The Institute of Contemporary History (USD) is an integral part of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Its function is to undertake primary research into post-1938 Czech and Czechoslovak history in the international context. Within this overall objective, the thrust of the enterprise has changed over time with the main focus of enquiry shifting from the study of key events in the political history of Czechoslovakia during the period of communist dominance, which was paramount in the first years of the Institute’s existence, to a multilayered exploration of contemporary history, which includes the sociological, the everydayness and mundane, as reflected in the lives and thoughts of the ordinary man or woman in the street, the economic and, as already mentioned, the international.
The Institute is now structured chronologically into three departments that together span the period from 1938 to the present, namely the Department of the Nazi Occupation and Building of Socialism, Department of Real Socialism, and Department of Late-/Post-Socialism. Since 2002, the Institute of Contemporary History has also comprised the Centre for the History of Sciences and Humanities. In parallel with the structure outlined above, there is another structure of smaller, flexible, sometimes ad hoc or temporary work teams and centres (Oral History Center, Centre for Studies of the Cold War and Its Consequences, Centre for Minority Studies, etc.).
Part of the Institute’s remit is to organize international conferences, specialized seminars, and workshops. Its scholars serve on commissions, and on the field and academic councils of many universities, academies and other institutions. Likewise, when called upon, the Institute cooperates with organs of state and regional administrative bodies. In terms of its role with the universities, the most extensive cooperation is with the Institute of International Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences and with the Department of Political Science of the Faculty of Arts (both Charles University in Prague), with each of which the Institute has embarked on long-term joint projects.
The Institute has its own unique library, which is open to the public and contains a wide collection of documents relating to contemporary history. This resource base is constantly being added to, particularly as far as post-1989 records are concerned. The Institute also brings out sets of books periodically, either at its own expense or in collaboration with commercial publishers. In 1993, the Institute started publishing the field academic journal Soudobé dějiny [Contemporary History]; since 2013, the English version – Czech Journal of Contemporary History – has been available as well. In addition, the Institute works in tandem with similarly oriented foreign institutions, with some of which indeed it has long-term cooperative agreements.