On Wednesday, Czechs marked the 45th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion that crushed the period of reforms known as the Prague Spring. They weren’t alone: reaction also came from Sofia, where artists overnight anonymously sprayed an infamous Soviet-era monument pink. With the words ‘Bulharsko se omlouvá’, they apologised for Bulgaria’s role in the 1968 invasion, a gesture that did not go unnoticed and made world headlines.
The Czech Republic is marking the 45th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops. A traditional commemorative ceremony took place on Wednesday morning in front of the Czech Radio building on Prague’s Vinohradská St., attended by Prime Minister Jíří Rusnok, outgoing chairwoman of the lower house of Parliament Miroslava Němcová and other dignitaries. Various civic associations will hold related events on the main squares of the capital and elsewhere around the country. Over 100 Czechoslovaks were killed in the invasion, when an estimated 500,000 soldiers invaded their country in the early hours of August 21 1968 in order to quell the Prague Spring reform movement.
In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, unknown artists painted a monument to Soviet soldiers pink and wrote “Bulgaria is sorry!” in Czech and Bulgarian under it on Tuesday night. According to a Bulgarian server Dariknews, the artists did this on the 45th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces in order to underline the role of the Bulgarian armed forces in the invasion. The Bulgarian government was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion in 1968, and it was also one of the last countries involved to formally apologize after the regime change.
Wednesday marks the 45th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Soviet Union and other communist countries. The invasion shocked the nation, and ushered in a long period of political and moral decline. More than a hundred people died during the invasion, some of whom were killed in defence of Czechoslovak Radio. On Wednesday, several Czech top officials, witnesses and dozens of guests marked the anniversary outside the Czech Radio building in central Prague.
The second annual Arnošt Lustig Prize has been awarded to the radio and television announcer Kamila Moučková, who openly criticised the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and was a signatory of Charter 77. In August 1968, Ms Moučková said on live television that Czechoslovakia was occupied and was subsequently led out of the studio by Soviet soldiers. She was later fired and banned from working in her profession. Until 1989 Ms Moučková, who is now 85, worked as a cook, a cleaning lady and a factory worker, and was constantly questioned by the secreted police until the Velvet Revolution, when she was able to return to her previous occupation. The Arnošt Lustig Prize is awarded to people who have exhibited courage, perseverance and humanity throughout their life.
Saturday is the 35th anniversary of the start of the first and to date only space flight by a Czech. Vladimír Remek was a member of the crew of the Soviet Soyuz 28 mission which took off on March 2 1978 and reentered Earth’s atmosphere almost eight days later. The Czech cosmonaut was the first man in space who was not a citizen of either the US or the USSR. Mr. Remek, who is 64, is today an MEP for the Communist Party and has been discussed as a possible future Czech ambassador to Moscow.
The maker of a miniseries on the 1969 death of Jan Palach and its aftermath has hit back at statements made about him by a former head of the Communist Party. Polish director Agnieska Holland told the new website iDnes.cz that making Palach out to be a Communist represented an abuse of his legacy. On Friday, hard-line Communist Miroslav Grebeníček said Palach had acted out of sympathy for the reform Communists defeated by the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968, adding that claiming he had become a symbol of the struggle against totalitarian Communism was completely misleading. He made the comments during a debate prior to a vote that made January 16, the anniversary of Palach’s self-immolation, a day honouring his memory. Ms. Holland – whose three-part Burning Bush is currently being screened – said the student’s actual aim had been to spark resistance to Communist rule. The Oscar-nominated director, who is 64, studied at Prague’s FAMU film school and was herself involved in anti-regime activities around the time of Palach’s death.
The new HBO miniseries Hořící Keř, or Burning Bush, receives a gala premiere at a Prague cinema on Wednesday night and kicks off on TV screens next Sunday. Over 23 years after the fall of communism, it is, remarkably, the first film treatment of one of the most dramatic moments of modern Czech history – the self-immolation of Jan Palach in January 1969.
For over four decades, Czechs have at this time of year – once covertly but now openly – marked the death of Jan Palach, who on January 16 1969 set himself on fire in protest at society’s resignation in the face of the Soviet occupation that began five months earlier. This year one of the events commemorating Palach’s act of self-sacrifice has been the launch of a new website containing a wealth of material on the student’s life, death and much more.
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