Though forced to live in exile for most of his life, the world-renowned pianist Rudolf Firkušný maintained strong Czech traditions at his home in the United States. Indeed, his daughter Véronique Firkusny’s mother tongue was Czech and today she translates leading authors from her parents’ homeland and helps opera singers get to grips with Czech-language works. When we spoke in New York, I first asked Véronique Firkusny how her father had viewed the situation in his native country following the Communist takeover of 1948.
Until recently Zdeněk Toman was an obscure name to many Czechs. However, his incredible story has now reached a broad audience thanks to an eponymous film about him that was released last autumn. Just this week Toman was nominated for 13 prizes at the upcoming annual Czech Lion awards. I spoke to Martin Šmok, the man who originally discovered his extraordinary story.
Otakar Dušek is a designer and artist with a passion for history and historical justice – something he hopes to instil in his students at the prestigious Václav Hollar School of Art in Prague. That passion helped propel him from a teacher of graphic design, fonts and computer graphics to world renowned medallist – an artist specialising in commemorative medals.
The 20th anniversary of Jan Palach’s self-immolation brought many thousands onto the streets for protests that had no precedent in communist Czechoslovakia. Palach Week, as it became known, began on January 15 1989 and saw running battles between demonstrators and riot police. Hundreds were arrested, among them top dissidents such as Václav Havel, and the events are seen by some as foreshadowing the Velvet Revolution, 10 months later.
Fifty years ago this January, Jan Palach doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Prague City Hall is now looking to buy the former hospital where he died – slated to become a luxury hotel – and turn it into a “museum of totalitarianism”.
In her book The Greengrocer and His TV: The Culture of Communism after the 1968 Prague Spring, historian Paulina Bren offers fresh perspectives on various aspects of Czechoslovakia’s normalisation period. These include how the Communists used TV serials to get their message across at a time when the nation, forced to accept the re-imposition of relatively hardline rule, largely turned inward. She makes particular reference to TV writer Jaroslav Dietl, creator of some of the most popular shows of that era.
The Communist-era dissident Milan Balabán has died at the age of 89. A
theologian, Evangelical pastor and poet, he was considered one of the Czech
Republic’s leading religious thinkers.
In the 1950s Balabán – who was born in what is today Ukraine – joined a group of Evangelical theologians named Nová orientace (New Orientation), which pushed for reforms in Czechoslovakia. He later signed the Charter 77 protest document.
He lost his license to serve as a cleric in the mid-1970s and was forced to do manual labour, including working for the operators of the Prague sewer system.
The short-lived secret organisation Světlana formed in 1948 grew to become the largest anti-Communist group in Czechoslovakia, boasting several hundred members at its peak, operating in more than a dozen cells, mainly in Moravia. That’s one version of events. Many long believed that Světlana was not only infiltrated by the State Security force, or StB, but was in fact a creation of it – part of operations to ensnare “counter-revolutionaries”, those sympathetic to what is now known as the Third Resistance movement. Other questions remain as to whether
The anti-Babiš demonstration at Prague’s Letná: Questions and answers
Preservationists slam Jiřičná design for new Prague high rise development
PwC report: Prague increasingly attractive for real estate investors
Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids forms bridge between the past with the future
Black Hawk down? Communists could pull support for Babiš gov’t if Soviet Mi-24s are replaced