Czechs are marking 70 years since the communist take-over which brought the
country under totalitarian rule for more than four decades.
The anniversary is being marked by film screenings, photo exhibitions and public debates.Gatherings and commemorative acts are taking place in many parts of the country at memorials dedicated to the victims of communism.
In Prague people have been laying flowers and lighting candles at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at Ujezd and a gathering is expected to take place on old Town Square.
Historians have been stressing the need to keep alive the memory of this dark chapter of the country’s history.
For around 40 years, so-called Victorious February was sacred for the Czechoslovak communist regime. The period from around February 17 and culminating on February 25 marked the party’s seizure of power when leader Klement Gottwald was finally named as prime minister of a communist dominated government.
On February 25, 1948, the Communist Party seized power in Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of hard-line, authoritarian rule. The Communist takeover was enabled by the party’s election success in 1946 and the resignation of the government’s remaining democratic ministers in February of 1948. President Edvard Beneš’ decision to confirm the Communists in power rather than dissolve the government and call new elections sealed the country’s fate for decades to come.
A series of former Czechoslovak dissidents have criticized the use of
former communist era secret police files and comments from former agents to
discredit current politicians.
In recent days, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been the target of press attacks for reported meetings with a former Czechoslovak secret policeman using diplomatic cover.
The petition by a group of former Charter 77 activists, including former Czech prime minister Petr Pithart, František Bublan and Petr Uhl, said the former secret service files and comments from former agents should not be used to affect political events in other countries.
The Czech and Slovak StB archives show Corbyn met with a Czechoslavak agent three times but did not give any specific information and was not recruited as an agent.
But the British media attacks on the Labour leader have continued fuelled by comments from the former communist police agent.
Sylva Šimsová was 18 when her father, a Social Democrat politician, told her the family had to escape from Czechoslovakia. It was 1949, a year after the Communists had taken power. The young Sylva insisted that her fiancé, whom she had met through her beloved scouts only six months earlier, come with them. Remarkably, almost 70 years later she and her husband – a composer and broadcaster who goes by the name Karel Janovický – are still together.
Fearing prison in Communist Czechoslovakia, in March 1950 Oldřich Doležal and other ex-RAF aviators simultaneously kidnapped three planes on internal flights and escaped to West Germany. On board one of those planes was Doležal’s son, then just an infant. Today Tom Dolezal runs the Czechoslovak Free Airforce website and is an authority on the Czech and Slovaks who served in the RAF.
Fifty years ago on January 5, 1968, the news came out of the ongoing central committee party meeting of the Czechoslovak communist party that Slovak, Alexander Dubček, had been chosen as the new party boss. Dubček was little known in Czech circles but his name would soon be known around the country and the world.
A Prague court has halted a case centred on Communist persecution of kulaks following the death of a man believed to have been the country’s oldest defendant. His alleged crimes took place in the early 1950s when Czechoslovak agriculture was being collectivised, often using extremely harsh measures.
Jan Šesták was a music-obsessed mega-fan of Radio Luxembourg, tuning in every evening, despite the risks, in communist Czechoslovakia. Tony Prince was a top DJ on the Europe-wide station, which regularly reached tens of millions of listeners. This is the story of how the two met when Prince performed in Šesták’s native Brno on a 1970 tour, starting a friendship that continues to this day. It is also a story about the power of radio.