In June 1989, a group of people around the dissident and future president, Václav Havel, put together a petition to the communist authorities asking them to stop oppressing freedom in the country. Over five months, more than 40,000 Czechs and Slovaks signed the Několik vět petition, fuelling the demise of communism in Czechoslovakia.
The expression “jako kůl v plotě” – “like a fencepost” - entered Czech folklore in the summer of 1989. The date was July 17 and Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party chief Miloš Jakeš was meeting local party activists in the small West Bohemian town of Červený Hrádek. The authority of the party was being increasingly challenged, and thousands had signed Charter 77's appeal for greater recognition of human rights, "Několik vět" (a few sentences). Not realizing that he was being recorded, Jakeš complained bitterly that he felt he was standing on his own
Part of a large art collection that once belonged to the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is dispersed in several Czech museums – often without their curators being aware of it. That’s what researcher Jiří Kuchař discovered after three years of investigation. Following last week’s TV report on the case, a gallery in south Bohemia even removed three statues from public display, citing security reasons.
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