Fifty years ago on January 16, a young Czech university student named Jan Palach doused himself in petrol and set himself alight at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square. Three days after staging this desperate attempt to rouse a demoralised Czechoslovakia in the face of Soviet occupation, he died in a burns clinic. Though his immediate political goals failed, Jan Palach inspired and steeled the resolve of countless others to fight for freedom during the two decades of ‘Normalisation’ that followed the crushing of the Prague Spring.
The 20th anniversary of Jan Palach’s self-immolation brought many thousands onto the streets for protests that had no precedent in communist Czechoslovakia. Palach Week, as it became known, began on January 15 1989 and saw running battles between demonstrators and riot police. Hundreds were arrested, among them top dissidents such as Václav Havel, and the events are seen by some as foreshadowing the Velvet Revolution, 10 months later.
The short-lived secret organisation Světlana formed in 1948 grew to become the largest anti-Communist group in Czechoslovakia, boasting several hundred members at its peak, operating in more than a dozen cells, mainly in Moravia. That’s one version of events. Many long believed that Světlana was not only infiltrated by the State Security force, or StB, but was in fact a creation of it – part of operations to ensnare “counter-revolutionaries”, those sympathetic to what is now known as the Third Resistance movement. Other questions remain as to whether
In 1941, Nazi Germany turned the centuries-old Czech garrison town of Terezín into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp. Over the next few years, some 155,000 people were held there in desperate conditions awaiting transport to the death camps further east. And yet, there was a well-documented flourishing of cultural life in the ghetto. Many artists also risked their lives to depict the harsh reality of daily life. But this is a story of the traces left behind by more ordinary people who endured those extraordinary times.
One hundred years ago the new state of Czechoslovakia was already establishing its institutions. While celebrations were still going on in Prague, about 70,000 Czechs and Slovaks were fighting thousands of kilometers from home in Siberia, attempting to gain control over the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Among them was my great-granduncle.
When the Czechoslovak Republic was proclaimed in 1918, its primary founder and future president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, had grand plans for using one of the most famous periods in Czech medieval history as inspiration for what he wanted to be a state based on democratic and humanistic values. In many cases the references to Hussitism started during the era of the First Republic remain in some form or another until today. I decided to explore why Hussitism was so important in Masaryk’s First Republic and how its elements were combined into the new
Exactly 100 years ago, on October 28th 1918, the new sovereign state of Czechoslovakia declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire the Czech lands and Slovakia had been part of for centuries. Two weeks before the Armistice of Compiègne on November 11th which ended all fighting in WW1, the news of the new-born state spread from Prague to gradually reach Czech soldiers scattered around the world. In today’s programme dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia we quote from the journals, memoirs and correspondence of Czech
With the 80th anniversary of the Munich agreement coming soon, Tom McEnchroe focused on the Czech side of Munich. Talking to the deputy director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Ondřej Matějka, about what it was like to live in the region that lay at the heart of the conflict, as well as how Munich is remembered in the Czech Republic today.
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
Her beauty and mind were said to have been beyond compare. But when the remains of Judita of Thuringia were first unearthed sixty years ago in the Benedictine monastery of Teplice, there was no way to tell whether the royal chronicler hadn’t rather exaggerated the feminine charms of the Queen consort of Bohemia. After all, she’d been dead for more than eight centuries. But now, thanks to a team of Czech scientists, archaeologists, artists – and a Brazilian expert in digital facial reconstruction – you can judge for yourself.
Czechs charge foreign “universities” over scam targeting students from India, Bangladesh, Nepal
Czech martyr Jan Palach’s enduring legacy, 50 years after his self-immolation
Czech property prices rose 10 pct by Sept. last year, among steepest increase in EU
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Prague hopes to turn ex-hospital where Jan Palach died into ‘Museum of Totalitarianism’