Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

by Zbyšek Šustek, Historical Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences

The system of Czechoslovak passports, as gradually formed in the between war period, included four categories of passports – the usual, provisory, diplomatic, and since 1927 also the special passports (Fig. 1). They were to be issued to the persons traveling abroad on behalf of the Czechoslovak authorities but not having diplomatic status. However, they were used exceptionally and, unlike other between war passports, they exist only in one model. In 1944, the Czechoslovak exile government in London ordered the printing of new passports in Bradbury & Wilkinson´s security printing office, according to the pre-war models (Fig. 2). These passports were also issued shortly after the liberation when a short period of improvised passport models followed. In this period, the first new special and diplomatic passports obtained the form of a simple paper sheet (Fig. 3). Shortly later, steps to considerably improve the shape of the Czechoslovak passport were undertaken. The first was, in late 1946, the usually sophisticated passports that overtook some protective and decorative elements known in the then British, Romanian or Hungarian passports. In 1947, the special and the newly introduced service passports followed. They were somewhat simplified in comparison with the new usual passports, which appeared to be too complicated for manufacturing, but they got a representative outlook (Fig. 4). The service passports of this model were bound in beautiful black leather.

Doubtless, these passports had a perspective of a long life, but unfortunately, the passport policy of Czechoslovakia radically changed in 1949. In connection with it, all earlier valid passports were canceled since 30 September 1949. Therefore, the new model of the diplomatic and service passports was issued only one year in a minimal number. The special passports continued to be issued until 1991. In the period 1949 – 1991 altogether nine models and varieties of special passports were used (1949, 1953 a, b and c, 1959, 1961, 1965, 1971, 1982). Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

The special passport of the 1944 model was given on 16 July 1945 to the outstanding and worldwide highly respected Czech violist, composer and music conductor Rafael Jeroným Kubelík (* 29 June 1914 in Býchory near Kolín in East Bohemia; + 11 August 1996 Kastanienbaum near Luzern in Switzerland). His father was a violist and recognized his son’s talent and developed it. Already at the age of 19 years, R. J. Kubelík debuted as a violist in the Czech Philharmonic and 1934, conducted it for the first time. In 1942 he became its director. But in 1944, because of his refusal to greet Karl Hermann Frank, the Reichsminister for Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, with the Nazis salute and to conduct Wagner’s music, he was forced to conceal until the liberation. In 1946, officially at the 50th anniversary of founding the Czech Philharmonic, but unofficially also to commemorate the liberation in spring 1945, he founded and conducted the Prague Spring music festival. In 1948 he emigrated to England. In emigration, he directed, just, for example, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1950 – 1953), The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (1955 – 1958), and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1961 – 1979). After 1985 he was forced to reduce its artistic activity because of severe arthritis of the back. But in spite of this handicap, after the change of the political system in Czechoslovakia in November 1989, he accepted an invitation to conduct the Czech philharmonic at the festival Prague Spring in 1990. However, it was his last conducting of an orchestra. On this occasion, he was named Doctor honoris causa of the Charles University in Prague. Besides it, the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Order, one of the highest Czechoslovak and Bohemian civil orders introduced after 1990, and honorary citizenship of Prague were awarded him. Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

Kubelík´s special passport (Fig. 2 and 5 – 12) reflects his enormous artistic activity in 1945-1947. During two years, he undertook 14 journeys abroad to conduct the orchestras (Tab. 1). These journeys lasted 4-38 days, and sometimes a tour followed immediately after the precedent. Altogether he spent during these two years 184 days abroad, hence a quarter of the time. Four times he visited England and the Soviet Union, once Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, and Poland. To the adjacent countries and Belgium, he traveled by train or car to a more remote destination by plain. Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

His passport much illustrates the then passport policy of Czechoslovakia that was very restrictive from security and economy reasons. Most passports were issued only for one journey to one country and for a short time. In spite of the prominent personality of R. Kubelík and the character of his professional activity, his special passport was initially being issued with the validity of only four months. Later it was three times prolonged, the first time for six months, the second time for one year, the third time for three months only. It was typical for the immediate post-war time, but objectively it is to be sad that a more extended prolongation had not any sense in this case. On 30 May 1947, the date of the last extension, only very few free pages remained in his passport, and R. Kubelík had to ask a new passport. In connection with this, he had to give back the full passport to the Ministry of foreign affairs as the issuing authority (see the note on the frontispiece). Correspondingly with it, the title page was stamped with the text: Passport is given back marked as “invalid” and deposited (Fig. 2)

Probably the Kubelík´s next passport was that, with which he emigrated in 1948. Remarkable is also the annex recording the money with which he traveled. Among 14 journeys, he got money officially only for four tours and in minimal amounts, once of 30 pounds, once 2 pound and 10 shillings, 300 Denmark crowns or 442,50 Belgian franks (Fig. 12). Hence, mostly, he had to travel with a corresponding reserve of food. Perhaps some money he got from his host or the hosts ultimately paid his stay costs. Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

