Constantin Kinský


“A Living Society is a Creating One”


Photo: Archive

The next interview from the series of nobility members brought me to the town of Žďár nad Sázavou. Count Constantin Kinský together with his wife Marie are in charge of the estate. The estate lies beneath the Baroque pearl of the St. Jan Nepomuk’s Church in Zelená Hora. It was also thanks to the intervention of Count Kinský’s father Radslav that the pilgrimage church was entered into the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage Sites. However, as the New Generation Museum shows, the estate is not there only to showcase history. The unique immersive multimedia exposition has been declared the best Slavic museum in Central Europe.

I decided to use the interview as an opportunity for a family trip. Have you ever stayed overnight in the Middle Ages watch tower, while having the 21st century comfort? I recommend it. There were many topics to be discussed but Mr. Kinský himself wished to talk primarily about education and the need to foster the Czech creativity. It is worth mentioning that our interview took place in the premises of the former Cadet Academy.

Mr. Kinský, allow me to start with a personal question. All nobility families have many branches and they are interrelated to one another. One of your cousins, František Kinský, a mayor and the owner of the estate in Kostelec nad Orlicí is famous for his TV series about the Czech nobility, your older cousin Ferdinand Kinský used to be a professor at the Nice University. How well do you actually know your family tree and all your relatives?

All of us don’t know each other personally, we do not meet regularly but when we meet, for example at various weddings there is a feeling that we belong together. We organised a family jamboree from all over the world and the rule to participate was to be born Kinský or have Kinský grandparents. Altogether, we totalled 360, the most far away came from Japan and Peru. Detailed lists mention 400-500 family relatives. It is really interesting to experience the feeling of belonging together even in such a large group. There is one more interesting element about belonging. One can belong to a homeland on one hand but have total freedom on the other hand. We perceive our roots as an enriching element, but we are not territory dependent.

Historically, we were defined via the close relationships towards local people on one side; on the other side, we longed for independence from any central power. Such attitude taught us freedom of thinking and within such context, the issue of boundaries is a truly relative one. I will add one funny family story about our relations, demonstrating how we make fun of each other. Those older ones, who were local and in charge of a property, received the title of a count and the younger ones, received the title of a prince and had to leave to Vienna to start a career. The younger ones often call us the “village peasants” while we call them “collaborators” with the central power.

How do you perceive the fact that the Czech population has been more interested and thus aware of the topic of nobility families, their patriotism and love for the country?

History is more important than we realize. Let us take the current economic crisis and compare the reaction of the USA and Europe. Americans have formed their attitude towards the crisis based on the 1929 events. Great depression brought deflation and the remedy for the economic recovery was seen in great investments, deficit budgets, designing grand projects and state debt. The economic approach according to John Keynes. In Germany, the same crisis resulted in hyperinflation. Therefore, the Germans learned a very different lesson. Balanced budget, strict budgetary discipline, no economic stimuli. I consider such approach, based on the theory of Friedrich Hayek, a catastrophic one. I believe that Europe needs to jump start and support economy and only after take care about deficit. Today, we are not making decisions based on our current needs, but based on emotions dating back to 1930s.

The sensitive topic of migration can serve as the second example. Such topic is truly really serious and deserves a strategy which is dignified, sensitive and based on facts. I do not want to say that we should have an open door policy for everybody, but any discussion of such theme is a very difficult one in the Czech Republic. Our perception of foreigners has been built on the image based on the Beneš decrees. Until the topic is settled, we cannot lead any rational debate about our relationship towards foreigners. The very fact that from 1938 until 1989, except for a very short period 1945-1948, we could not maintain standard relations towards the rest of the world, affects the current issue debate as a consequence. History is to inspire us; however, we have to liberate ourselves from the past.

A historical sight has a value only if it makes sense for both current and future generations. A historical sight bears values that can be followed upon. I will quote two complementary mottos that influence all what we do. “Our past is the source of future” and “The living society is the creating one”.

Let us address the creativity, your favourite issue…

I feel that the Czechs as a nation are being very successful, the unemployment is low; however, we need to invest in creativity more. It is needed not only to produce cars being designed abroad but to follow our rich industrial and creative tradition. The origins of creativity start at schools, including field trips where you have the chance to admire historical sights. Therefore, our museum is different, immersive and uses multimedia. I am a very big fan of arts but in a classical museum I get bored easily. Experiences are more valuable. So, in our museum, we make possible for you to meet both the founder of the monastery from 13th century, as well as those who made a big reconstruction in the 18th century, as well as the ones who are creating the value today. By the way, do you know that our ponds date back all the way to the 13th century? A lot of space is dedicated to the Baroque era. We claim that the Czech person has the origin in the Baroque era, he is just not aware of it.

