One of Prague’s best known German-language authors was Egon Erwin Kisch, who was born in the Czech capital 125 years ago this Thursday. His excellent style and original choice of stories, together with his dramatic life, earned him a reputation of the ‘Raging Reporter’ that is still very much alive today.
The authorities have examining claims by a former intelligence agent that a fatal explosion in 1984 was the work of the communist secret police, the StB. Twelve people died when a gas mains exploded in the town of Třinec. The agent claims the whole thing was a secret police plot aimed at discrediting dissidents around Václav Havel, but historians and police are sceptical.
Prague has just seen the opening of a new and rather unusual tourist attraction – a former secret police observation post recently discovered at the top of a bell tower in one of the city’s gothic churches. For just under four decades – from the 1950s to the 1980s – the tower was home to a detachment of communist secret policemen who’d spy on the foreign embassies below. Rob Cameron climbed to the top to have a look.
The legendary Big Band of Czech Radio is celebrating 50 years of its existence. The history of the band goes back to the 1960s, when it was called the Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra. Over the years, the band cooperated with most of the country’s best known jazz and pop musicians. On Wednesday it will celebrate its anniversary with a concert at Národní Dům in Prague.
The imposing Teplá abbey complex is sited around a dozen miles from the spa town of Mariánské Lázně, in western Bohemia. Its story is one of an enterprising religious community that was the main force in developing the whole region, its destruction under Nazism and then Communism and its tentative comeback today on the back of tourist income.
A few weeks ago, the world celebrated the 200th birthday of one of the great composers of all time, Frederic Chopin, who was born just outside Warsaw in 1810. As elsewhere, Chopin’s anniversary year is being celebrated in the Czech Republic – and with good reason. Although in the course of his short life Chopin spent just a few weeks in Bohemia, his links to the Czechs are far from superficial. When he was a child, his first piano teacher was the Czech, Vojtěch Živný; many years later Chopin spent some of the happiest days of his life in the West
Filmy patří lidu (Films Belong to the People) is the title of a series of Socialist Realist pictures that have been released on DVD in the Czech Republic in recent months. These propaganda-filled films are from the 1950s, the harshest decade of the communist era, notorious for its brutal repression, show trials and forced labour camps.
On Tuesday, March 30th the Czech flag was more in evidence than usual – the state symbol turned 90. The red, white and blue flag with its simple geometric pattern was created in 1920 shortly after the founding of an independent Czechoslovak state. Although Czechoslovakia no longer exists, the flag remains the Czech Republic’s state symbol.
For all the funny people who have contributed to a century of Czech filmmaking, the title “King of Comics” belongs to only one. Vlasta Burian would be 119 years old next month, and he would be very proud of his reputation indeed, still a star of the Czech television screen today. But his career as a comedian went hand in hand with the tragedies of the 20th century, and in his lifetime he was a pauper, a prince, and a pauper again.
The Czech daily Právo reported this week that a former Communist prosecutor sent to prison for her role in the judicial murder of democratic politician Milada Horáková in 1950 could be released next year. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, who at 88 is the country’s oldest prisoner, could have her six-year sentence reduced by half.