Thanks to the lovely and ever thought-provoking mckaysmonkey - in particular her latest post about Zelenka and how his timeline intersects with the Velvet Revolution and the fall of comunisim, I have finally figured out a head!cannon for Zelenka.

Now, I've always been enamoured with the idea that Zelenka was part of some sort of underground movement in Czechoslovakia before the end of the Cold War, nevermind the fact that this really makes no sense, given the kind of revolution that occured there. So, while my dad insisted on watching Top Gear in my room (the only one with the TV at the moment), I surfed the web, looking through anything even peripharily related to Czechoslovakia and the Velvet Revolution for something subversive that Zelenka could have been part of.

After all, as speranza has one of her characters say about Zelenka in her epic, "Written by the Victors," "I asked him how he could possibly have turned against Earth, but he just laughed and said that after Prague, revolution was maybe a way of life for him now." That really rung true for me about Zelenka's character.

Add to that the fact that, while it is possible that he has military training (see mckaysmonkey's history above), he's not a very militaristic character. If he was part of a revolution, it was less taking up arms or even rioting in the streets, but, again, something subversive. Quiet. Secret. Hidden. Very hidden, so he could get enough schooling to eventually get to Atlantis.

And then I found it, smack dab in the middle of S12 E4 of Top Gear while looking for possible answers on my iPod:

Zelenka was a samizdat. (Or, at least, the writer thereof. I'm not sure of the proper terminology.)

Anyway, samizdat, according to wikipedia:
[...] a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. This grassroots practice to evade officially imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.
This was particularly popular amongst the intelligentsia, which Radek would've been more or less a member of, had he been a student at the time, as mckaysmonkey's timeline would suggest. So Zelenka could've been part of this movement somehow - perhaps as some sort organization like Charter 77, or maybe just among a group of friends/collegues/students at his university. IDK. Only that it seems to me to be a brilliant idea, rather in character for what we know of Zelenka.

*steps off soapbox* So, thoughts?

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thanks. because it has now offically settled into my head!cannon, along with what school this all means he's likely to have gone to, when he had to join the Stargate program, and all sorts of other sundry that was just *waiting* to slot into place.
Isn't it nice when things fall into place like that? XD I wish they did for me more often, but it's a great feeling.
My own head!canon for Radek always had him pushed towards his schooling by the gov't, in an effort to grow their own geniuses, and him becoming a part of the samizdat movement. As a 'show-piece' for the gov't I see him doing some traveling to conferences and such, which allowed him to make connections with people from other (freer) countries, giving him continued access to texts which he would then feed into the samizdat network. To facilitate his efforts, other members would have helped him learn the skills to keep him safe, from hiding the material to protecting himself (thus giving him military-based training without actually being in the military).

Sometime during the confusion of the first days of the Velvet Revolution, I see him being caught out by an extremist and his samizdat companions helping him to flee, fearing for his safety. As the regime had held him up as a symbol he would be at a greater risk than most, to curtail the embarrassment to the gov't. The connections he'd made at the conferences spirited him to safety in the US, only to discover that the revolution had unexpectedly been successful and, most likely, he hadn't needed to run. After living so long always looking over his shoulder, and not being there to see for himself the changes happening, he never felt comfortable going back, always being afraid that he would still be considered a traitor. He ends up working for the American military (who've always had quite the hard-on for Communist dissident scientists) and winds up at Area 51.

Radek's ability to stand up to Rodney when needed always said to me that he'd been a dissident. When we've heard him speak of his home he always seemed wistful, as though he wasn't completely sure he should have left and doesn't really think he can ever go back - even if he survives whatever crisis is going on at the time!
true. so very true. the only part I have issue with is the question did Rodney and Zelenka know each other before the Atlantis Expedition? If so, then this works very well. If not, what was Zelenka doing all those years before?

It's not you. It's a SGA-in-general sort of issue. Le sigh.
I know that McKay's inability to remember people's names is legendary, but he does manage to remember them after enough exposure and he barely seems to know any of the scientists, except by reputation, at the start of the expedition. This leads me to think that he'd always been kept apart from the others.

