In our Sunday Music Show this week, you’ll have a chance to sample some of the hits from the communist era. In those times, popular music was under a tight control of the authorities who made sure nothing ideologically subversive reached the audiences. At the same time, the cultural supervisors pushed authors to produce songs that would match the propagandistic needs of the regime, and the songs we’ll hear today are fine examples of just that. More
Current AffairsCzech Radio leads commemorations to mark 60th anniversary of Radio Free Europe broadcasts
The Czech Republic is preparing to mark the 60th birthday of the launch of Radio Free Europe broadcasts in Czech across the Iron Curtain to Czechoslovakia. The broadcasts were a key factor in telling people under communism not only what was really happening in their own country but also keeping them up to date about events in the West. More
About a hundred people met at the grave of former Czechoslovak communist president Klement Gottwald on Friday to commemorate the "Victorious February" events that brought the Communist Party to power in 1948. Members of the Communist Party in attendance praised the event as the beginning of the country’s most successful period economically and socially. Klement Gottwald headed the Czechoslovak Communist Party from 1929 until his death in 1953; he was prime minister in 1946-1948 and Czechoslovakia´s first communist president in 1948-53. In February of 1948 the party seized power after provoking a government crisis and began the nearly 42-year communist era in Czechoslovakia.
A special ceremony was held in Prague 6 on Friday honouring Czechoslovak officers who were sentenced to death after 1948 by the former Communist regime. February 25 marks the 63 anniversary of the putsch that saw the Communists come to power in Czechoslovakia, which they held until 1989. In a speech, the head of the general staff, General Vlastimil Picek recalled the events of 1948 saying that few had anticipated the rise of a second totalitarian regime following the Nazi occupation. After the Communists assumed power in February 1948, more than half of Czechoslovakia’s officers were thrown out of the service, often forced into poorly-paid jobs. In the worst cases, officers were imprisoned to hard labour or were tried on trumped-up charges and murdered by the regime.
Prague is remembering the long winter of Communism this week with an unusual multi-media festival called Mene Tekel. Hebrew for ‘the writing on the wall’, the festival – now in its fifth year - bills itself as ‘an international festival against totalitarianism, evil and violence’. Films, concerts, exhibitions and even reconstructions of Stalinist show trials are on hand in what the organisers say is an attempt to preserve the memory of the nation. More
In this week’s Czech History we look at the phenomenon of cross border agents, people employed by Western intelligence services to cross the frontier during the early days of the Czechoslovak communist regime to gather information, create networks and bring back chosen individuals. Some crossed the border many times, some were caught on the first attempt. For some the transient phenomenon helped launch them onto a new life, for others heroic, and not so heroic acts, ended with treachery, death and long terms of imprisonment. More
In related news, the MP and former head of the Communist Party Miroslav Grebeníček railed against the bill in the lower house on Friday, calling it a ‘political adoration of past terrorist acts’ and saying members of the resistance had often been ‘immature adventurers’. Mr Grebeníček, who led the Communists from 1993 to 2005, spoke for 60 or so minutes, drawing protest from government MPs, who then walked out. The passing of the bill on Friday was opposed by the Communists together with seven members of the opposition Social Democratic Party. Many Social Democrats, however, took issue with details in the bill or how it was formulated, even if they gave it their backing.
Czech lawmakers in the lower house on Friday succeeded in passing a bill recognising resistance fighters who opposed Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime. The bill passed in a first reading. Under the proposal, members of the third resistance could receive the status of war veterans and receive compensation accordingly. Compensation would be based on the level of past activity, and eligibility would be determined by the Defence Ministry in cooperation with the country’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. InThe bill will now be debated by committees in the Chamber of Deputies over three months instead of the regular two.
Current AffairsGovernment plans to slash communist security officers’ pensions, increase those of dissidents
The Czech government wants to correct some of the injustices inherited from the communist regime. Twenty years after the fall of communism, coalition leaders agreed to a plan to slash the retirement benefits of former communist security service officers and high ranking Communist party officials. The funds should be used to increase the pensions of opponents of the former regime. More
Czechs gathered at Prague’s Olšaný cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to student Jan Palach who set fire to himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of 1968 and reversal of the reforms that sparked it. Jan Palach made his protest on January 16, 1969, and died of his injuries three days later. His funeral in Prague a week later was a mass demonstration against the invasion and the ‘normalisation’ that followed. Palach’s remains were taken from the Prague cemetery in 1973 by authorities and moved to his home village outside Mělnik, north of Prague. They were returned to Prague in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime.