In our last edition of Czech History we showcased the recently published book of US author Kevin J McNamara “Dreams of a Great Small Nation.” The book traces the emergence of an independent Czechoslovakia at the end of WWI and in particular the role played by the Czechoslovak legion fighting along the Siberian railway against the new and fragile Bolshevik regime. In this second part of an interview with the author, we examine how far the fighting helped to seal the creation of the new Czechoslovak nation and Mr. McNamara’s further research and involvement
Three Communist MPs in Russia’s Duma have proposed that soldiers who served during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia should be granted war veteran status, in order to gain extra social benefits. The MPs said the aim of “Operation Danube” had been to supress a coup prepared by the Czechoslovak opposition with the support of Western states. I asked historian Jan Adamec how he interpreted the initiative of the Russian MPs:
On May 31st 1945, in the aftermath of WW II, some twenty thousand German-speaking inhabitants of Brno were driven from their homes and forced to walk the 50 km distance to the Austrian border. Close to 2,000 of them died of exhaustion on the way. On Saturday some 250 people took part in the 10th annual Reconciliation March held in memory of those who suffered and died in the wildcat expulsions of German-speaking inhabitants from the border areas of post-war Czechoslovakia. Jaroslav Odstrčilík, the organizer of the event, explains the significance
One of the familiar voices that will forever be associated with Czechoslovak Radio belongs to Miloslav Disman, who worked here between 1930 and 1973, and who changed the style of radio broadcasting in this country, with such informal programmes as Okénko (which you just heard a snippet of), and through a radio children’s ensemble, which bears his name to this day.
Today it is easy to forget that Prague’s Letná Park overlooking the city once served as a pedestal to the largest statue in the world of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Derisively referred to as ‘fronta na maso’ (queue for meat), the massive granite work featured the marshal followed by a line of anonymous ‘heroes of the proletariat’. Prague was freed of the sculptural monstrosity in 1962; now, thanks to a film crew shooting the story of sculptor Otakar Švec, Stalin will temporarily return.
Charles IV, the 14th-century Holy Roman emperor and King of Bohemia, is without doubt one of the greatest figures of Czech history and with the upcoming anniversary of his birth, a great many events are taking place to mark his legacy. But recently, there have also been an increasing number of voices questioning the picture of Charles IV as the greatest Czech of all time, suggesting that there are also some darker aspects to his rule.
‘Dreams of a Great Small Nation’ is a book by US scholar and historian Kevin J McNamara. It traces the circumstances surrounding the exploits of the Czechoslovak legion during WWI and in particular their takeover of the Trans-Siberian railway and most of Siberia in 1918. McNamara characterises the legion as “a mutinous army that Threatened a revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe.”
The Czech Republic is celebrating the 700th anniversary of the birth of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, whom Czechs perceive as the “father of the Czech nation” and the greatest Czech that ever lived. The anniversary is being marked by a wide range of events including exhibitions, conferences, themed tours and street parties which will peak on the anniversary proper, Saturday May 14. I asked Kateřina Pavlitova of Prague City Tourism about the highlights of the celebration.
Last Saturday Trabant fans from around the country descended on Prague’s Motol district, in the western suburbs of the city, for the opening of the one-and-only Trabant Museum in the Czech Republic. The small two-cylinder vehicle born in communist East-Germany as an affordable car for the masses was neither affordable, nor easily accessible, but somehow or other the smoke-belching, sluggish Trabi has won many people’s hearts and still has fan clubs around the world.