In this programme, the last in the current series looking at Czech history through the archives, we get a flavour of the Cold War. The archives throw up some curious stories: a man in love with a drill, a Czechoslovak cosmonaut celebrated in song, a campaign against noisy rockers with long hair, and some Cold War dramas – tales of defectors and spies. And we end with the strange, sad story of the Red Elvis. But first to the glowing dawn of the new regime in 1948.
European Commission vice president Věra Jourová, whose portfolio includes promoting EU values, transparency and the rule-of-law, called out Russia last week for “distorting” the history of World War II. Specifically, the former Czech minister objected to attempts “to paint victims, like Poland, as perpetrators”. We look into the ongoing war of words between Moscow and former Soviet satellites, not least the Czech Republic, over historical facts.
This Sunday will mark the 80th anniversary of the infamous Munich agreement - the deal between Hitler, Mussolini and the two western European powers, which cut off the German speaking borderlands from Czechoslovakia, including a significant part of its industry and protective ring of forts, thus rendering the young republic defenceless to any future German invasion. Munich is often seen as a betrayal of the Czechoslovak state by western powers and the French were famously ashamed for breaking their alliance. But why did the Great powers act as they
For around 40 years, so-called Victorious February was sacred for the Czechoslovak communist regime. The period from around February 17 and culminating on February 25 marked the party’s seizure of power when leader Klement Gottwald was finally named as prime minister of a communist dominated government.
On February 25, 1948, the Communist Party seized power in Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of hard-line, authoritarian rule. The Communist takeover was enabled by the party’s election success in 1946 and the resignation of the government’s remaining democratic ministers in February of 1948. President Edvard Beneš’ decision to confirm the Communists in power rather than dissolve the government and call new elections sealed the country’s fate for decades to come.
The 100th anniversary of the revolution bringing the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin to power in Russia is being marked with discussions and exhibitions in the Czech Republic. Although the events preceded the creation of a separate and independent Czechoslovakia around a year later, Czechs and Slovaks were very much caught up in what was happening.
České Budějovice has annulled honorary citizenship it awarded in the past to Czechoslovak Communist politician Klement Gottwald and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Councillors in the South Bohemian city voted for the move on Monday. Both Gottwald and Stalin received the honour in 1945. České Budějovice mayor Jiří Svoboda said there had been reasons to recognize them then, prior to their actions of the 1950s. The most recent recipient of honorary citizenship in České Budějovice was Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 1979.
Today it is easy to forget that Prague’s Letná Park overlooking the city once served as a pedestal to the largest statue in the world of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Derisively referred to as ‘fronta na maso’ (queue for meat), the massive granite work featured the marshal followed by a line of anonymous ‘heroes of the proletariat’. Prague was freed of the sculptural monstrosity in 1962; now, thanks to a film crew shooting the story of sculptor Otakar Švec, Stalin will temporarily return.
25 years ago today, the dissident playwright Václav Havel became the first non-communist president of Czechoslovakia since 1948. Back then, Edvard Beneš had resigned from office in the midst of a communist putsch led by Klement Gottwald. 41 years later, the communists would vote to destroy their own monopoly on power.