I know that Rodney was working at Area 51 prior to us meeting him in 48 Hours, but I've always found it rather telling that he was brought into the SGC by Simmons and the Trust. My assumption was always that, though Rodney believed he was working for the Air Force, the Trust had been purposefully keeping him separated from the SGC 'tainted' scientists (which, let's be honest, wouldn't have been difficult to do with his personality) and grooming him to work as their own pet scientist.

After the debacle during 48 hours, Hammond exiles him to Siberia. This never sat well with me - it just doesn't seem to have really rung true for Hammond's character to have come up with on his own. Hammond was always about dealing with problems in house, not foisting them off on others. However, once the Trust had realized that Rodney's usefulness in showing up the SGC scientists and providing an excuse to take over was limited, it does make sense that they would be quite interested in having someone they thought they could control involved in the program of the only other people on Earth who had a Stargate. If they had suggested to Chekov that this scientist could be used in Siberia and Chekov brought it up with Hammond, then I could see Hammond being willing to go along with the exile. Fortunately for Rodney, he was so busy being miserable about his exile that he never even noticed their attempts to manipulate him, and fairly quickly the Russians gave their gate to the US anyways, at which point Rodney was (mostly) written off by the Trust as too much hassle, all without ever realizing that he'd ever truly been on their radar.

After the events of Redemption Rodney returned to Area 51, still chastened at being shown up by his 'mental inferiors'. This embarrassment, combined with his usual difficulties in dealing with people means that he slips back into his previous role at Area 51, thoroughly isolated from everyone else even though the Trust is no longer keeping him that way. By the time the expedition is put together the only people he has gotten to know in anything more than a passing way are Carson, who's the only doctor who was willing to deal with his hypochondria, and Elizabeth, who sought him out ~because~ he was the anomaly in the crowd. She was impressed enough by him that when tasked with putting together the expedition, she chose the incredibly brilliant loner to lead the scientists, not only because of his qualifications but also in an attempt to force him to join the world.

All of which means that yes, Zelenka was working at Area 51 at the same time as Rodney. No, they didn't actually know each other. Radek, with his background of connections and cooperation (I do quite like the idea of his whole family being samizdat) would have been a part of the group at Area 51, as is shown by his familiarity with the other scientists. They would have known of each other, in passing at least, but not in the way they got to know each other and become friends once they were on Atlantis.
The way I see it, there could've been up to two years between Rodney's Russian exile and the start of the Expedition. (As he's sent back to Russia at the end of "Redemption".) While that would probably be enough to explain how/why he doesn't know a lot of the international scientists, as the IOA didn't really become truely international until after the Battle of Antartica, I sincerly doubt that someone was brilliant as Radek could have gone completely unnoticed by Rodney if they were both working at Area 51 for a long period of time together.

I do sincerely like your idea of Rodney working for The Trust and not realizing it, and do see a lot of merit in your idea he was kept apart from the others. But, no matter how much they kept him apart, he'd still need to work with others at some point or else even he would notice there's something going on.

As mckaysmonkey points out, the Czech Republic didn't join NATO unitl 1999, and given that Zelenka is always refered to as a "Czech" and not a "Czech-American," I find it highly likly that Zelenka never "defected" to the US and therefor couldn't have joined the Stargate Program any sooner than that. Likely later, as the Stargate Program's so super-top secret that the US didn't even reveal the existance of the program to France, China, and the UK until after the events of "48 Hours," which takes place in early 2003, if we assume the air dates roughly coincide with the events on the show.

I guess what I'm getting at is: I doubt that Zelenka gets to Area 51 before mid-2003, when Rodney's already in Russia. Rodney remains in Russia, with the exception of the events of "Redemption," which have him at the SGC, until some point after the events of "The Lost City." IE, mid-2004. So I find it highly unlikely they ever worked together before "Rising."

