Czechoslovakia had arguably the best national ice hockey team in the world for years after the Second World War – despite the Communists side-lining a slew of “politically unreliable” star players on the road to building socialism. We look back at the roots of a historic pub brawl and police raid 70 years ago, after frustrated hockey players blew the whistle on official lies.
The history of the Communist-era is filled with tales of martyrs, but few of them are as well-known and distressing as the story of Father Josef Toufar, who died on February 25, 1950. When a miracle was reported at his church in an eastern Bohemian village, the secret police tortured the priest mercilessly – and forced him to take part in a macabre video “re-enactment”.
When Eda Kriseová was barred from journalism after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion she chose an unlikely escape from the grim reality of that time: voluntary work at an isolated mental hospital. She also wrote in samizdat, which led to her gradually becoming part of Czechoslovakia’s anti-Communist dissent. As we will hear, Kriseová – whose husband is filmmaker Josef Platz – found novel ways to resist secret police pressure. But the first part of this two-part interview begins with the author’s early days.
A new film called The Trap, which is due to premiere on Czech Television this Sunday, tells the tragic fate of the great Czech film and theatre actress Jiřina Štepničková who fell into a trap set by the communist secret police in the 1950s and was sentenced to 15 years in jail for attempting to flee the country with her four-year-old son. The communist hysteria surrounding the process was so great that many of Štepničková’s colleague actors and actresses signed a petition for her to be put to death for treason.
Philosopher Jan Sokol was an MP in the early 1990s, served as Czech education minister and lost in the final round of voting for president in 2003. Barred from studying under the Communists, Professor Sokol came to philosophy via his father-in-law Jan Patočka, an early signatory of Charter 77. In the first part of a two-part interview, he discusses Patočka’s death, the achievements of Charter 77 – which he also signed – and the Velvet Revolution. But our conversation began with Jan Sokol’s family background and his own beginnings.
Former justice minister and the current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, has rejected allegations that she had defended
laws against dissidents during the Communist regime and collaborated in her
professional work with the former state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was
responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf
Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Válková told journalists that the claims made by the news site info.cz were untruthful and insulting and that she planned to sue the site for slander.
At the same time Ms. Válková, whom the president nominated for the position of Ombudswoman, told Czech Television she had not been aware of Urvalek’s past when she worked with him.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček have both said the allegations are extremely serious and that they are awaiting an explanation from Mrs. Válková.
Former minister of justice and current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, defended laws against dissidents during the
Communist regime, the news site info.cz reported on Thursday.
At the turn of the 1970s and 80s, Mrs Válková published a series of articles in which she defended measures used by the Communist regime to restrict the rights of its opponents, the website writes.
It also says she collaborated on writing one of her articles with the state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Mrs Válková, whom President Miloš Zeman recently proposed for the post of the Czech Republic’s ombudswoman, denied any wrongdoing, saying the article was insulting and untruthful.
Thirty years ago this Christmas, Czechs were in an especially festive spirit – the entire Communist Party leadership had resigned a month before, and in a matter of days a majority democratic parliament would elect Václav Havel as president, bringing the Velvet Revolution to a glorious end. Ahead of the holiday, I spoke to Adéla and Petr Mucha – a historian and theologian, respectively, born into practicing Catholic families under Communism – about their experiences with the “Underground Church”, religious figures active in the dissident Charter 77
The Czech police’s Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of
Communism have initiated the prosecution of three senior figures from the
pre-1989 Communist regime. One-time Communist Party general secretary
Miloš Jakeš, former prime minister Lubomír Štrougal and ex-interior
minister Vratislav Vajnar are accused of abuse of office in connection with
the use of firearms on the borders of the then Czechoslovakia, a
representative of the Prague 1 state attorney’s office, Jan Lelek, said
The three top Communists were aware the border patrol service were using guns to shoot people crossing the border without authorisation but did nothing to stop them, Mr. Lelek said.
The Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of Communism said that because of the inaction of the three officials between 1976 and 1989 nine people were either shot dead or killed by dogs while attempting to cross the border into the West; at least seven others were injured.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. In the fourth episode of our mini-series, we visit the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly building, where some key political changes took place 30 years ago.