Czechoslovakia played an active part in the Soviet Union’s propaganda war with the United States during the 1950s, a time of edginess and paranoia on both sides. There was no shortage of people trying to flee across the Iron Curtain to the West, but every now and then the flight would be in the other direction, and someone from the West would actively seek asylum in the Communist Bloc. For the communist regimes this was a propaganda opportunity not to be missed. More
The last communist president of Czechoslovakia Gustáv Husák became the symbol of the spineless regime that ruled the country after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Himself a political prisoner in the 1950s, he oversaw the persecution of opposition activists in the 1970s and 80s – an intellectual who supported the reforms of the Prague Spring turned into the Soviet Union’s lackey. We look at the life of Gustáv Husák on the 99th anniversary of his birth. More
Archbishop, later Cardinal, Josef Beran, become a symbol of opposition to totalitarian regimes. He was dubbed the archbishop who refused to be silenced. The punishment for speaking out was imprisonment first under the Nazi occupation and then the Communists. More
Even after the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Klement Gottwald in Czechoslovakia the 1950s remained a period of high political tension between East and West. The Cold War was at its height; with it came the arms race and the space race. Here is Czechoslovakia’s president Antonín Novotný, in a New Year radio address on January 1 1958: More
When Joseph Stalin died on March 5 1953, it sent shockwaves round the world. In Czechoslovakia his personality cult had been almost as overwhelming as in the Soviet Union itself. At the time of his death, work was already well under way to build the biggest statue of the Soviet dictator in the world – unveiled two years later in Letná Park. Stalin had a close ally and kindred spirit in the Czechoslovak President, Klement Gottwald, and Gottwald ignored warnings from his doctors in order to attend his friend and protector’s funeral. Before leading the Czechoslovak delegation to Moscow, he had a few words for his country’s citizens. More
The government has postponed by a month a debate on drafting a constitutional lawsuit against the Communist Party, after four studies by independent legal experts advised against such a move. The cabinet had asked the interior ministry to draft a proposal for banning the Communist Party on the grounds that its statutes and activities were in violation of the constitution but the ministry recently reported that it had failed to assemble enough evidence on which to ground such a request.
Less than a quarter of adult Czechs feel they are better off now than under communism, according to a new poll. The results, compiled for Czech Television by the poling agency SC&C, also suggest that three out of ten feel they were better off during the communist era. Respondents said that the most significant improvement since November of 1989 has been the offer of goods in shops and open borders. The greatest failures were given as coupon privatisation, the worsening of personal relations and the work of government offices.
The Ministry of Education is planning to pay out 100,000 crowns to students who were expelled for political reasons during the later communist era. Around 1,400 people are estimated to have been expelled as a result of political persecution between 1956 and 1989, often because of views expressed by family members. Nearly a thousand students thus disadvantaged during the major years of repression, 1948 to 1956, have already been compensated with a total 90.5 million.
On Thursday, November 17th, the Czech Republic marked 22 years since the start of the Velvet Revolution as well as the 72nd anniversary of the events of November 1939 which resulted in the closure of all Czech universities by the Nazis and reprisals against students and intellectuals. But many Czechs used the holiday to voice their discontent with the current government policies. More
On Prague’s Na Prikope street, in the very heart of the city –right next to McDonalds – is a Museum of Communism. What comes as a surprise to many locals and foreign visitors is that this private venture is the work of an American businessman who owns a number of bars and restaurants in the Czech capital. Glenn Spicker came to Prague 17 years ago, on a wave of interest in the post communist world. Unlike others he launched a successful business venture and stayed. As Glenn gave me a tour of the museum, he explained what made him branch out so far from his field of enterprise. More