblende to the basement of Mr. and Mrs. Curie, he assisted Professor Burian with his first plastic surgery, he reworked the electrical contact on Edison’s first light bulb, and he found an sublet for Mr. Eiffel. He is the creator of the philosophy of Externism. Because of his enthusiasm for natural sciences, he discovered the monopole (as opposed to the then well known dipole), but this discovery fell into obscurity until it was bewilderingly revived by twentieth century economists. He is also known for having advised Mendeleev, after seeing the first draft, that the Periodic Table should be rotated to its current orientation. It is said that when Graham Bell invented his telephone, he found three missed calls from Jára Cimrman upon making his first connection.

Another one of his great inventions was also the internet itself, although without the widespread use of computers. Due to the technologies available at the time he had to rely on telephones. His internet basically consisted of an old circus tent where the maestro arranged the telephone apparatus for various pensioned high school teachers to answer all kinds of questions people asked. The well known WWW prefix as well originated here. One of the teachers’ name was Weber and since he stuttered, he introduced himself as “W-W-W.Weber.” His achievements in this field go even further, thanks to Mr. Šustr, who was responsible for answering biologically themed questions. Šustr answered every one by operating with field mice (African elephant’s weight was equivalent to 30,000 mice, a weasel was 1.5 times faster than a mouse etc.). This is the first recorded use of mouse as a peripheral in computer technology.

Czech Republic - postcard received 2016 (Postcrossing ID #CZ-590394)

Czech Republic – postcard received 2015 (Postcrossing ID #CZ-590394)

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