Struck as a PhD student by the philosophical language used by Václav Havel in his famous 1990 speech to the US Congress, Aviezer Tucker went on to write The Philosophy and Politics of Czech Dissidence from Patočka to Havel. More recently Tucker, whose wife is Czech, has turned his attention to what really happened when communism fell at the end of the 1980s. We discussed his latest book The Legacies of Totalitarianism – and his call for a new kind of dissident today – when the Israeli-born political philosopher visited our studios recently. But
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and deputy prime minister Pavel Bělobradek have paid homage on behalf of the government to the victims of Communism. Bělobradek, the leader of the Christian Democrats, laid a wreath at a memorial in Prague 5 district. Monday is the 66th anniversary of the execution of Milada Horáková, the woman member of parliament found guilty in a show trial in 1950 staged by the Communist regime. The death penalty was carried out in spite of last minutes pleas for clemency from the likes of Albert Einstein and the Pope. A series of commemorative events were scheduled in the Czech capital and across the country.
An event commemorating Milada Horáková and other victims of the Communist regime is being held in Prague on Monday, which is the anniversary of her execution following a show trial in 1950. The public are being invited to light candles at the gathering at Kampa Museum at 20:30. Other memorial events are also being held on Monday, including at Pankrác prison, where politician Milada Horáková became the only women put to death by the Communists.
The Dancing House Gallery in Prague has just opened an exhibition called Retro of the 70s and 80s, depicting the way of life of the common people and the communist elite in the last two decades of communism. The exhibition is extremely realistic – giving visitors a powerful throwback as they walk into the typical 70’s living room, shop or holiday scene. I went along and was given a tour by one of the organizers, Nikola Lörinczová.
Today it is easy to forget that Prague’s Letná Park overlooking the city once served as a pedestal to the largest statue in the world of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Derisively referred to as ‘fronta na maso’ (queue for meat), the massive granite work featured the marshal followed by a line of anonymous ‘heroes of the proletariat’. Prague was freed of the sculptural monstrosity in 1962; now, thanks to a film crew shooting the story of sculptor Otakar Švec, Stalin will temporarily return.
Last Saturday Trabant fans from around the country descended on Prague’s Motol district, in the western suburbs of the city, for the opening of the one-and-only Trabant Museum in the Czech Republic. The small two-cylinder vehicle born in communist East-Germany as an affordable car for the masses was neither affordable, nor easily accessible, but somehow or other the smoke-belching, sluggish Trabi has won many people’s hearts and still has fan clubs around the world.
A commemorative ceremony for victims of the communist regime took place at Motol cemetery in Prague on Saturday. The event, organised by the Confederation of Former Political Prisoners, was attended by the Minister of Culture Daniel Herman and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová, who laid wreathes at the memorial to the victims of communism. Motol cemetery was one of the places where those who died at the hands of the communists were secretly buried in mass graves. The existence of the mass grave was only discovered after the fall of communism.
Czechoslovak Communist leader Ladislav Adamec was a KGB informer, according to the Mitrokhin Archive, a collection of notes by a KGB officer who defected to the UK that is now held at Cambridge University. Under the code name Atos, Adamec, who was prime minister when the Velvet Revolution started in November 1989, figures in a list of KGB informers among the upper echelons of the Communist Party in the then Czechoslovakia, the Czech daily Právo reported on Saturday.
In this week’s Czech History we look at one aspect of the Cold War, the use of secret agents to spy on and disrupt the enemy’s propaganda services. In particular, we focus on the circus that surrounded the return of a Czechoslovak double agent Pavel Minařík 40 years ago in 1976 which was aimed at discrediting the US financed and Munich-based broadcaster Radio Free Europe.
The Czech Academy of Sciences and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian regimes have cooperated on a book just out tracing the fate of the close to 300 people who were killed trying to flee from communist Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989. The book published under the heading The Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia is a collection of human interest stories portraying the victims, what motivated them to risk their lives crossing the Iron Curtain and who is responsible for their deaths.
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