In the early morning of June 21, 1949, General Heliodor Píka, a hero of World Wars I and II, became the first Czechoslovak to be executed by the new communist regime. Today, almost 60 years to the date, the Czech Republic honoured the memory of one of the greatest of heroes and most profound of victims.
In the second half of the 1980s the sweeping reforms in the Soviet Union were being echoed in several of the country’s Eastern Bloc satellites. But in Czechoslovakia there were few signs of change, despite growing diplomatic pressure from abroad. A key moment came in December 1988, when President Francois Mitterrand made the first ever official trip to Czechoslovakia by a French head of state. This was part of a broader attempt to improve dialogue with communist countries, but Mitterrand also came with clear human rights agenda. Just before his
When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, it heralded a revolution in Soviet-American relations. At a series of high-profile summits, beginning in Geneva in 1985, a growing personal trust developed between the Soviet and American leaders. Here is President Reagan – from the Czech Radio archives - in Moscow on June 1 1988:
Some figures are cast as heroes and others as villains. Emanuel Moravec - the face, voice and main force behind Czech collaboration with the occupying Nazis during WWII - unmistakeably belongs to the latter category. For his actions he became dubbed ‛the Czech Quisling’ – a reference the more famous Norwegian collaborator. In this week’s Czechs in History, Chris Johnstone explores Moravec’s complex character and path to collaboration.
I first met John Tregellas just after the Velvet Revolution, when we both started working for Radio Prague at a time of huge changes in Czech society. At the time neither of us suspected that nearly two decades later we would both still be here. These days, John, who grew up in the English county of Devon, runs a successful business organizing tours in Central Europe for choirs and orchestras from all over the world. Speaking near perfect Czech, he says that he now feels every bit at home in Prague as he does in his native Britain. I went to see
This week in Mailbox we find out the name of our May mystery man as well as those of the four listeners who will receive Radio Prague prizes for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Henk Poortvliet, Hans Verner Lollike, Charlie Cockey, Imo-Obong Umana, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Nooreddin Ahmad Hussein, Colin Law, David Eldridge, Gavin Waters, Charles Konecny.
Leaders from around the continent gathered in Krakow on Thursday to mark 20 years since Poland’s first partly free elections which swept the anti-communist movement Solidarnosc to power. In a speech to the crowds at Wawel Castle, former Czech dissident turned president Václav Havel said the elections paved the way for the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile back in Prague, the Polish Institute kicked off a series of events to commemorate the landmark vote, and all that ensued. Maciej Ruczaj from the institute told me about some of the
The year is 1984, and Ivan Lendl plays the winning point against John McEnroe in the final of the French Open in Paris, one of eight Grand Slam singles titles in his career. The 1970s and 80s were period of huge tennis success in Czechoslovakia, and the country put considerable resources into the sport. Unlike most of their compatriots, the country’s top tennis players were able to travel round the world, and when Czechoslovak Radio caught up with the 19-year-old Lendl just before Christmas 1979, it was during one of his rare trips back home:
An interactive exhibition which is to open at the Jewish Museum in Prague on Thursday promises visitors a chance to revive a centuries’ old legend. A sculpture by the famous Czech artist Petr Nikl invites people to try to figure out the right symbol or word which would breathe life into the famous Prague Golem – a legendary giant allegedly created by the 16th century rabbi Loew.
The Communist Party has written to complain at a documentary on Czech Television about the show-trial of Milada Horáková – being shown in the run-up to the European Parliament elections. Dr Horáková, a prominent pro-democracy MP, was hanged in 1950 on trumped up charges of conspiracy and treason. The trial was orchestrated by the Communist Party, which took power in February 1948 and soon set about targeting its enemies.