Defence Minister Alexander Vondra is being investigated in connection with the case of the Mašín brothers whom he decorated for bravery in memoriam in August of this year. The Mašín brothers were part of a resistance group which fought its way out of communist Czechoslovakia in the hard-line 1950s. They killed several people on their way out, at least one of them pacified and unarmed, which is why their escape divides society to this day. Some brand them assassins, while others consider them heroes. Several people have reportedly filed charges against the defence minister saying that in decorating the Mašín brothers he had in fact approved and rewarded cold-blooded murder.
In the immediate aftermath of the political coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the communists were keen to give the world the impression that it was business as usual and that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. In this respect Radio Prague as the international service of Czechoslovak Radio was expected to play its part, and so the communists asked the handful of British nationals working for one of Czechoslovakia’s biggest companies to make a statement in English for the radio. As a result one of the British staff of the shoe-making giant Baťa, which had already been nationalized more than two years earlier, addressed Radio Prague’s listeners on March 1 1948, exactly a week after the communist coup: More
In last week’s programme we heard about the Communist-led government that emerged from Czechoslovakia’s elections in May 1946. Although the number of parties allowed to take part had been limited, Czechoslovakia was still a multi-party democracy. But the governing coalition was an uneasy one, with the non-communist parties pushed into ever greater isolation, while the communists, with the weight of the Soviet Union behind them, gained an ever stronger foothold. More
More than a hundred people gathered in the town of Čelákovice near Prague on Wednesday to commemorate Jaroslav Honzátko, a communist police officer who was killed by the Mašín brothers 60 years ago. Speakers at the event, which was organised by the Communist party, referred to the killing as a brutal murder and a terrorist act. The anti-communist resistance activities of the Mašín group have always sharply divided Czech society. The killing of Honzátko is their most divisive act, as the officer was unarmed and chloroformed when they slit his throat during a raid on a police station to obtain weapons. Ctirad Mašín, who killed him, died last month in the United States.
Prime Minister Nečas on Thursday defended the decision to award the late Ctirad Mašín with a distinction. Mr Nečas was responding to a Communist Party MP who wondered why the resistance fighter, who killed several people in escaping from communist Czechoslovakia would be awarded a distinction intended for “developing the defence and security of the Czech Republic”. The prime minister cited the act on the illegality of the communist regime and said that acts against it were morally justified and deserving of respect. Mr Nečas said the Mašíns’ attacks on a police station and vehicle were logical steps, as an effective fight requires guns and money.
In this edition of Czech History, we look at the life of Karel Kalivoda, one of the most successful and famous Czech police detectives of the 20th century. A self-made man in principle, Karel Kalivoda worked his way up from ordinary rank and file to the head of Prague’s criminal police. He made a number of compromises to get there – but he always retained a degree of integrity unusual for the time and place. More
The actress and obstinate apologist of the communist regime Jiřina Švorcová died on Monday at the age of 84. Her career in theatre, film and television spanned more than four decades. But most Czechs will remember her as a bizarre figure who never renounced her support of communism, not even after the fall of the totalitarian regime. More
Though 92 years of age, Jaromíra Kostlánová is still working as a tour guide, introducing the sights of Prague to visitors from around the world. If that were not remarkable enough, the good-humoured nonagenarian is also one of the oldest students in the Czech Republic. More
A legacy of the communists’ fascination with the pre-fabricated building method, paneláky or tower block buildings to this day can be found across the Czech Republic, often in prominent and elevated places, towering over cities and towns. After all, they were considered the height of architectural and technological progress during communism. More
On Tuesday, the public broadcaster Czech TV is airing the first part of a new documentary series dedicated to Originální videojournal, a unique video magazine established by Czech dissidents in the late 1980s. The documentary offers some rare footage from dissident circles, as well as reports about the Velvet Revolution in November 1989. More