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.
Welcome to Wilsonstadt, an independent Central European city of 400,000 Germans and Hungarians, and a few Slovaks thrown in for good measure. Named after US President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, after successfully avoiding annexation by Czechoslovakia - and an impossible number of other would-be conquests - it's a prosperous, provincial town on the Danube, though plagued by poor relations with its neighbors.
The house of the Rožmberks was once one of Bohemia’s richest and mightiest noble families which at times even challenged the power of the king. The family controlled a large estate in southern Bohemia, its seat being Český Krumlov castle. The last member of the family died 400 years ago and was buried in a local monastery. But the location of the legendary Rožmberk family tomb remained a mystery for centuries – until new research into the monastery tomb produced surprising results.
Last month we heard the sad news of the death of Ewald Osers at his home in England at the age of 94. Born in Prague at a time when it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Osers was an outstanding linguist and a brilliant translator. Over the decades he translated dozens of Czech writers and poets into English, and was equally well known for his translations from German. David Vaughan looks back at a fascinating life.
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: