Archive: History | Communism Communism

Stalin and Gottwald: together in life and death

03-12-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Joseph Stalin and Klement Gottwald 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

DVD series resurrects 1950s Czechoslovak Socialist Realist films

25-11-2011 11:43 | Ian Willoughby

Filmy patří lidu (Films Belong to the People) is the title of a series of Socialist Realist pictures that have been released on DVD in the Czech Republic in recent months. These propaganda-filled films are from the 1950s, the harshest decade of the communist era, notorious for its brutal repression, show trials and forced labour camps.  More

Anniversary of Velvet Revolution marked by anti-government demonstrations

18-11-2011 15:32 | Pavla Horáková

Photo: CTK 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

Museum of Communism offers foreign visitors a glimpse of life behind the Iron Curtain

18-11-2011 10:11 | Daniela Lazarová

Museum of Communism 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

Post-WWII political leader Prokop Drtina subject of new biography

15-11-2011 15:39 | Jan Richter

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

“My first love was a drill”: building the socialist state

12-11-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

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

Milada Horáková: dignity in the face of fanaticism

05-11-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Milada Horáková Many people in Czechoslovakia greeted the communist coup of February 1948 with enthusiasm, in the belief that the horrors of the war should never be allowed to happen again. But following the model of Stalin’s Soviet Union, it was not long before a period of political terror began, with thousands of arrests and then a series of political show trials. The most horrific symbol of the period was the trial and execution of Milada Horáková. She had been one of the most enlightened politicians of the pre-war Czechoslovak Republic, a champion of democracy and women’s rights, and had spent most of the war in Nazi prisons and concentration camps.  More

Stories of Injustice film project tries to shed light on grey “normalization” period

02-11-2011 16:09 | Pavla Horáková

‘Swingtime’ 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

The unresolved mystery of the death of Jan Masaryk

29-10-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Jan Masaryk “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

“Business as usual” after the 1948 coup

22-10-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Baťa shoe factory, photo: Czech Television In the immediate aftermath of the political coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the communists were keen to give the world the impression that it was business as usual and that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. In this respect Radio Prague as the international service of Czechoslovak Radio was expected to play its part, and so the communists asked the handful of British nationals working for one of Czechoslovakia’s biggest companies to make a statement in English for the radio. As a result one of the British staff of the shoe-making giant Baťa, which had already been nationalized more than two years earlier, addressed Radio Prague’s listeners on March 1 1948, exactly a week after the communist coup:  More



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