In this episode I use the radio archives to evoke the atmosphere of Czechoslovakia during the First Republic of the 1920s and 30s. The recordings that survive offer a fragmentary picture, but they capture something of the spirit of the time, from Prague’s first traffic light to the charms of the Ruthenian countryside, just before Europe was torn apart by the Second World War.
In the first of this series we heard the voice of Czechoslovakia’s first President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. His wife Charlotte was American, and thanks to her influence Tomáš became a champion of feminism. Charlotte went on to inspire many women both within Czechoslovakia and beyond and in this programme we hear some of them, speaking in their own words from the Czech Radio archive.
President Miloš Zeman lit a bonfire at Lany chateau to mark the 82nd
anniversary of the death of Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš
Garrigue Masaryk on Saturday.
The traditional ceremony was also attended by Cardinal Dominik Duka and the honorary chairman of TOP 09 Karel Schwarzenberg.
The tradition of Masaryk bonfires goes back to 1935 when they were lit around the country to celebrate the president’s 85th birthday. The tradition was cut off by the communist regime and renewed in 2001.
We start this series with one of the great European democrats of the 20th century, Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Born in 1850, he was already in his late sixties when he became president in November 1918. He took inspiration from the western democracies, in particular the United States and Britain, having spent time in both countries during his First World War exile. But he was also a passionate European.
Pavel Mikeš, the Czech Ambassador to Ethiopia, studied African History and Linguistics at Charles University in the 1980s. Despite not being allowed to travel to the continent under communism, he managed to learn fluent Swahili and Amharic, the dominant Ethiopian language, along with English and French. After a long career in academia, he joined the Czech Foreign Ministry in 1999, and has since served as head of mission or ambassador in several other African countries. Along the way, he has written books on the history and geography of Ethiopia,
T.G. Masaryk’s daughter Alice was imprisoned in 1915 for treason, a charge that carried the death penalty. Her time in a grim jail in Vienna is the focus of Charlotte and Alice, a freshly published and highly illuminating collection of over 200 letters between her and her US-born mother, Charlotte Masaryk. The book is the work of Anne Johnson, an American editor and translator who lives in Brno. She explained its genesis when we spoke recently in the city.
The Czech National Bank re-issued 30,000 sets of six 20-crown coins on
Wednesday to mark the centenary of monetary separation from the former
The six coins featuring famous First Republic politicians such as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, as well as the first central bank governors, were first issued in 2018.
At that time, collectors could exchange them for coins of the same value. Now the cost for six coins has been set at CZK 590. Another 20,000 sets of the coins are due to go on sale this autumn.
Countless statues of Tomáš Garrique Masaryk, the founding father of Czechoslovakia and the country’s first president, were erected in town squares in the first two decades of the new democracy. Scores were torn down under the German occupation, melted down in Third Reich forges to make bullets and artillery shells. But the fate of a handful of others remains a mystery.
Zuzana Čaputová, who is to be sworn in as Slovak president on Saturday,
will pay her first official visit to the Czech Republic on Thursday.
The new Slovak head of state will be received with honours at Prague Castle by President Miloš Zeman, meet with the speakers of both houses of Parliament and attend a concert given in her honour on Prague’s Kampa Island.
She will also lay flowers at the grave of the late president Vaclav Havel and lay a wreath at the statue of Slovak politician Rastislav Štefánik, one of the co-founders of Czechoslovakia.
No meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been scheduled, since he will be attending a meeting of the European Council at the time, according to the Office of the Government.
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