Alois of Lichtenstein and Constantin Kinský to receive gold medals

12. 11. 2019 -

Mendel University in Brno, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, will award gold medals to Alois of Lichtenstein and Constantin Kinský on the occasion. The ceremony will take place on 14 November in the assembly hall of Mendel University in Brno. According to the university Rector Danuše Nerudová, the gold medals will be awarded "in recognition of the laureates' contribution to the advancement of science and education, sustainable agriculture, forestry and rural culture". She added that both laureates will receive the medals as the representatives of families that are connected to the history of MENDELU and have been working with the university on a long-term basis.

Tomáš Knoz, who is the co-chair of the Czech-Liechtenstein Commission of Historians, says that "long-standing" and "continuity and discontinuity" are phrases that one often hears in connection with the Lichtenstein family. For centuries, one of the typical Lichtenstein continuities has been caring for the natural environment and the landscape, which they have tried to use, transform and refine sensitively, both through natural features and through architecture, while bringing them closer to people through tourism and other initiatives. "They have been ever aware of the responsibility that we must maintain what was entrusted to us so that we could one day pass it on to our successors," says Knoz.

Alois, Hereditary Prince of Lichtenstein, was born in 1968 as the eldest son of Hans-Adam II, the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. The history of Mendel University in Brno is connected to the Lichtenstein family in many ways. For example, Johann II, Prince of Liechtenstein, who owned the Lednice-Valtice estate, allowed Emil Bayer, the then-professor at the Agricultural University (now Mendel University in Brno), to use the "Pond Chateau" building on his grounds to build a biological research and education station for Czech universities, and he asked that the station serve as a public research facility. He also gave his permission for the study of the local ponds and rare species of fauna and flora.

The university forest enterprise Masaryk Forest in Křtiny manages a property that used to belong to the Lichtenstein family, whose forest managers were systematically creating mixed forests. "In the era of climate change, our foresters are continuing this tradition. At a time when forests in many places wither, our university forest enterprise provides an example of more resilient forests on a scale which is rare in the Czech Republic. And these forests were planted at the time when the estate was managed by the Lichtensteins," notes Nerudová.

Knoz thinks that conferring the gold medal on Alois of Lichtenstein can be considered to be a thank you to the previous generations of his family for all they have achieved in proper management and sensitive landscape interventions, adding: "And this comprises not only the family members who inspired this approach but also their architects, artists, foresters, farmers and gardeners who implemented it. Mendel University in Brno, which manages a large area of former Lichtenstein property, is aiming to follow in their footsteps and return discontinuity back to continuity. It follows the tradition of using and cultivating the landscape of Brno and Lednice so that it can be passed on to following generations in good condition."

The Kinský family, who will be represented at the ceremony by Constantin Kinský (born 1961), are another example of good forest and landscape management. They manage 750 hectares of ponds, an area of forests close to Žďár nad Sázavou and run an agricultural business. "The forest property of the Kinský family around Žďár is a great example of excellent long-term care for the landscape and monuments in the Vysočina region and of serving the public," adds Nerudová.

Radoslav Jiří Kinský, Constantin's father, had a long professional relationship with MENDELU; he was also a MENDELU graduate and a member of the scientific council of the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology (FFWT). Since he passed away in 2008, the university has continued to work with his heirs and especially with Constantin. The Kinský family are one of the most important FFWT partners and their forests are used for teaching and training students. They also participate in the activities of Pro Silva Bohemica, an association of foresters and people interested in forest health, who apply and advocate the extended use of natural processes in forest management. "Ever since their property was restored to the ownership of the Kinský family in 1993, the family have been cooperating with our university in both research and education and endeavour to apply the latest findings in the management of their forests," adds Nerudová.

The November gold medal award ceremony is one of the main events of this year's MENDELU centenary celebrations. It has been scheduled apart from the other ceremonies because there is a complex protocol that has to be adhered to. Other centenary events this year included the ceremonial session of the scientific council on 14 October, where the university awarded memorial medals to 16 researchers and research institutions who achieved outstanding results in advancing the university, science and knowledge. Among the laureates was Professor Ivar Otruba, one of the most famous Czech landscape architects. The MENDELU centenary celebrations will culminate at the end of January when the English geneticist Sir Paul Maxime Nurse will receive an honorary doctoral degree from the university. The British researcher is a laureate of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of key regulators of the cell cycle.