Archive: History | Communism Communism

A new president addresses his fellow citizens

03-09-2009 12:13 | David Vaughan

On December 29 1989, Czechoslovakia’s Federal Parliament elected Václav Havel as the country’s president. In one of the many paradoxes of the Velvet Revolution, this was the same communist-dominated parliament that had previously fought so hard to stem the flow of change.   More

Saint Agnes joins the revolution

06-08-2009 | David Vaughan

Photo: CTK In last week’s From the Archives, we heard Jaroslav Hutka, singing at the huge demonstration that took place in Prague’s Letná park on November 25 1989. This was over a week after the Velvet Revolution had begun, but the hard liners in the communist party were still clinging on to power. The demonstration was a sign of the huge momentum for change that had built up in the previous days, and despite the cold weather, with sleet and snow, it was attended by nearly a million people.   More

1989 student defamation case still unresolved after eighteen years in court

05-08-2009 16:45 | Rob Cameron

Photo: CTK The wheels of Czech justice are famously slow to turn, with court cases dragging on for what seems like – and often is – years. But how about this one for size: in the early days of the Velvet Revolution, in November 1989, three students of architecture described their Communist professor as an arrogant careerist and demagogue. He later demanded an apology, and took them to court. Twenty years on, and the case is still unresolved.   More

Leader of student resistance to 1948 Communist takeover Josef Lesák dies at 88

30-07-2009 16:25 | Ian Willoughby

Josef Lesák, photo: CTK Josef Lesák, a leader of the student resistance to the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, has passed away at the age of 88. Lesák was also the youngest deputy in the country’s parliament when the Communists seized power – and became the first MP they put in prison.   More

“Biggest of all is human freedom”: Jaroslav Hutka and the Velvet Revolution

30-07-2009 | David Vaughan

Photo: CTK Last week we heard how a song, Marta Kubišová’s “A Prayer for Marta”, came to symbolize the period of the Velvet Revolution. But there were other songs and singers who also captured the spirit of the time. One of them was Jaroslav Hutka. After signing Charter 77, he had been bullied into exile in 1978, and all his songs and recordings banned. As soon as the revolution of November 1989 began, he came back home, and in one of the most moving moments of the period, he appeared at the vast demonstration held on Prague’s Letná Plain on November 25.   More

Klaus says role of individuals exaggerated in "inevitable" collapse of communism

27-07-2009 15:24 | Rob Cameron

Václav Klaus All this year Czechs are remembering the fall of communism in November 1989, but just what was it exactly? Was it the “overthrow” of communism? Or simply “the collapse”? That’s a debate that’s still simmering away in Czech society, and on Saturday the country’s president Václav Klaus once again waded into it, telling students in Prague that the role of individuals in 1989 is often overestimated.  More

Student leader turned energy security trouble shooter

27-07-2009 | Chris Johnstone

Václav Bartuška was one of the leaders of the student protests which toppled the Czechoslovak Communist regime in November 1989. Recently he has been the Czech energy security trouble shooter and has been recruited as an advisor by Sweden’s current EU presidency. I asked Mr Bartuška how he became one of the leaders of the student protests.   More

A song becomes the symbol of the revolution

23-07-2009 | David Vaughan

In last week’s From the Archives, we heard how Czechoslovak Radio reported on the student demonstration that sparked the Velvet Revolution on November 17 1989. Initially the radio toed the official line, defending the violent police clampdown, but gradually the spirit of revolution spread through the corridors of our headquarters here in Vinohradská Street. Every day Wenceslas Square filled with tens of thousands of people, as it became increasingly clear that the communists’ hold on power was weakening.   More

Igor Lukeš: renowned historian and commentator

20-07-2009 14:58 | Chris Johnstone

Igor Lukeš Igor Lukeš is professor of international relations and history at Boston University in the US. He left Czechoslovakia in the 1970’s and has become one of the foremost historians of its 20th century history as well as a sought after expert on Central Europe and Russia. One of his recent works was “Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: the Diplomacy of Edvard Beneš in the 1930’s.” He drew heavily on Czech archive sources for the work. I talked to Igor Lukeš on one of his frequent trips back to the Czech Republic and asked him how it had been possible to get away to the USA.   More

The revolution begins

16-07-2009 | David Vaughan

Národní třída, November 17 1989 November 17 1989 did not begin dramatically. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the execution of nine Prague students who had led protests in 1939 against the German occupation. Various officially sanctioned commemorations were taking place and the centre of Prague was filled with students.   More

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