Archive: History | Communism Communism

Guests at the Castle: Frank Zappa and the Pope

15-09-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Photo: CTK During Václav Havel’s first year as Czechoslovak president, Prague Castle saw a string of visitors from around the world. And they did not just include heads of state and other political dignitaries. On January 21 1990, one of the first foreign guests to be received by the new president was none other than the legendary American rock musician, Frank Zappa, who had been one of the inspirations for the Czech underground movement in the ‘70s and ‘80s, including Havel himself.  More

A new president addresses his fellow citizens

08-09-2012 02:01 | 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

01-09-2012 02:01 | 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

World War II veteran General Tomáš Sedláček dies aged 94

28-08-2012 15:45 | Maggie Lund

Tomáš Sedláček, photo: Post Bellum General Tomáš Sedláček, a World War II veteran who spent nine years in communist jails, died on Monday aged 94. A respected soldier, he fought both on the western and eastern fronts of the war before landing a life sentence by Czechoslovakia’s communist court. But his faith in freedom and democracy never waivered, and after 1989, he took up the cause of those who suffered under communism.  More

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

25-08-2012 02:01 | 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

A song becomes the symbol of the revolution

18-08-2012 02:01 | 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

The revolution begins

11-08-2012 02:01 | 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

The US failed to counter communist threat in post-war Prague, says historian Igor Lukeš in his new book

11-08-2012 02:01 | Jan Richter

Immediately after the end of the Second World War, Czechoslovakia became a testing ground in the contest between democracy and communist one-party rule. In Prague, the United States was hoping to challenge Stalin’s aim of including the country within the Soviet empire by supporting Czech and Slovak democrats in their uneven struggle against the communists. In his new book entitled On the Edge of Cold War – American Diplomats and Spies in Post-war Prague, Boston University professor of history Igor Lukeš explores the US efforts to counter the communist offensive in Czechoslovakia, and arrives at the conclusion that the half-hearted and even amateurish attempts by US diplomats in Prague were doomed to fail.  More

The East German refugees in Prague

04-08-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Photo: CTK For a few weeks in the late summer of 1989, Prague became the scene of a bizarre – and now largely forgotten - refugee crisis. It had all begun in the spring, when Hungary had declared its decision to take down the barbed wire on its borders with Austria. A growing number of East Germans, desperate at the suffocating lack of reform in their country, took advantage of this new gap in the Iron Curtain as a way of fleeing to the West. But smuggling themselves into Austria was an uncertain business, and before long, they started seeking refuge at the West German embassy in Budapest - and then in Prague. It was much closer to home than Hungary and easier to get to, as East German citizens did not need a visa.  More

The different worlds of Husák and Havel

28-07-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Gustáv Husák If you tune in to Czech Radio on New Year’s Day, at some point you will hear the stirring tones of the presidential fanfare, introducing the president’s annual address to the nation. It was Czechoslovakia’s first head of state, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who established the tradition, when he spoke to listeners on the Czechoslovakia’s tenth birthday in 1928. Here is a short extract from his address, which also happens to be one the oldest recordings in our archives:  More

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