But I think I might have to steal your working-for-the-Trust idea. It fits in really well with my pre-series head!canon for Rodney.
Okay, I was mis-remembering. I thought Rodney'd stayed in the States after Redemption. My bad.

A possible way to make it work (I just can't seem to square Radek's demeanour when discussing his homeland with still being welcome there) is that Radek didn't make it as far as the States when he fled, but ended up in Britain, or somewhere like that. Never gave up his Czech citizenship but also never felt completely safe returning. When the possibility of joining the Stargate program came up, after the UK was read into it, he jumped at it as a way to represent his country without the risk of actually being within its reach. Which fits with him joining Area 51 in mid 2003, and gives McKay the peripheral knowledge of him (due to limited info sharing within the programs) that Rodney seems to have in the premiere ('that Czech guy, what's his name, Zed-something).

Oh, and steal anything you want. I'm pretty sure it's part of my job description, anyway. (wanders off to check the fine print)

Edited at 2012-06-24 04:08 am (UTC)
eh, it could be that, being on Atlantis, he's not sure he'll ever get to Earth again, let alone back home. Or maybe he just had a big falling out with them and hasn't seen them in a long time. IDK. You've got a point here, I'm just not sure how we make it fit.

Oooh, what about this:

For Zelenka to go as far as he did with his schooling inside a communist state, he had to be pretty good at not drawing attention to the fact that he didn't agree with the party line. But the mere act of going as far as he did with his schooling there (presumabily) and being (again presumably) so very good at it that it would make him the 1 person the czechs seem to have contributed to the program drew attention to him anyway. So maybe he got to be put on some pedestal as a "good little communist" even when he was sneaking samzidat behind their backs.

So then the revolution comes and, despite the fact that his inner circle knows the truth, the majority don't and think he really was a "party liner," or something like that. Not enough to get him arrested or exiled, but enough to make going home unpleasant, or, at least, uncomfortable. This could even be specifically related to some specific people in power at the time the Expedition started.


As for the stealing... well, one day I need to write Rodney's pre-AJ'verse story, so as soon as I figure out the method I want to use to do that... well, you may have something else to beta. Sorry about that.
This all started with a theory about Radek's behavior in Tabula Rasa.

Have you considered the possibility that Radek had family members in the samzidat or charter 77 (assuming they lived in Prague?)

government sanctions against known members of charter 77 included:

dismissal from work
denial of educational opportunities for their children
suspension of drivers' licenses
forced exile
loss of citizenship, detention, trial and imprisonment

Hence we need to consider if our timeline involves Radek's parents, (or it could be a sibling, uncle or cousin) being discovered.

Option 1: Either the family are exiled or Radek escapes after the arrest of his parents.

The most common route for refugees was to cross the boarder to Yugoslavia by car, then travel to Greece, Austria or Italy.

Radek could have ended up in Britain or France before joining the SGC.

Option 2: Radek grows up with a family involved in the samzidat. He learns how to blend in to avoid suspicion and on occasion has to hide from the authorities.

This leads to the timeline I've suggested. Radek may have done a minimum mandatory national service prior to university. Based on the timeline he probably never took part in actual combat.

Radek meets up with other members of samzidat movement at University, and gets involved in the movement that precipitates the Velvet Revolution.

Given a lack of other options, I'm largely assuming some of the actor's personal history in this timeline - ie, born near Prague in '67 or so.

Option 1: I love this idea, I really do, and from what I've garnered on wikipedia, something like this may have happened with the actor. But, given his frequent mutterings in Czech and some of the stories he's shared over the years, I think option 2 is the more likely.

As for the minimum mandatory military service, from what I gathere Czechsolvia *had* it but it wasn't very well inforced in later years. There was a vaugely ROTC/national guard/reserve-like miltary component attached to the colleges, but it wasn't like anything you'd call real mitiary training from the cound of it. Either way, I agree any actual combat is ulikely.