Summary of 14 journeys of R. Kubelík undertaken in 1945 – 1947
LeavingBorderReturningCheckpointTransportDestinationTransit Days
1945 08 12Ruzyně1945 08 27RuzyněPlainEngland 16
1945 08 30Ruzyně1945 09 07RuzyněPlainSoviet Union 11
1945 09 24Ruzyně1945 10 01RuzyněPlainSoviet Union 7
1945 12 18Ruzyně1946 01 08RuzyněPlainSoviet Union 21
1946 01 18Ruzyně1946 01 28RuzyněPlainEngland 11
1946 07 05Ruzyně1946 07 25RuzyněPlainEngland 21
1946 10 18RuzyněMissingRuzyněPlainFrance 5
1946 10 24Ruzyně1946 11 05RuzyněPlainSoviet Union 13
1946 11 08Ruzyně1946 11 23RuzyněPlainEnglandSwitzerland 16
1947 01 06Petrovice1947 01 11.PetroviceTrainPoland 6
1947 02 18Cheb1947 02 27ChebTrainBelgiumGermany, France 10
1947 01 31Ruzyně1947 02 03RuzyněPlainDenmark 4
1947 04 22Mikulov1947 04 26HalámkyCarAustria 5
1947 05 25Ruzyně1947 early AugustMissingPlainAustraliaSingapore, Calcutta 38

The passport also illustrates how complicated and time consuming traveling abroad was at that time. Besides the regular visas, there are stamps of registration of his stay in the Soviet Union and an additional exit visa to live from the Soviet Union or stamps of local authorities (Indian, Burman) during his longest journey to Australia in summer 1947. In Belgium, in spite of his honorable status, he had to ask the labor permit for 11 days (Fig. 13) like any simple worker. Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

But shortly later, there also appeared another limitation that is not still reflected in this passport. Immediately before the change of regime in Czechoslovakia, the special exit visas (more precisely “exit permits”) were introduced. While in 1945 – 1947 everybody at any time could pass the border only with his valid passport, since 23 February 1948, with a short pause in Summer 1948, until December 1989 (sic!) each valid passport had to be “confirmed” before traveling abroad with a special permit, mostly just to a concrete journey. Its obtaining was so time-consuming as asking for a new passport. This practice was gradually abandoned as late as in 1964-1967 only in the case of the European COMECON states and (with devise limitations) of Yugoslavia, to which it was possible to travel freely.

Perhaps just such bureaucratic obstacles in traveling and the expected worsening of them were the very deciding motive for the frequently traveling R. Kubelík to emigrate on 17 July 1948, together with his wife (also a violist) and son (aged 22 months), on a journey to London, not only his aversion to the Nazis or “people democracy” systems as such. The Czechoslovak authorities sentenced him and his wife in 1953, in absence, for the illegal emigration. Still, in 1956, they pardoned them and offered them generous conditions, inclusively of free traveling abroad, if they would return. However, R. Kubelík conditioned his return with complete liberalization of going abroad for any Czechoslovak citizen, not only for him. He demanded this in the period 1949-1965, when the private journeys abroad could be allowed only as “exceptions” from § 2 of the valid Passport Act 53/1949, according to which “nobody had right to issuing, extension or prolongation of the passport.” Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

  1. Kuberlík´s decision to emigrate is, however, a little disputable. There was doubtless a risk of problems if he had staid or returned to Czechoslovakia. Still, the emigration did not save him from existential issues and problems primarily motivated by envy, which was often the principal motive of the ideologically masked issues of many people in Czechoslovakia. Probably in both cases, he would remain a successful and worldwide reputable musician.

Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík

Fig. 1. Czechoslovak special passport of the model 1927 cover and title page, green underprint with stylized folkloric ornament (Museum of Police of the Czech Republic, Prague)


Fig. 2. Czechoslovak special passport of the 1944 model issued to R. Kubelík, cover and title page, gray underprint with geometric ornament.


Fig. 3. Czechoslovak special passport of the 1946 model


Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík
Fig. 4. Czechoslovak special passport of the 1948 model


Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík
Fig. 5. Pages 2 and 3 with personal data


Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík
Fig. 6. Pages 4 and 5 with the date of issue, an extension of territorial validity and prolongations of the passport


Fig. 7. Pages 8 and 9 with Australian returning visa and Soviet entry visa


Fig. 8. Page 15 with the Soviet returning visa and page 19 with French visa


Visas Denmark and Belgium
Fig. 9. Pages 24 and 25 with Denmark and Belgian visas


Visas Germany, France to Belgium
Fig. 10. Pages 26 and 27 with transit visa through Germany and France to Belgium 


Visas India, Burma, Malaya and Australia
Fig. 11. Pages 29 with transit visa through India, Burma and Malaya and page 31 with visa for Australia


Money exchange entries
Fig. 12. Annex to the passport with money exchange entries 


Rafael Kubelík Belgian Labor Permit
Fig. 13. Belgian labor permit for 11 days for R. Kubelík, instead of a photograph a reproduction with the autotypic screen cut from a journal is attached 

Czechoslovak passport Rafael Kubelík