The communists did not appreciate the Baroque era at all, they claimed it was the age of darkness.

On the contrary, I believe that Baroque was quite favourite period for the regime, as it was easily manipulated and it served the ideology. When you walk toward Zelená hora, at the end of your journey you can observe two ideologies: on one side, the estate, the Cistercian Monastery, ponds and on the other side there are large blocks of flats, also representing a certain ideology. I do not wish to criticise such shock; I want to understand it. Our approach to emotions was formed during the Baroque period, as well as our attitude towards life and death, verticality, working with light, with space, with landscape and other kinds of knowledge. Many have been influenced by Czech author Jirásek who coined the term as the age of darkness, but to be honest, how many people did actually read the original book?

The baroque era is a peak period of creativity. Just look around, the St. Jan Nepomuk Church is a truly unique creation in the world. The world view is very well reflected in nature around – it starts when you look at the cemetery, then the Estate including the farmstead, symbolizing both civil and laic life and then you see the Church, reaching to the sky. The topic of landscape preservation is very relevant nowadays, as people tend to behave according to their surroundings. When a town is a pleasant, comfortable place to live in, people tend to be well-mannered. Brutal spaces, on the other hand, initiate brutal behaviour. The landscape, in its very nature, is a connection between geography and history, between nature and a man. A historical sight, either a building or a landscape or surrounding nature, is a source for the future.

Let me ask you about the education system. With regards to creativity and industrial tradition, are you a supporter of technical education or do you also support humanities and arts?

When I was at Roland Berger consulting company, we carried out a research, asking CEOs across Europe about 10 criteria skills employees would need in 10 years. Can you guess what the number one was? Well, English. However, not as the first foreign language, but as the second mother tongue. The following eight criteria were represented by soft-skills, such as project thinking, team work, ability to solve complex problems, self- confidence and technical skills came as the last, the last-mentioned criterion. But what do we teach at schools? Primarily No 10. Of course, technical skills are needed but so are the others. Coincidently, our interview takes place at the Cadet Academy where education used to be quite complex. Students danced, fenced, while studying mathematics, geometry, physics, natural sciences as well as Latin, German, French or Italian languages. I support education based on natural talent, not on shortcomings. I can mention our program that teaches mathematics via movement, as an example. My wife was engaged in the program “The School Dances”. The school that was taking care of children with various learning disabilities asked a choreographer to join them to be able to teach mathematics through body movements. If I learn to feel mathematics through movement, the brain does not get blocked due to the fact that I do not know numbers or that I do not like them.

How do you perceive the new generation?

I am hopeful and worried at the same time. Our children’s generation is smart, they have vast knowledge, global interests and global thinking. They remind me of Adam and Eve from the myth of Genesis. They also had the knowledge and responsibility at the same time. We bear the responsibility for the whole world, it can take one push on the red button in the nuclear suitcase… Global warming might be another example. However, in a certain part of population, there are young people who have returned to tribal thinking. I do not speak only about the unsatisfied children of immigrants in France but also about xenophobic moods that can be witnessed in surrounding countries. And I do not know who will win the clash between the humanitarian approach to being open and the return to tribalism. I believe that the Erasmus program, designed for young students within the EU, should be extended also to students at vocational schools, so we could cultivate the feeling of interdependence and the art of cohabitation. By the way, this is a theme that connects both France and the Czech Republic.

Do you have any further dreams?

I would like to share with you my plan that I do not yet have the capacity to materialize. I would like to build the guild called “Smart Hand”, a parallel to our working pensioner scheme. Retired carpenters, bakers and representatives of other vocations would dedicate one afternoon per week to children who can learn the vocations. It does not matter whether children would later choose that vocation as a profession, but a lawyer skilled in carpentry would eventually be more successful as a lawyer. Some children can embrace technical education this way. It is a fact that when compared to an administrative worker, a carpenter is not afraid of making a living for the whole of his life. The next benefit might be in fostering inter-generational relationships which is possibly one answer to the risk of tribalism mentioned above. The last but not least benefit would be the enhanced quality of life for pensioners. Financing could be done through the pension scheme and the overall positive impact on society would be enormous.

By Linda Štucbartová