History of Prague Slets
Slets (Gatherings, Rallies, or Festivals) Celebrating Sokol Gymnastics and Culture
VI All-Sokol Slet, Prague ,1912
Slets are public displays of gymnastics, competitions, parades, and the arts, that last several days. “All-Sokol Slets” are international.
- Slets feature competitions in gymnastics, and some other sports.
- The beauty of mass calisthenics performed to music is featured on the last day of the Slet.
- International Slets are held every 6 years. •Between 1895 and 1920, Slets in Prague were held in Letná Stadium, which originally accommodated 30,000 spectators and by 1912, 120,000 spectators.
- Strahov Stadium, built in 1926, had a field accommodating thousands of gymnasts, and room for 135,000 spectators.
First two Slets (Gatherings, Festivals) in Prague: 1882 on Střelecky Island on the Vltava River and in 1891 on the Royal Game Reserve
Slet I. 1882
- Tyrš hailed this first Slet as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of Sokol’s first club, with a mass calisthenic display by 720 men; gymnastics competitors were from 40 teams; 1,572 men paraded.
Slet II. 1891
- The Czech Union Sokol (Česka Obec Sokolská or ČOS), founded in 1889, organized the Slet held at the Royal Game Reserve at the Vltava River (shown in photo). Mass calisthenics drills by 2,400 gymnasts from 206 clubs were witnessed by 20,000 spectators. Gymnastic competitors represented 291 teams, and a parade through the streets of Prague included 5,000 Sokols.
III All-Sokol Slet, Prague, 1895
(Letná Stadium); a Four Day Event
IV All-Sokol Slet (1901) in Letná Stadium
(First Slet to include women)
IV All-Sokol Slet held in Prague in 1901
A fighting spirit is evident in the poster displaying a strong man with a sword and the falcon (a bird of prey).
V Sokol Slet (Rally or Gathering) in 1907
(Poland did not participate because of Russia’s participation)
- The second Slet to include women; their number increased to 2,500 from 867 in the 1901 Slet; 7,600 men and 2,800 juniors participated.
- More than 100,000 spectators attended the Slet, which covered six days. Gymnastic competitions included low, intermediate and high divisions. Competitors and representatives came from 26 nations.
- 15,000 Sokols marched in the parade, and historical pageants were included for the first time. Note the woman with Indian clubs, which were becoming popular in this era.
Women gymnasts entering
the field for All-Sokol Slet V in 1907
The number of women participants increased 3-fold compared to Slet IV held in 1901. International competitions in gymnastics and track and field were held for the first time. The poster displays a man in a Sokol uniform, the falcon (Sokol’s symbol) and the Czech flag.
Letná Stadium: view from a water tower in 1912
(VI All-Sokol Slet)
Posters for the VI All-Sokol Slet held in 1912 (the last under Austrian-Habsburg Rule)
The middle poster is by the famous painter Alphons Mucha, originator of Art Nouveau.
VI All-Sokol Slet in 1912 in Expanded Letná Stadium
- 18,000 men
- 5,600 women
- 4,000 junior boys & girls
- 3,980 boys and girls
- 10 nations performed special drills
- 17,212 uniformed Sokols marched in the parade
VII All-Sokol Slet 1920: First Slet in the Newly Established, Free Czechoslovakia
- Five days of activities that included 36,000 marchers in a parade, attendance of President Masaryk, and 650 Sokols from the United States.
- An estimated 500,000 spectators at the various events.
- Participants: 23,000 men, 15,000 women, 13,200 juniors and children.
- This was the first Slet for Sokols from Slovakia, because under Hungarian rule Sokol clubs were banned prior to Slovaks and Czechs uniting in the new Czechoslovak State in 1918.
VII All-Sokol Slet in 1920 in the New Czechoslovak Republic
1926 VIII All-Sokol Slet in Newly Built Strahov Stadium
Growth of Sokol Slets during the 20th Century
Children performing calisthenics at the 1926 VIII All-Sokol Slet
1926 VIII Slet included Winter Sports, Swimming and Boating
1926 Slet: Junior girls performing calisthenics, and a gymnast competing on the rings
Posters for IX All-Sokol Slet held in 1932
In honor of the one-hundredth year anniversary of the birth of Sokol’s founder, Miroslav Tyrš
- 180,000 spectators
- 130,000 gymnasts
- parade with 65,000 marchers
- advanced gymnastic skills
- inclusion of the arts
- track and field events
American Sokol gymnasts participated in the 1932 IX All-Sokol Slet in Prague
- Winter sports competitions were held in Slovakia’s Tatra mountains, and other sports were added to the Slet, e.g., women’s 8 and 25 km run, and fencing, pentathlon, and decathlon.
- The Slet featured displays of advanced gymnastic skills, and many special numbers with hand apparatus.
- An American Sokol practices on the rings on a ship sailing across the Atlantic (photo from Janice Polz)
1932 IX All-Sokol Slet Honoring Founder Tyrš
X All-Sokol Slet in 1938
1938 X All-Sokol Slet
Two-time World Gymnastics Champion, Vlasta Děkanová
Women performing drills with ribbons at the 1938 Slet
1938 X Slet: Junior Boys assembly in preparation of a calisthenic drill
1938: A Free Czechoslovakia celebrates its independence, a year before Germany’s invasion of Bohemia and Moravia
“To success X All-Sokol Slet
Sokol upbringing gained us our independence
Sokol upbringing maintains us
1938 X Slet: Mass calisthenic drill performed by Junior girls
XI All-Sokol Slet (Rally) 1948: A Celebration of World War II Liberation
All-Sokol Slet in 1948
Sokols celebrate the reestablishment of their
organization following the end of World War II
- The photograph (by Karel Šmirous) of a festive march through Prague, reveals the importance of parades as components of Slet festivals.
- In the 1948 Olympics, held in London, the Czechoslovak, Sokol trained, women won the gold medal in gymnastics.
- However, the Czech and Slovak people lost their freedom soon after the Slet, because the Communist seized power in Czechoslovakia and Sokol was banned.
- The next Slet did not occur until 1994 (5 years after the revolution ended Communist rule).
1948 XI All-Sokol Slet in Prague
1948 XI All-Sokol Slet in Prague
XI All-Sokol Slet (Rally) in 1948 was the last Slet in Prague until 1994, due to Communist Party rule 1948-1989.
First Post-Communist Era Slet, 1994 (XII All-Sokol Slet in Strahov Stadium)
XIII All-Sokol Slet (2000):
women performing mass calisthenic drill.