Czechs on Monday marked 19 years since the fall of communism and the return of freedom and democracy to their country. It was a day of remembrance but more than ever before it was overshadowed by present-day concerns such as the Communists’ return to power in regional government and the siting of a US radar on Czech territory.
Czech-born British author and journalist Benjamin Kuras was one of many expatriates who witnessed the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia from abroad. Ahead of autumn 1989, he and colleagues at the BBC’s Czech section regularly speculated over when change would finally come. But when it happened in the days and months after November 17, the developments presented a new dilemma for those who had left in 1968 or earlier. New questions came to the fore such as when to visit, whether to go back at all, and if so, how to tackle one’s “ghosts”. In this
Over the next four weeks, at almost 600 primary and secondary schools throughout the Czech Republic, pupils will come face to face with the many injustices carried out during four decades of communist rule. Using documentary films and interaction with real people who lived through those times, the Stories of Injustice project attempts to shed light on a period that barely features on the mainstream Czech curriculum. The programme is run by the NGO People in Need, and this is its fourth year, but as Rob Cameron reports, it's not to everyone's
Czechoslovakia played an active part in the Soviet Union’s propaganda war with the United States during the 1950s, a time of edginess and paranoia on both sides. There was no shortage of people trying to flee across the Iron Curtain to the West, but every now and then the flight would be in the other direction, and someone from the West would actively seek asylum in the Communist Bloc. For the communist regimes this was a propaganda opportunity not to be missed.
Milan Hauner is a leading Czech historian whose area of expertise is World War II, Germany and Czech-German relations. He himself was born during the war, in 1940, to a Czech-German couple who were both deaf. In this edition of Panorama, Professor Hauner, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, outlines aspects of his own, fascinating family history – starting with his grandfather Vilém Julius Hauner, a leading military historian, translator and anti-Nazi journalist.
Even after the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Klement Gottwald in Czechoslovakia the 1950s remained a period of high political tension between East and West. The Cold War was at its height; with it came the arms race and the space race. Here is Czechoslovakia’s president Antonín Novotný, in a New Year radio address on January 1 1958:
The story of the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia is one of the most remarkable episodes of the first world war. It has now been captured in a new documentary entitled Accidental Army by the Czech Legion Project. The group's Chicago-based founder Bruce Bendinger was in Prague screening it last week, and he stopped by at Radio Prague's studios to discuss the Legions and their fascinating history.
When Joseph Stalin died on March 5 1953, it sent shockwaves round the world. In Czechoslovakia his personality cult had been almost as overwhelming as in the Soviet Union itself. At the time of his death, work was already well under way to build the biggest statue of the Soviet dictator in the world – unveiled two years later in Letná Park. Stalin had a close ally and kindred spirit in the Czechoslovak President, Klement Gottwald, and Gottwald ignored warnings from his doctors in order to attend his friend and protector’s funeral. Before leading
Three major Czech institutions have joined together to launch a unique website called Paměť národa or Memory of the Nation. It will give the public and scholars access to an archive of personal memories of 20th century history, including the horrors of the Holocaust and communist persecution. The materials are gathered by individuals, non-profit organisations and other institutions across Europe and they are accessible to the general public.
Prague witnessed its first major military parade since 1985 on Tuesday, to mark the 90th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Czechoslovakia weathered many storms before finally splitting into two countries in 1993, but the anniversary is still celebrated here in the Czech Republic, although not in Slovakia. The idea to hold a large-scale military parade attracted criticism in some quarters, but seems to have been positively received by the public.