As the Czech nation celebrates 30 years of freedom and democracy the words of a leading Communist Party official have caused a public outcry. In an interview for Czech Radio, the party’s deputy chair, Stanislav Grospič argued that the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia was not an invasion and that the people killed had died mostly in road accidents. While his words evoked widespread condemnation, the Communist Party has not distanced itself from the statement.
Tuesday is the 50th anniversary of the approval by the Czechoslovak
government of the presence of Soviet troops on the country’s territory.
The move followed the invasion of the country in August 1968 by Warsaw Pact
soldiers. Previously Czechoslovakia was the only country in the Eastern
Bloc not to possess Soviet troop bases.
The text of the treaty document was drafted in early October 1968, when senior Czechoslovak Communist Party officials Alexander Dubček, Oldřich Černík and Gustav Husák held talks in Moscow on the conditions of the temporary deployment of allied troops. Russian soldiers finally left Czechoslovakia 23 years later.
President Miloš Zeman has warned the Social Democrats, who had a poor
showing in the recent municipal and Senate elections, of a possible split
in the party of which he was a long-time chairman.
In a wide-ranging interview with Czech Radio on Monday evening live from the presidential residence in Lány, Zeman again said he favoured a dissolution of the Senate.
He also defended his decision not to make appearances on 17 November, the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and on 21 August, the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops, saying it was enough for him to remember these dates in silence.
Zeman said he would speak on 28 October, the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Czechoslovak independence, when State honours are given out. He also revealed that he will honour resistance fighter Josef Bílý posthumously.
The Czech president also recalled in the interview how he had used obscene expressions in a live broadcast four years ago. Despite protests from the moderator, Zeman once again used vulgar words in the live interview.
British author Nigel Peace has just published a powerful love story set against the background of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact. The novel is based on the author’s own personal experience of being torn apart from his first love by the communist regime. I spoke to Nigel Peace shortly before his new book came out, about his memories of the time and what made him write his soul-searching novel half a century later.
Has the brown bear really returned to the Krkonoše? Following a recent sighting in the mountain range’s national park, scientists are now searching for evidence that would confirm the presence of the large carnivorous species, which last freely roamed the area on the Czech-Polish border more than 200 years ago.
Moscow has issued a sharp protest over the vandalizing of a statue of
Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague which was spray painted with the dates
1956, 1961, 1968 and 2017 earlier this week. The Russian Foreign Ministry
denounced the act as vandalism and an insult to those who had laid down
their lives in the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
The incident happened shortly after an offensive article appeared on a Russian web which said the Czech Republic should be grateful for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion which had brought the country 20 years of peace and stability. On a state visit to Russia, President Zeman protested against the insult to his country and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev publicly distanced himself from the article.
Marshal Konev is perceived as a controversial figure in the Czech Republic. After being present on several fronts in WWII, Konev was involved in the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and was also present in Berlin for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Just one year ago, a photographer snapped the first-ever photo of a golden jackal on Czech soil. This week, a camera trap in the Milovice area in central Bohemia documented the fact that the species has settled down and started breeding in the Czech Republic. I discussed the latest discovery with Miloslav Jirků of the Czech Academy of Sciences:
In reaction to the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he believed in the strengthening of civil liberties in Cuba. He also said that Castro embodied people`s hopes as a revolutionary leader before turning in a dictator. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said could never forget that the former Cuban leader supported the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The head of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip, expressed his sympathy to his family and his nation, adding that he regarded Castro as a fighter for freedom of Cuban people.
The former military base in Milovice, northeast of Prague, is gradually being turned into a patch of wilderness. A herd of 14 wild horses from Britain’s Exmoor National Park was introduced into the area in January of this year within a project initiated by the Czech Landscape organisation. And recently they were joined by seven European bison from Poland. I asked Miloslav Jirků of the Czech Academy of Sciences, about this latest stage of the nature project: