How is the play The Memorandum related to the communist system around Vaclav Havel's time? What did Havel express about society through the Ptydepe language?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The play The Memorandum satirizes the communist system experienced during author Valclav Havel's time with dictatorial measures enforced by Jan Ballas and even through the enforcement of the fictional language Ptydepe.

At the start of the communist regime one thing dictator Joseph Stalin did to purge Russia of any opposition is what we call "Russification." Russia was and still is composed of many different ethnic groups, speaking many different languages. Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, French had even been the language of the Russian court, spoken by all Russian aristocracy (Bristol University, "The History of the French Language in Russia"). The term Russification refers to the systematic purging of other ethnic cultures so that there was only one culture--Russian--and one language spoken--Russian (BBC, "Stalin--Purges and Praises"). To purge these other ethnic cultures, ethnic groups were literally forced to speak only Russian, just as we see the language Ptydepe being enforced in the play.

Other than satirizing the idea of enforcing a language, Havel satirized the communist regime's dictatorship. When Managing Director Josef Gross refuses to learn Ptydepe, the new official office language, in order to translate a memorandum, he is forced into submission by Deputy Director Ballas. Ballas's dictatorship satirizes Stallin's dictatorship.

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