Fifty years ago on January 5, 1968, the news came out of the ongoing central committee party meeting of the Czechoslovak communist party that Slovak, Alexander Dubček, had been chosen as the new party boss. Dubček was little known in Czech circles but his name would soon be known around the country and the world.
Moscow has issued a sharp protest over the vandalizing of a statue of
Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague which was spray painted with the dates
1956, 1961, 1968 and 2017 earlier this week. The Russian Foreign Ministry
denounced the act as vandalism and an insult to those who had laid down
their lives in the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
The incident happened shortly after an offensive article appeared on a Russian web which said the Czech Republic should be grateful for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion which had brought the country 20 years of peace and stability. On a state visit to Russia, President Zeman protested against the insult to his country and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev publicly distanced himself from the article.
Marshal Konev is perceived as a controversial figure in the Czech Republic. After being present on several fronts in WWII, Konev was involved in the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and was also present in Berlin for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
In his twenty years as editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber and Faber, Robert McCrum introduced some of the best Czech writers, including Václav Havel, Milan Kundera and Josef Škvorecký, to English speaking readers. This was in the days before the fall of communism and his visits to Czechoslovakia involved a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. A few days ago Robert McCrum returned to the Czech Republic, to see how the country is faring on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitriv Mededev has distanced himself from the
article published on the website of Russian state-wide television channel
Zvezda on Tuesday, maintaining that Czechs should be grateful that
Soviet-led forces invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.
During a meeting with Czech president Miloš Zeman in Russia, Mr Medvedev said the article didn’t reflect the position of the Russian leadership and expressed the personal opinion of the author.
The article in question claimed that the Soviet led forces had prevented the West from orchestrating a coup in the then-communist country by means, it claimed, which were delayed until 1989.
An article published on the website of Russian state-wide television channel Zvezda on Tuesday has drawn very sharp responses from Czech politicians, including Miloš Zeman, the Czech head of state. He called the article, which argued that Czechs should be grateful for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, an insult to the nation.
Czech politicians have slammed an article published on the website of
Russian state-wide television channel Zvezda, run by the Russian Defense
Ministry, on Tuesday, maintaining that Czechs should be grateful that
Soviet-led forces invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The article in question claimed that the forces had prevented the West from orchestrating a coup in the then-communist country by means, it claimed, which were delayed until 1989.
On the contrary, the Soviet-led invasion in 1968 crushed the period of democratic reforms in Czechoslovakia known as the Prague Spring. The events of 1968 ushered in the so-called Normalisation period during the 1970s and Soviet troops would remain on Czechoslovak soil for more than 20 years.
The article, written by Leonid Maslovskij, caught many off guard as it was published the same day Czech President Miloš Zeman met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi and later travelled to Moscow. According to iDnes, Mr Zeman, widely seen as a pro-Russia politician, was angered by the report; Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek slammed the article as twisting and misinterpreting historical facts and made clear such articles were no way forward to good relations.
Defence Minister Martin Stropnický went further by calling the article “outright lies” and expressed regret the article had come during an official state visit by the Czech head of state. President Miloš Zeman will reportedly address the matter while in Russia.
Zvezda responded that the opinions expressed in the article were the author’s own.
The 100th anniversary of the revolution bringing the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin to power in Russia is being marked with discussions and exhibitions in the Czech Republic. Although the events preceded the creation of a separate and independent Czechoslovakia around a year later, Czechs and Slovaks were very much caught up in what was happening.
The Czech National Museum is preparing a major joint exhibition with the
Slovak National Museum to mark the centenary in 2018 of the foundation of
Czechoslovakia, the news site iDnes.cz reported. The exhibition will open
in Bratislava before transferring to Prague in October.
The show will focus on Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and other important figures in Czechoslovakia’s foundation but will also feature the stories of ordinary citizens.
The joint exhibition will be just one of a number of events in 2018 marking not only the centenary of Czechoslovakia but also the 50th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion and 25 years since the formation of the independent Czech Republic.
Czech and Slovak researchers have received a wealth of documents from the Russian authorities about the fates of thousands of Czechoslovak citizens imprisoned within the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War. The access only pertains to military archives, and involves around 38,000 Czechoslovak soldiers fighting on behalf of Nazi Germany – mostly ethnic Germans, Slovaks and Hungarians. I spoke with Adam Hradilek of Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which received a copy of the documents this week, and began by asking