Prime Minister Petr Nečas has criticised the composition of the freshly appointed academic council of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. The leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats says it includes former long-term members of the Communist Party and opponents of the very creation of the institution, which oversees secret police files and other documents from the Communist era. The previous academic council stood down in protest at the dismissal of the state agency’s director by its now left-controlled board. Critics of the former management of the Institute say it should explore the broader history of the Communist period and not just focus on the security services.
Saturday is the 90th anniversary of the first regular broadcast by Czechoslovak, later Czech, Radio. An open day with free guided tours was held at the station’s back-to-back buildings on Vinohradská and Římská streets in central Prague from 9:00 to 17:00 as part of a series of events held to mark the moment at 20:15 on May 18, 1923 when the station launched regular broadcasts from a tent in the city’s Kbely district. Czech Radio’s flagship station Radiožurnál is set to interview 90 special guests in a special broadcast live from Wenceslas Square that begins at 20:15 on Saturday and runs for 48 hours.
The great American conductor Lorin Maazel helmed the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra at a sold-out Smetana Hall of Prague’s Obecni Dum on Friday night in what was his first appearance at the Prague Spring international music festival for 43 years. Maazel, who is 83, has been one of the world’s leading conductors for the last five decades. This year’s Prague Spring features more than 30 concerts and three opera performances. It runs until June 2.
Meanwhile, the abbot of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Michael Josef Pojezdný, has praised Mr. Zeman for refusing to appoint Mr. Putna, who is a practising Roman Catholic, professor. However, it is unclear why the abbot – who reportedly made the comments during a meeting with Mr. Zeman on another matter – has backed the president, as he has refused to speak to the media. This has led to speculation that it may be because of Mr. Putna’s liberal politics or the fact that he is openly homosexual. Academics have also been up in arms, with the rector of Prague’s Charles University, Václav Hampl, saying that Mr. Zeman would need to have very serious reasons for not naming Mr. Putna professor; otherwise the move would represent an unacceptable intervention.
Museums and public galleries around the Czech Republic offered discounted admissions on Saturday as part of International Museum Day. Many also put on workshops for children and guided tours, while some opened spaces normally closed to the public. A number of institutions, such as the City of Prague Museum and the capital’s National Museum, offered completely free admission. Museum Night events, when museums keep their doors open until the small hours, are being held in Brno; in the coming weeks other cities and towns are set to take part in the project, which culminates with a Prague Museum Night on June 8.
Politicians from across the political spectrum have criticised President Miloš Zeman’s refusal to name academic Martin C. Putna professor. Mr. Zeman has refused to explain his opposition to conferring the title on Mr. Putna, who opposed his candidacy for president. The leader of the president’s own former party the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, said the liberal Miloš Zeman of 1989 would not have understood the position of the Miloš Zeman of 2013. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg of TOP 09, who ran against Mr. Zeman for head of state, said his actions were the continuation of the policies of the Nazi protectorate and Communist leader Klement Gottwald.
Jablonec have lifted the Česká Pošta Cup, Czech domestic soccer’s main cup competition, after defeating Mladá Boleslav on penalties. The sides were tied at 2:2 after extra time on Friday night, with Jablonec – who had lost in their previous three cup finals – running out 5:4 winners in the subsequent penalty shootout. As in a number of European countries, winning the cup is considerably less prestigious in the Czech Republic than taking the league title.
The 19th international book fair and literary festival Book World Prague is underway. The event brings together writers and publishers from around the world including US author Robert Fulghum and British writer Stephen Clarke. Slovakia is the festival’s guest of honour this year with a series of programmes dedicated to Slovak literature. The Book World Prague 2013 goes on until Sunday.
President Miloš Zeman has refused to appoint literary historian Martin C. Putna a university professor. Mr Putna, a teacher at Prague’s Charles University, is one of the president’s most vocal critics, and supported Mr Zeman’s rival for the presidency in January’s vote. The rector of Charles University has demanded an explanation from the president’s office; for his part, President Zeman said he would only reveal his motivation in court. Mr Zeman has come under criticism from some Czech politicians over his decision.
In an operation in Czech border areas, customs officials have confiscated fuel imports worth 3.5 million crowns, a spokeswoman for the customs said. The inspections took place on Thursday and Friday when officials checked all fuel transports crossing the border to the Czech Republic for documents proving VAT had been paid. Tax evasions on fuel imports annually cause losses of between five and eight billion crowns, according to the customs’ estimates.
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