On Thursday, November 17th, the Czech Republic marked 22 years since the start of the Velvet Revolution as well as the 72nd anniversary of the events of November 1939 which resulted in the closure of all Czech universities by the Nazis and reprisals against students and intellectuals. But many Czechs used the holiday to voice their discontent with the current government policies.
On Prague’s Na Prikope street, in the very heart of the city –right next to McDonalds – is a Museum of Communism. What comes as a surprise to many locals and foreign visitors is that this private venture is the work of an American businessman who owns a number of bars and restaurants in the Czech capital. Glenn Spicker came to Prague 17 years ago, on a wave of interest in the post communist world. Unlike others he launched a successful business venture and stayed. As Glenn gave me a tour of the museum, he explained what made him branch out so far
In today’s Special our guest is the charming Eva Jiránková, born in 1921 to a notable Prague family in the early years of the First Republic. As a junior, Jiránková was a competitive skier and as a young woman she graced the covers of popular Czech magazines – something of a charmed life. But that all that ended in September 1942 when her husband, Miloš Jiránek, was arrested by the Gestapo, and spent the next years in internment and concentration camps.
The 1948 communist takeover of Czechoslovakia remains a trauma for many Czechs today. Could the country’s fall under Soviet domination have been prevented? Why did Czechoslovak politicians of the era so severely underestimate the threat of communism? These are some of the issues discussed in a new biography of the politician Prokop Drtina, one of the key figures of the brief period between the end of the war and the start of the communist regime.
After the communist coup, Czechoslovak Radio was at the political vanguard and transformed into a tool of propaganda. One of the first big changes at Radio Prague was that our familiar call signal from Dvořák’s New World Symphony was replaced by a stirring socialist anthem – “Ku předu levá”. The words are simple: “Left foot forwards, left foot forwards, and never a backwards step.” All broadcasts acquired a political hue. Here, for example, is a factory worker, talking about his first love:
South Moravia is well-known for its wine, which has been produced there at least since thirsty Roman soldiers far from home began doing so in the 2nd century. Move forward a thousand years or so, to the 13th century, and wine trading had become one of the most profitable businesses in the region. Those are the days that our destination for today stretches back to.
2011 marks one hundred years since Jan Kašpar, a Czech aviation pioneer, made the first long-distance flight from a town in East Bohemia, to the famous Chuchle racetrack near Prague. Kašpar covered the 120 kilometres in a retrofitted single-engine monoplane, bought from Louis Bleriot after the Frenchman’s successful flight over the English Channel. Kašpar’s own journey from Pardubice to Chuchle was itself ambitious and when he arrived he was given a heroes’ welcome. This week, in honour of the original deed, the feat was repeated by another Czech
This Saturday a special mass will be celebrated in honour of Saint Agnes of Bohemia, on the 22nd anniversary of her canonization by the Roman Catholic Church in 1989. In a couple of weeks’ time a large exhibition will open in the convent of St Agnes in Prague founded by Agnes herself. Those are just two events in a long series to mark the 800tha birth anniversary of one of the country’s most revered patron saints. In today’s Czech History we look at the life and legacy of this extraordinary noblewoman.
Many people in Czechoslovakia greeted the communist coup of February 1948 with enthusiasm, in the belief that the horrors of the war should never be allowed to happen again. But following the model of Stalin’s Soviet Union, it was not long before a period of political terror began, with thousands of arrests and then a series of political show trials. The most horrific symbol of the period was the trial and execution of Milada Horáková. She had been one of the most enlightened politicians of the pre-war Czechoslovak Republic, a champion of democracy