Le sigh. The things we do for our fandoms.
Apologies for duplication, but I sent my first comment from email and couldn't find it (because it has been posted anonymously *head desks*)

Anyway to summarise I think we're nearly there, although one more point:

What if Radek's parents were in the samzidat (or charter 77), or maybe an uncle, cousin or older sibling? This fits with the timeline.

This leads to various possible outcomes including:

1. Radek's parent's arrested OR Radek's family exiled OR they become refugees. Radek flees country with relatives via Yugoslavia and grows up in exile.

2. Radek's family are active members of samzidat. Radek grows up learning to hide/blend in. (This means avoids being noticed and offered any special education).

The second option leads to my proposed timeline, with the addition that Radek meets up with students of samzidat families at university and becomes part of the movement himself.

Edited at 2012-06-23 02:04 pm (UTC)
1. While I see posibility in the refugee idea, I'm inclined to lean towards the other option, as Zelenka's idenity seems fully Czech, without colouring from time spent in other countries.

2. I like this. I like this a lot, and may possibily steal it.

and no prob on the duplication.
Yes the refugee option is not my preferred head!canon either. I like the idea that his family were in the samzidat though and that it coloured his childhood.

I am sticking with the military history because it fits with something I heard in the past. My mum was for several years a volunteer to host the musicians taking part in the Llangollen Eistedfodd, an international music festival. She met many young people from Eastern Europe and one young man told her that in his country, everyone had to do a year (or possibly two) of military service before they could attend university. So I can see that could have been true for Radek?

Incidentally, more than one of mum's guests gave her gifts of home made alcohol - which does seem to corroborate the legend of Zelenka's still!
and now the yard sale of doom is over, so I can answer properly!

I'm glad my samzidat idea seems to be catching on!

IDK about the compulsory military service, though. Yes, it existed, but from what I've been able to tell a large part of their training went on *during* university, and that there were several exceptions - including a civil service option. I've asked my military father what he knows about the subject and, sadly, it's surprisingly little in this regard - and to possibly query the Soviet model to be sure.

Basically, I don't think we'll ever know for sure unless we can track down a real Czech or a military scholar. Le sigh.

At least the legend of Zelenka's still has basis in fact! That's one thing that's become such a part of fanon I think that no amount of facts could ever change it!
Yes, it existed, but from what I've been able to tell a large part of their training went on *during* university

I like that - do you have a link to back it up?

Also I've been wondering about something - in canon there's a quote about the Zelenka family being poor (and his brother sets fire to their house with a candle).

In the wikipedia, I'm sure I remember reading that Czechoslovakia was relatively well off for an Eastern Bloc country. Maybe they were so poor because Radek's dad was a dissident who had his job taken away?

this is the only thing I've been able to find to back it up. IDK how reliable it is. But, from what I can tell, one of these existed at Charles University of Prague, which seems to have been the center of the Velvet Revolution and Charter 77, and has a pretty decent physics department. So... my canon is chosen.

yeah, there's that quote from "Tao of Rodney." It's entirely possible that Zelenka's father lost his job if he was a dissident. Or maybe they were just a particularly poor family. My reserach into Czech conscription returned less on military concsription and more so into forced labour in factories. Paricularly right around the time Radek was born. So I suppose it's also possible that when he was little something like that happened to him - and more likely still he was too little to remember it all to clearly, and so the story has been exagerated somewhat through the ages. Kinda like my dad's story about how he and my mom met. ;)
~Kinda like my dad's story about how he and my mom met. ;)~

Does it involve a bar and a mini-skirt? Or the phrase 'legs that went all the way to...'

Sometimes being truly treated like an adult by one of your parents just isn't as good a thing as it seemed.....

*shudders in horror*

Edited at 2012-06-24 04:11 am (UTC)
It involves a pizza parlor and love at first sight, and I've actually stolen the story a couple times and used it for people in my fics. It gets repeated every time we have pizza.

In fact, I didn't even learn the real story (which is surprisingly similar) until last year, and only then 'cause my brother was saying something about people in witness protection knowing more about their parents' pasts than we do.