Thirty years ago this Christmas, Czechs were in an especially festive spirit – the entire Communist Party leadership had resigned a month before, and in a matter of days a majority democratic parliament would elect Václav Havel as president, bringing the Velvet Revolution to a glorious end. Ahead of the holiday, I spoke to Adéla and Petr Mucha – a historian and theologian, respectively, born into practicing Catholic families under Communism – about their experiences with the “Underground Church”, religious figures active in the dissident Charter 77
A group of historians, educators and archivists – including from Czech Radio – has rolled out a digital app designed to stimulate students’ interest in using primary sources. The overall aim of the HistoryLab project is to develop students’ historical literary and critical thinking, and help teachers craft interactive, multimedia lesson plans.
The once picturesque village of Libkovice lay nestled in a small valley not far from the hilltop where legend has it the primal Father Čech decided his people would settle in Bohemian. Founded nearly a millennium ago, Libkovice was the last town slated for liquidation after 1989 to make way for coal mining operations. Its residents, together with environmental activists faced off against freshly minted capitalists in an ultimately futile battle to save the village, which lay above a rich seam of coal. But the sad story has one silver lining: the
The Czech police’s Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of
Communism have initiated the prosecution of three senior figures from the
pre-1989 Communist regime. One-time Communist Party general secretary
Miloš Jakeš, former prime minister Lubomír Štrougal and ex-interior
minister Vratislav Vajnar are accused of abuse of office in connection with
the use of firearms on the borders of the then Czechoslovakia, a
representative of the Prague 1 state attorney’s office, Jan Lelek, said
The three top Communists were aware the border patrol service were using guns to shoot people crossing the border without authorisation but did nothing to stop them, Mr. Lelek said.
The Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of Communism said that because of the inaction of the three officials between 1976 and 1989 nine people were either shot dead or killed by dogs while attempting to cross the border into the West; at least seven others were injured.
After attending commemorations in Prague earlier on Sunday, Czech Prime
Minister Andrej Babiš flew to Slovakia to honour the victims of communism.
The ceremony took place at the Freedom Gate memorial near the Slovak castle
of Děvín by the border with Austria, where many died while trying to
cross the tightly guarded border with the West during the Cold War.
Mr. Babiš laid a wreath at the memorial and said that it was important that Czechs and Slovaks were celebrating 30 years since gaining freedom and democracy. Above all, he stressed the importance of free elections, something, that he said was the most important goal of the Civic Forum and its Slovak equivalent, Public against violence, at the time.
His Slovak counterpart Peter Pellegrini said that it is precisely the Freedom Gate memorial which shows the tragic nature of the communist regime.
Thirty years ago Czechs took to the streets to demonstrate for freedom and democracy, for the chance to speak their mind without reprisals, to vote in free elections and shape their own future. Today they are taking stock of the country’s successes and failures, of how far they have come along the road to a liberal democracy and market economy and whether the ideals of 1989 are still alive in people’s hearts and minds.
The date is November 17, 1989, eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A cordon of Czechoslovak riot police blocks the path of thousands of university students staging a march through Prague, calling for democracy – and freedom. As police truncheons begin to rain down on their heads, they chant “We have bare hands” – we are unarmed. Hundreds are bruised and bloodied; one student reportedly dead. The Velvet Revolution, as it came to be known, had begun.
Thirty years ago the communist regime in Czechoslovakia started to fall apart. The main demonstrations and events were taking place in Prague. But the key question was whether the regions would join in and support the not so numerous college students and actors in the capital who were calling for a protest strike. Vít Pohanka witnessed how the Velvet Revolution started in the Moravian city of Olomouc:
The 30-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution culminates this Sunday, November 17. Aside from official state tributes, a wide range of commemorative events, including concerts, processions and debates, will be taking place in cities across the Czech Republic during the whole weekend. Meanwhile, opponents of the government are planning a massive demonstration in Prague.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery
Valentine’s Day 1945 - When the Americans bombed Prague
Film about tragic fate of great Czech actress highlights communist atrocities in the 1950s