In this week’s Czech History we will be looking at three civic initiatives to try and save aspects of the country’s past where the state and other institutions have failed to deliver. The projects all relate to aspects of Czechoslovakia’s totalitarian past, in particularly as regards the Jáchymov complex of uranium mine camps, though the history of the Uherské Hradiště prison, and the Svatobořice internment camp go back a lot further in the past. Leading members of projects aimed at regenerating all three sites got together recently at a seminar
Hello and welcome to a special programme marking Czech Statehood day, which is also the feast day of St. Wenceslas. I am joined for a look at the life of St. Wenceslas – or St. Václav – by Tomáš Petráček, who is a theologian, priest, religious historian, and author with a diocese in the Czech city of Hradec Králové.
Ever since the publication of the first Czech translation of Longfellow’s Hiawatha in the 1860s, Czechs have had a special affection for the American West. This was always more than just a fantasy about the space and freedom of the open plains; for many Czechs, after centuries under Austrian rule, there was also a somewhat romanticized sense of identity with the fate of Native Americans at the hands of white settlers. So it is not surprising that when scouting gained popularity at the time of the First Czechoslovak Republic, it took on many symbols
The British philosopher Roger Scruton began giving underground seminars at the homes of Czechoslovak dissidents in the late 1970s. He was eventually thrown out of the communist state but the clandestine network he contributed to remained in place until the Velvet Revolution, when several of its “graduates” helped shape the new democracy.
Czechoslovakia’s founder and first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is hugely respected by many Czechs and still referred to as the tatínek (daddy) of the nation. But who was the great man’s own father? According to a book that has received a lot of attention lately, it may have been none other than Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph 1.
In the spring of 1945, just before he ended his six-year exile in Britain, President Edvard Beneš gave an address in English that was broadcast by the BBC. The fight to liberate Czechoslovakia was still under way, but by now it was clear that the war was drawing to a close and Beneš was already looking towards the post-war future of his country. A recording of the historic speech was recently rediscovered in the Czech Foreign Ministry, and is one of a number of archive broadcasts that David Vaughan has been studying with his students from the Anglo-American
Last time in Czech History, Michal Pullmann discussed his research into Czechoslovak society in the 1980s. In this second in a two-part special, he reflects upon the public role that historians play more generally in the Czech Republic today. I met him in his office at Charles University’s Institute of Economic and Social History, so it seemed only natural to start by asking him about his teaching:
This Friday marks the 47th anniversary of invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in 1968, which crushed the short-lived Prague Spring reform movement and brought in political and moral decline which lasted until the late 1980’s. On Friday, the event was commemorated at a traditional ceremony in front of the Czech Radio building, which bore witness to one of the most brutal clashes between civilian protesters and the occupying forces.
Michal Pullmann is head of the Institute of Economic and Social History at Charles University in Prague. In this first of a two-part edition of Czech History, he discusses his research, which has focused most recently on the last years of communism in Czechoslovakia. When I met Pullmann in his office recently, I started by asking him about his book Konec Experimentu (The End of The Experiment), which examines the influence of Soviet Perestroika on different groups in Czechoslovak society in the late 1980s. My first question was how Perestroika was