Sixty years ago on Sunday, Radio Free Europe aired its first broadcast from Munich, to the then communist state of Czechoslovakia. Today, the radio station reports the news in 28 languages and 21 countries where a free press is either banned by the government or not fully established. Its broadcasts are often regarded as a rare source of objective information. The radio station was born out of an American government initiative in 1949; a test version of its program was broadcast from a van near the Czechoslovak border in 1950. Until 1995, Radio Free Europe was based in Munich, from where it was moved to Prague to cut expenses. In 2002, its Czech-language broadcasts ended after over half a century for the same reason.
Deep beneath the city of Prague is another city altogether, one that most people are completely unaware of, and that they’ll hopefully never see. It is a system of hundreds upon hundreds of concrete bunkers with their own electricity, water and ventilation systems awaiting the day that you might hear the air-raid sirens wailing. More
How did communist propaganda brainwash people? What were the most frequent words used in the communist press? And was it at all possible to learn any real news from the censored newspapers? These are some of the questions a team of Czech linguists is trying to answer in their Dictionary of Communist Totalitarianism. More
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.