Fifty years ago this January, Jan Palach doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Prague City Hall is now looking to buy the former hospital where he died – slated to become a luxury hotel – and turn it into a “museum of totalitarianism”.
In her book The Greengrocer and His TV: The Culture of Communism after the 1968 Prague Spring, historian Paulina Bren offers fresh perspectives on various aspects of Czechoslovakia’s normalisation period. These include how the Communists used TV serials to get their message across at a time when the nation, forced to accept the re-imposition of relatively hardline rule, largely turned inward. She makes particular reference to TV writer Jaroslav Dietl, creator of some of the most popular shows of that era.
When the novel The Glass Room by the British writer Simon Mawer was published in 2009 it was an instant hit, and it was no surprise when it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The book was widely discussed in the Czech Republic as it revolves around the story of one this country’s most remarkable twentieth century buildings, the Villa Tugendhat in Brno. This was not Simon Mawer’s first novel set in the city. Over a decade earlier he wrote Mendel’s Dwarf, which took its inspiration from Gregor Mendel, one of the fathers of genetics and the
Among the recipients of the state awards handed out by President Miloš Zeman on October 28, was Karel Lánský – a legend of Czech Radio broadcasting. For eight dramatic days after the Soviet led-invasion of Czechoslovakia Lánský and his team kept independent Czechoslovak Radio on the airwaves, broadcasting from secret locations in Prague and running the operation from his flat close to the radio’s Vinohrady headquarters.
Thursday is the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most famous protest in the history of Czech sport, when gymnast Věra Čáslavská looked away while the Soviet anthem was played at the 1968 Olympics. The brave gesture came two months after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia – and cost the country’s greatest Olympian dear.
A ‘happening’ dedicated to eight dissidents who on August 25, 1968,
held a public protest on Moscow’s Red Square against the Soviet-led
invasion of Czechoslovakia was held in Prague on Saturday.
Eight modern activists recreated the events of half a century ago, including by bringing copies of the banners they held, such as one proclaiming “For your freedom and ours”, unfurled by Pavel Litvinov, whose grandfather Maxim Litvinov had been Stalin’s foreign minister in the 1930s.
Saturday’s action on Wenceslas Square was attended by Tatyana Baeva, along with Litvinov and Viktor Fajnberg, the last living participant in that 1968 demonstration.
Main organiser Zuzana Vaňková read out the names of all eight demonstrators and recalled the repression they suffered as a result. All received lengthy jail sentences or were locked up in psychiatric institutions.
On August 25, 1968 eight brave souls held a public protest on Moscow’s Red Square against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. They all paid dearly for that act of fearlessness and defiance, receiving punishments including jail terms, internal exile and forced psychiatric treatment. The organiser of the demonstration was Pavel Litvinov, whose grandfather Maxim Litvinov had been Stalin’s foreign minister in the 1930s. This week Mr. Litvinov, now resident in the US, was in Prague for events marking the 50th anniversary of the invasion. When
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.