The village of Nehvizdy, in central Bohemia, on Wednesday commemorated the 70th anniversary of the start of Operation Anthropoid, the targeted killing of the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. Two Czechoslovak commandoes who carried out the killing, landed near the village on the night of 28 December, 1941.
The Czechoslovak legions occupy an almost legendary place in Czech history. They comprise the armed forces that fought during and after World War I on the allied side in pursuit of an independent Czechoslovakia. The biggest force, and most potent myths, centre on the Russian force, which became embroiled in the civil war, spending three years and travelling thousands of miles before returning home. We look at the myths and facts about their exploits.
With Christmas just round the corner, we break our chronological journey through the archives this week to go back to Christmas 1945. We’re in Kročehlavy, a suburb of the industrial town of Kladno near Prague. This was home to the survivors of one of the horrors of the wartime occupation, the murder in June 1942 of all the men and most of the children from the nearby village of Lidice. Only one Lidice family had survived the massacre intact: Josef Horák was one of two young pilots from the village who had fled at the beginning of the occupation,
For all the suffering that Bohemia and Moravia endured during WWII, relatively little of the damage was physical. Prague escaped the terrible bombing that left so many of the ancient cities of Europe wasted. There were incidents, however - two in particular in the last year of the war that brought large-scale destruction and great loss of life.
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:
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
Ema Destinnová - or Emmy Destinn, as she became known abroad - was one of the greatest dramatic sopranos of the twentieth century and one of the most sought-after singers before WWI, thanks to her voice of exceptional richness, power, and control. She sang with the legendary Enrico Caruso and many other stars in the most prestigious opera houses in Europe and the United States, such as Bayreuth, Berlin's Hofoper, London's Covent Garden and New York's Metropolitan.
The early 1950s in Czechoslovakia was a bleak period in the country’s history, but there was also some escape from politics. In 1952 the Summer Olympics were held in the Finnish capital Helsinki and the undisputed hero of the games was the greatest Czech runner of all time, Emil Zátopek. Despite his extraordinary style, with his face contorted, his head and torso swinging, and emitting sounds that earned him the nickname of “the Czech locomotive”, he went to Helsinki having already twice broken the world record over 20 kilometres. His dream at