The Czech foreign and defence ministers at a conference in Prague on Friday, recalled Ronald Reagan’s contribution to the collapse of communism in the former Soviet-bloc. The conference is being held on the anniversary of Mr Reagan’s birthday: the former US president, who died in 2004 at the age of 93, would have been 100 today. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg recalled Reagan’s courage against the Soviet Union. On Friday, the former US secretary of state under George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, also spoke. On the occasion of the anniversary, a Prague street has been renamed after the 40th US president who famously called the Soviet Union an “evil empire”.
The central Bohemian town of Milovice, once the seat of the largest Soviet military garrison in then Czechoslovakia, celebrated on Saturday 20 years since the departure of the occupying forces. The celebrations, entitled Good Bye, Army!, was attended by Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra and former MP Michael Kocáb, who oversaw the departure of the Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia in 1991. The celebrations included a reenactment of the event by various military history clubs.
Restoration of land decimated by Soviet army bases in the 1970s and 80s may take another four years to complete. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the original deadline of 2012 has been extended to 2016 due to budget cuts. The ministry says that nearly 1.5 billion crowns were spent on the cleaning the grounds of gasoline and other contaminants; the remainder of the work is expected to cost roughly 150 million more. The state is also conducting an extensive technical inventory of the areas used by the Soviet army and work on clearing contamination may still be undertaken elsewhere.
Prague’s Pink Tank, a symbol of the fall of communism in the country, returned to the capital on Monday to be featured in The Week of Freedom, an event marking the 20th anniversary of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from former Czechoslovakia. The tank, originally a monument to Soviet tank crews who liberated the city in 1945, was painted pink by the artist David Černý in 1991, and soon thereafter taken to a military museum outside Prague. On Monday, the pink tank will be installed on a pontoon on the Vltava where it will remain until July 1.
On July 1, 1991, the Warsaw Treaty was officially dissolved and 36 years of Czechoslovakia’s military alliance with the USSR came to an end. As a consequence, Soviet troops stationed in the country during the 1968 invasion were gradually withdrawn – an anniversary that the Czech NGO Opona is celebrating with a series of events entitled Week of Freedom, starting Monday. Sarah Borufka spoke to David Gaydečka, one of the organizers of Freedom Week about the events planned.
The Slovak State Attorney’s Office has dropped criminal charges against former communist leader Vasil Bilak who sanctioned the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Bilak, one of the communist hardliners who opposed Alexander Dubcek’s Prague Spring reforms wrote a letter of invitation to the Moscow leadership asking the Soviets to stop the “counter-revolution” in Czechoslovakia by any means. In 2000 the Slovak authorities launched criminal proceedings against Vasi Bilak on charges of treason, but investigators said there was a lack of witnesses in the Czech Republic to take the now 93-year-old Bilak to court.
Czechs gathered at Prague’s Olšaný cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to student Jan Palach who set fire to himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of 1968 and reversal of the reforms that sparked it. Jan Palach made his protest on January 16, 1969, and died of his injuries three days later. His funeral in Prague a week later was a mass demonstration against the invasion and the ‘normalisation’ that followed. Palach’s remains were taken from the Prague cemetery in 1973 by authorities and moved to his home village outside Mělnik, north of Prague. They were returned to Prague in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime.
Czechs gathered at Prague’s Olšanský cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to student Jan Palach who set fire to himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of 1968 and reversal of the reforms that sparked it. Jan Palach made his protest on January 16, 1969, and died of his injuries three days later. His funeral in Prague a week later was a mass demonstration against the invasion and the ‘normalisation’ that followed. Palach’s remains were taken from the Prague cemetery in 1973 by authorities and moved to his home village outside Mělnik, north of Prague. They were returned to Prague in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime.
Michael Kocáb has been dismissed as government commissioner for human
rights. Mr Kocáb had already tendered his resignation, but said he
to stay on as human rights commissioner until a successor was installed.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas announced on Wednesday that the cabinet had
voted to remove him with immediate effect, saying a number of names were
contention for the post.
In the early 1990s Mr Kocáb, then best known as a rock musician, became an MP and oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. In more recent times he served as minister for human rights in a caretaker Czech government.