More than a decade ago Derek Sayer, a professor of history at Lancaster University, published an immensely popular book entitle The Coasts of Bohemia, which covers Czech history and culture from the mythical past all the way until early twentieth century. Its readers have been eagerly awaiting a continuation of the accessible and highly detailed work that opened up Czech history to a wider audience. This year, professor Sayer published a new work - ‘Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History’, which focuses in on the Czech capital
The 20th century saw scores of Czechs and Slovaks leaving their country to escape political oppression. After the communist takeover of 1948, some 40,000 people left and settled in Western countries such as the United States, where many of them joined various exile groups, trying to hasten the fall of the totalitarian regime and to warn free nations of the dangers of communism. In this edition of Czech History, I discuss some of the achievements and failures of the Czechoslovak émigré community in the US with researcher Martin Nekola.
Today would have been the eightieth birthday of Olga Havlová, first wife of the late former president Václav Havel. Olga died in 1996 at the age of 62, after devoting much of life to helping others and sacrificing large parts of it for her husband’s unpredictable career, first as an anti-communist dissident and later as a political leader. Still fondly remembered by many, Olga’s life is being commemorated with a new book and documentary.
Ever since Czech TV began broadcasting its own version of BBC’s show Who Do You Think You Are, many people have developed an interest in finding more about their own history, about who their ancestors were, where lived, and what they did. In this edition of Panorama, we discuss the boom in genealogy with researcher Blanka Lednická who a few years ago left her IT job and set up her own genealogy business.
A ceremony was held on Wednesday at Prague's Ďáblice Cemetery to remember those killed or incarcerated by Czechoslovakia's communist regime. Organised by the Confederation of Former Political Prisoners, it was attended by a number of political and religious leaders, who warned that many Czechs were succumbing to a dangerous form of political amnesia.
The run-down Praha-Bubny train station is now a fairly insignificant stop on commuter train routes going to and from destinations west of Prague. But in the early 1940’s, this was the setting for one of the darkest and cruelest chapters in Czech history. Now there are plans to create a memorial to victims of the Holocaust right in this station.
British journalist Charles Laurence first came to Prague as a child in the 1950s. His father, a diplomat, served at the UK embassy here, and brought his family with him. In the spy-ridden communist country at the height of the Cold War, he was soon targeted by the secret police. Fifty years later, Charles Laurence revisited Prague in search of what really happened. In his book The Social Agent: A True Intrigue of Sex, Lies, and Heartbreak Behind the Iron Curtain, he exposes Czech writer, and family friend Jiří Mucha as a man who spied on his father,
Last week Prague hosted an international conference that looked at the role played during World War Two by the London-based governments in exile of occupied countries. These included not just Czechoslovakia, but also many other European countries, including the Netherlands, Poland, Yugoslavia and France. These exile politicians played a complex, sometimes tortuous role in shaping not just the course of the war, but also the political order that followed. David Vaughan reports.