Countless events across the Czech Republic – and indeed across the globe – are taking place over the next four days to mark the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. These are scheduled in key places associated with the Revolution, such as Wenceslas Square or Národní třída in Prague, as well as in locations such as Washington D.C. and London.
A new public perceptions survey by the Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM), conducted on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, has revealed that around a sixth of Czechs still long for a return to communism, while they are equally split on whether their country’s current politics is moving the country forward.
The Velvet Revolution which toppled the communist regime in then Czechoslovakia began on November 17, 1989 with a student protest at Prague’s Národní třída. But a full week earlier, unrest was brewing in the northern Czech city of Teplice over poor air quality. Finally, one young student decided enough was enough.
In this week's Panorama, I am joined by Vilém Prečan, the chairman and founder of the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre. Along with photographer Karel Cudlín, he is the co-author of a new Czech-German book called Německý podzim v Praze 1989, or The German Autumn in Prague, 1989. This book chronicles a very particular set of events, namely the 1989 exodus of East Germans via the West German embassy in Prague, which ultimately led to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
In the profile on her blog site, Victoria Dougherty writes that she comes from “the ultimate Cold War family”, a description it would be hard to disagree with. In this special programme, the author, who lived in Prague in the early 1990s, discusses their dramatic, sometime heart-wrenching stories – and how her grandparents’ experiences helped inform her novel The Bone Church.
When Jan Palach burned himself to death in January 1969 over the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, his radical protest was echoed by a number of young men in the Eastern Bloc. Among them was Eliyahu Rips, who put a match to his petrol-doused clothing in the Latvian capital Riga on April 13, 1969. But unlike the others, Rips survived, after passers-by put out the flames.
From the Hussite wars of the Middle Ages to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, many pivotal events in Czech history occurred against a musical backdrop, at least in the nation’s collective memory. An exhibition at the National Memorial on Prague’s Vítkov Hill explores the links between music and politics, and shows what roles music assumed in modern Czech history.
Josef Toufar, a priest tortured to death by the communist secret police for allegedly faking a “miracle”, could be about to finally get a decent burial. Almost 65 years after he was dumped in a mass grave, his relatives’ long calls for an exhumation may be answered by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Czech Roman Catholic Church is pushing for the cleric to be beatified.
This summer, an off-Broadway theatre in New York put on a play about the actress Hana Pravda and the athlete Miloš Dobrý, two extraordinary Czech Jews living in Prague before WWII. The documentary drama “The Good and the True”, which has run for two months, follows the life of the protagonists who however never met in real life. Originally written and directed by Daniel Hrbek for Prague’s Švandovo Theatre, the intimate play conveys the courage and determination which helped the two people survive the horrors of Terezín and Auschwitz.