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.
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.
Philosopher and one-time dissident Jan Sokol is perhaps best-known among the Czech public as a failed presidential candidate, having missed out to Václav Klaus in the final round of voting in 2003, the last time the country’s head of state was chosen by legislators. Professor Sokol has known the current, directly elected president since before 1989 – and offers sharp criticism of Miloš Zeman in this the second half of a two-part interview. But first we discuss the period when, after the fall of communism, he was finally allowed to pursue an academic
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.
The Czech government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Helena Válková (ANO) is under pressure after the news site Info.cz accused her of defending laws used against dissidents during the normalisation era, providing an article on “protective surveillance” that she penned with a famous show trial procurator in 1979 as evidence. Mrs Válková told Czech Radio that the accusation was a “horrendous lie”. However, the opposition has called for her resignation and even the prime minister says that the allegations need to be explained.
In this programme, the eighth in our series mapping this country’s history through the radio archives, we start with the dramatic events of the last days of the war in Prague. The radio played a major role in the Prague Uprising, and through the archives we can map how the city liberated itself from the German occupiers. In the two years that follow, the radio archives give us a picture of a Czechoslovakia returning to some kind of normality, but in February 1948 everything changes. We tell the story as it was heard on the airwaves.
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
In a commemorative ceremony marking 30 years since the fall of the Iron
Curtain, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and Bavarian State
Minister of Finance and Home Affairs Albert Furacker symbolically cut
through a small stretch of the Iron Curtain left for posterity at the
Rozvadov -Waidhaus Czech-German border crossing.
The ceremony was reminiscent of the occasion when foreign ministers Hans Dietrich Genscher and Jiri Dienstbier cut through the barbed wire of the Iron Curtain in the tumultuous days of 1989, reuniting the long-divided nations.
At the ceremony Foreign Minister Petříček spoke about how much damage the isolation of Czechoslovakia had caused and how many people had lost their lives at the Iron Curtain trying to flee to freedom.
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and his Austrian counterpart Alexander
Schallenberg met at the Czech-Austrian border on Friday to mark the 30th
anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The commemorative event took place in the Czech village of Čížov, which contains a preserved section of the Iron Curtain fence, and in the neighbouring Austrian village of Hardegg.
The ceremony was also attended by the governor of the South Bohemian region, Bohumil Šimek and Johanna Mikl-Leinter, the governor of Lower Austria.