“Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren’t just for fairytales”. That’s the central message of a new documentary called The Art of Dissent, which celebrates artistic engagement in Czechoslovakia before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Written, directed and filmed by the American intellectual historian James D Le Sueur, the film aims to debunk the myth that life behind the Churchillian ‘Iron Curtain’ was static and grey, and to inspire viewers through the messages of Václav Havel and fellow former dissidents.
Saturday is the 30th anniversary of the publication of the dissident A Few
Sentences manifesto in the then illegal newspaper Lidové noviny, on June
22, 1989. The document demanded the end of criminalisation of
Czechoslovakia’s opposition, the release of political prisoners and the
lifting of a ban on public gatherings.
A Few Sentences is considered to have been officially declared on June 27, when its text was broadcast on Radio Free Europe. Over the coming months it was signed by around 40,000 people, making it the biggest action of its kind. Communism fell in Czechoslovakia five months later.
The early years of Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime were marked by hundreds of tragic stories which revolved around injustice, torture and in many cases death. One of the most famous is that of General Heliodor Píka, an exemplary First Republic general who, exactly 70 years ago, became the first victim of the rigged trials that typified the period.
Dr. Miloš Krajný is one of a number of people who have just received the Gratias Agit, the Czech Foreign Ministry’s award for those who have promoted the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. A highly successful expert on allergies and immunity in his professional life, he has also devoted a lot of energy to advancing Czech music in Canada, the country he has called home since 1968. Dr. Krajný was born in 1941 and when we spoke I first asked what, if any, were his recollections of the war.
The Czech Republic’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has launched a new project to help teachers in primary and secondary schools make history classes more engaging. Called Obrazy války or Images of War, it focuses on the period of the Second World War and provides teachers with alternative study materials, based on photographs and film clips.
Celebrated author, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Jiří Stránský has died, at the age of 87. A former political prisoner, he led the Czech branch of the international PEN club after the fall of communism and later headed the state cinematography fund. He also dedicated himself to educating schoolchildren about the perils of totalitarianism – all the while nurturing an infectious optimism.
The writer Jiří Stránský died on Wednesday at the age of 87. Mr.
Stránský spent almost a decade in Communist labour camps as a political
prisoner after being found guilty of “treason” in the hard-line 1950s.
He put those experiences into his writings, some of which he also adapted
for the screen.
In the 1990s Jiří Stránský became president of the Czech PEN Club. He was also a life-long devotee of the scouting movement and shared his experiences in talks with young people.
Translator, literary scholar and historical sociologist Martin Tharp’s current research focuses on the working-class counterculture of post-1968 Czechoslovakia. He finds that – dissident groups such as Charter 77 aside – the “underground” social movement comprised a diffuse and generalised sentiment of an “emotive-artistic resistance to state cultural control” and censorship.
A bust of the late Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is due to be unveiled at Prague’s DOX gallery this coming Monday. The ceremony is part of an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Among the guests will be Liu Xiaobo’s widow and two of the former student leaders.
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