This week, Hungarians are commemorating the anniversary of their dramatic anti-Soviet uprising exactly 50 years ago. On October 23, 1956 a pro-democracy rally brought 200 000 people into the streets of Budapest, singing national songs and destroying a statue of Soviet leader, Josef Stalin. Soviet tanks were forced to retreat from Budapest, but when they returned one week later the blow was devastating: reform Prime Minister Imre Nagy was arrested and executed, as were hundreds of other reformers.
If we delve into the Czech Radio archives, we find recordings in English going right back to Radio Prague's beginnings 70 years ago. Some of the extracts we are going to feature in this programme have not been aired for well over half a century. They capture some of the most interesting and dramatic moments in our history.
A remembrance ceremony on Monday in front of the Czech Radio building on Prague's Vinohradska Street marked the 38th anniversary of the beginning of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Officials laid wreaths in front of the Czech Radio building which was the site of the bloodiest fighting in August 1968 between the occupiers and the citizens of Prague. The invasion of Warsaw-Pact troops crushed the reform movement known as the Prague Spring and Soviet units stayed in Czechoslovakia until 1991. More than 70 people were killed and several hundred wounded in the first weeks of the invasion.
Thirty-eight years ago on August 21, 1968, Czechoslovak citizens woke up to find that the country had been invaded by Warsaw Pact forces. It was the beginning of the end of the so-called Prague Spring, a period of reform communism ushered in by Alexander Dubcek, who is known for wanting to create "socialism with a human face." Yet this experiment involving freedom of the press and the opportunity to travel abroad was not looked upon kindly by the Communist Party leadership in Moscow, nor by the leadership in neighbouring socialist states. The solution
Compensation for damages suffered during the Soviet-led invasion of 1968 has been paid out to a small minority of claimants, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. A new law last year earmarked over 10 million dollars to compensate those who lost a family member or suffered serious injury or rape during the occupation. However, of almost 400 claimants, just over 50 have been granted compensation by the Interior Ministry. Many of those turned down say it was because they had received a one-off payment in 1990.
Martin Fell is the half-Czech co-owner of a Czech style tea-room in the Scottish city of Glasgow. The cosy tea-room has the Czech name Cajovna (phonetically spelled Tchai Ovna) and is to be found on the city's Otago Lane, near Glasgow University. When I met Martin there recently he smoked away on a hookah water pipe throughout our conversation. Between drags he told me a little about his background.
50 years ago on Saturday, the Communist Party in Moscow fell silent as Nikita Khrushchev took the podium at the 20th Party Conference to deliver his famous "Secret Speech". This monumental attack on Stalin's brutal rule had a great impact on many countries of the Soviet Bloc, and was the beginning of the end for hard-line Stalinism in many countries. Chris Jarrett takes a look at how Czechoslovak society reacted to this political shift.
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