Archive: History | Czech Radio history Czech Radio history

The Cold War on the streets of Belfast

12-05-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

In the 1970s the Cold War was fought on many fronts. One of them was Northern Ireland, where the tension and violence that raged throughout the decade also became part of the propaganda war between East and West. At the time, Czechoslovak Radio’s correspondent in London was Karel Kvapil, who had entered the radio after the wave of sackings following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, and later went on to become its last communist era general director. In 1977 Kvapil travelled to Belfast, to report on the Troubles. For part of his programme he spoke with women on a housing estate in a mainly Catholic area of the city:  More

1969: Radio Prague goes back to the bad old days

14-04-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Liberec in 1968, photo: Institute of Contemporary History In the course of 1969 and 1970 Czechoslovak Radio was transformed back into what it had been in the 1950s, a tool of hard line propaganda. In the process, over 700 radio staff were forced to leave their jobs. Those who stayed found their freedom of expression severely curtailed. To give an idea of the extent to which things had changed by August 1969 - the first anniversary of the Soviet led invasion – I will start with a short extract from Radio Prague’s broadcasts back in 1968, as the tanks rolled into the city. At the time the radio was playing a crucial role in keeping the world informed of what was really happening – including reports of violent incidents as the invading troops opened fire on civilians:  More

The abnormality of normalization

24-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Alexander Dubček On the airwaves, 1968 ended very much as it had begun. For New Year’s Eve, Czechoslovak Radio chose the same format as the year before, with the light-hearted musical cabaret of the Semafor Theatre. But behind the scenes, the Soviet-led occupation in August had changed everything. The Soviets were only too pleased for the radio to give the impression of normality. A gradual, almost imperceptible drift back to hard-line communism was beginning. The process came to be known cynically as “normalization”, a word that was first used by Alexander Dubček himself on August 27 1968. He had just returned from his forced five-day stay in Moscow, where he had been bullied into accepting the presence of foreign troops.  More

Playing cat-and-mouse with the Soviets to keep on air

17-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

August 1968 In the days immediately after the Soviet invasion in August 1968, staff at Czechoslovak Radio played a cat-and-mouse game with the occupying forces. For the first couple of days, they managed to continue broadcasting directly from the radio headquarters, despite the presence of tanks outside.  More

August 21 1968 on the airwaves

25-02-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

August 1968 in Prague In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.  More

A Proustian moment in 1960s Czechoslovak Radio

07-01-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

By the mid 1960s political control over many aspects of cultural and social life in Czechoslovakia had relaxed considerably. This was the height of the “New Wave” in Czechoslovak cinema, in theatre socialist realism had long gone out of fashion and in music the swinging sixties were well under way. But it wasn’t just through the music it was playing that Czechoslovak Radio tried to keep pace with the changes. One programme that broke the traditional mould was launched in 1966 and was called “The 33 Questions of Marcel Proust”. These were questions that the French novelist had compiled in the belief that by answering them you could better understand your inner self. In the programme, a well known personality would answer questions based on Proust’s list.  More

Yuri Gagarin: to Prague via the stratosphere

10-12-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Yuri Gagarin in Prague, photo: CTK Even after the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Klement Gottwald in Czechoslovakia the 1950s remained a period of high political tension between East and West. The Cold War was at its height; with it came the arms race and the space race. Here is Czechoslovakia’s president Antonín Novotný, in a New Year radio address on January 1 1958:  More

After 1945: something like normality

24-09-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Czech Radio building in May 1945 In From the Archives this week we carry on where we left off at the end of August in our chronological journey through the Czech Radio archives. We had reached the point just after the end of World War Two; after the initial euphoria, the hard work of rebuilding the country began: not least at the Czechoslovak Radio building itself, which had been shot to pieces in the Prague Uprising and received a direct hit from a German aerial torpedo.  More

Jiří Dienstbier remembers a fateful day

17-09-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Jiří Dienstbier, photo: Kristýna Maková Because August 21 is the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the radio played such a central role in the events of those dramatic days, in this edition of From the Archives we shall be hearing the memories of one of the key journalists involved in those dramatic events. Jiří Dienstbier was one of Czechoslovak Radio’s star reporters at the time. Later he was to become one of the best-known dissidents of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and after the Velvet Revolution he was the country’s first post-communist foreign minister. On the morning of August 21 1968, he was one of several radio journalists, playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Soviet occupiers, as the Soviets tried to silence the radio station. In some of the recordings that survive, you can hear quite distinctly tanks and machine-gun fire in the background.  More

Olga Szántová: the voice of Radio Prague

10-09-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

Olga Szántová It was five years ago this week that our much-loved colleague, Olga Szántová, died at the age of 71. As a child she had spent most of World War II in New York, which was where she picked up her perfect East-Side English. Olga became one of the most familiar voices of Radio Prague’s English broadcasts during the political thaw of the 1960s, and she was also among the radio journalists who managed to carry on broadcasting secretly during the Soviet invasion of 1968, as several recordings from the time still bear witness.  More

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