Philosopher Julius Tomin left communist Czechoslovakia for the UK a few years after signing Charter 77. As he explained when we spoke, the Plato expert found it near impossible to find a job in academia in his adopted country. But the second half of our two-part interview begins with his underground seminars in Prague; they led to the creation of the Jan Hus Educational Foundation in Oxford after Mr. Tomin invited leading Western philosophers to deliver clandestine lectures.
The Czech philosopher and Charter 77 signatory Julius Tomin is perhaps best-known for inviting top Western philosophers to speak at clandestine seminars he ran in Prague during the late communist era. Recently the UK-based Mr. Tomin visited his native city for events marking the 40th anniversary of that move, which eventually gave rise to the Oxford-based Jan Hus Educational Foundation. But when we met I first asked the 79-year-old ex-dissident about his family background.
Former political prisoner František Suchý has died at the age of 91. As a
teenager Mr. Suchý helped his cremator father keep clandestine records of
the names of people executed by the Nazis and the Communists. The pair also
hid the ashes of many victims of those regimes.
In later years Mr. Suchý was sentenced to 25 years in a communist jail for aiding a people smuggler working with the US intelligence services. Last year he received a Memory of Nations award recognising his resistance to totalitarianism.
Czechs regard the 1989 Velvet Revolution as the highlight of their
nation’s greatest moment since the foundation of Czechoslovakia a century
ago, while for the Slovaks their proudest hour was the Slovak National
Uprising in 1944. That is according to parallel opinion polls conducted in
both states and published on Tuesday.
Some 72 percent of Czechs polled rated the revolution as the “most positive” moment of the last century. By contrast, Slovaks placed the events of 1989 third among great moments since 1918, behind the Slovak National Uprising and the establishment of independent Slovakia.
Towering Jewish-American author Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. And while most of the tributes will rightly focus on his many prize winning works over 60 years, there was another aspect to his life as well: the timely help he gave to dissident Czechoslovak writers after 1968 and the crushing of the so-called Prague Spring.
Archbishop, later Cardinal, Josef Beran, become a symbol of opposition to totalitarian regimes. He was dubbed the archbishop who refused to be silenced. The punishment for speaking out was imprisonment first under the Nazi occupation and then the Communists. In this week’s Czechs in History we look at Josef Beran’s exemplary life on the 40th anniversary of his death in exile.
Former US ambassador to Czechoslovakia William Luers and his wife Wendy recently visited Prague and gave a talk at the American Centre about what it was like to be posted in Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, how they were able to support dissidents such as Václav Havel and how they later helped the country on the road to democracy. I spoke to them after the debate and began by asking the former ambassador what it had been like to serve behind the Iron Curtain.
Members of the Czech scouting movement are marking the 50th anniversary the movement’s short-lived revival in communist Czechoslovakia in 1968. The scouts were banned a total of three times in their more than 100-year-long history in the Czech lands: first by the Nazis and then twice by the Communist regime.