Former prominent official of Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime, Miroslav Štěpán, has died at the age of 68. As leader of the Community Party in Prague, Mr Šťěpán authorized violent suppression of opposition protests in the regime’s final years; after its fall, he became one of few Communists convicted of abuse of office. Miroslav Štěpán later unsuccessfully attempted a political comeback, never giving up his hard-line views.
A rich, and certainly idiosyncratic, museum has joined Prague’s list of attractions. The collection devoted to, let’s say answering the call of nature, is the result of a Czech couple’s trawling of junk shops, antique stores and auction houses for chamber pots and toilets. The result ranges from the most humble clay pot to those designed and used by presidents and emperors.
Containing thousands of human bones arranged in various shapes, including a chandelier and coat of arms, an ossuary outside the Central Bohemian town of Kutná Hora is perhaps the Czech Republic’s most ghoulish tourist attraction. However, the “bone church” now faces extensive repair work – raising worries over how to reassemble some formations afterwards.
A monument to fallen soldiers, recently unveiled at a major Prague cemetery, has provoked some strong reactions from Czech politicians and other public figures. The group behind the monument, which bears Russian and Czech inscriptions, says it is tribute to all soldiers who have died in modern-era peacekeeping missions. But some believe the memorial also celebrates troops who invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.
March 17,1939 brought a revolution on Czech roads: the commander of the German occupation forces ordered a change-over to a right-hand traffic system with almost immediate effect. Although the change had been in the pipeline for years its immediate enforcement was not easy. Moreover, Prague was given a 9-day reprieve, creating a schizophrenic situation where drivers in the capital still drove on the left, but elsewhere around the country traffic was already moving on the right.
A new statue is to be unveiled in Prague in honour of over two thousand Czechs and Slovaks who fought in Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War II. The idea is to provide a lasting memorial to express the gratitude of the British people to the airmen who risked their lives. Casualty figures were high and a quarter of the airmen never came home. The statue, designed by Colin Spofforth will be cast here in the Czech Republic, and aptly enough, it will be unveiled in June by Winston Churchill’s grandson, British Member of Parliament Nicholas Soames.
Among the guests at East Doc Platform, a parallel industry event to Prague’s One World festival of human rights documentaries, is director Stan Neumann, a man with a captivating personal history. Born in Prague, he left with his American mother for France in 1959. His father’s family had been prominent to say the least.
Some of the thousands of statues, fountains, murals and other artefacts erected in the Czech Republic in the 1970s and 80s are set to receive better care and protection. The Czech National Heritage Institute says these works of art are among the most endangered in the country; to save the most valuable of them, the state-run institute is now planning to identify and preserve them.
The death has been announced of the man suspected of being behind one of the most perfidious plots hatched by Czechoslovakia’s Communist secret police, the StB. Shortly after the communist takeover of 1948, the StB created fake frontier posts in the west of the country, several kilometres short of the real border with Germany, in an elaborate operation that ensnared people trying to flee the Stalinist regime.