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
The 1948 communist takeover of Czechoslovakia remains a trauma for many Czechs today. Could the country’s fall under Soviet domination have been prevented? Why did Czechoslovak politicians of the era so severely underestimate the threat of communism? These are some of the issues discussed in a new biography of the politician Prokop Drtina, one of the key figures of the brief period between the end of the war and the start of the communist regime. More
After the communist coup, Czechoslovak Radio was at the political vanguard and transformed into a tool of propaganda. One of the first big changes at Radio Prague was that our familiar call signal from Dvořák’s New World Symphony was replaced by a stirring socialist anthem – “Ku předu levá”. The words are simple: “Left foot forwards, left foot forwards, and never a backwards step.” All broadcasts acquired a political hue. Here, for example, is a factory worker, talking about his first love: More
The 2006 film “Swingtime” inspired by a communist-era secret police operation as well as four documentaries will be screened in November at primary and secondary schools around the country as part of a month-long project called Stories of Injustice. Now in its seventh year the project organized by the NGO People in Need covers a period often neglected in the curriculum. Through film and subsequent discussions with survivors, witnesses and victims of communist injustice, students are learning about post-war Czechoslovak history – this year with a special focus on the period of normalization and the subjects of emigration and exile. Radio Prague talked to the project’s spokesman Filip Šebek. More
“We are a small country with a great tradition of freedom. We shall not give it up.” These are the words of Jan Masaryk, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, addressing American servicemen in Plzeň in a tone of great optimism in November 1945. During the wartime occupation Masaryk had served as Czechoslovak foreign minister in exile in London, and he remained in the post after his return home, deciding to stay on even after the communist coup of February 1948. His immense popularity meant that the communists put up with his presence, although his pro-Western views, reinforced by the fact that his mother had been American, were totally at odds with the rest of the government. More