In the first part of this series two weeks ago, we went back to 1932 with a recording of memories of Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk, the American wife of Czechoslovakia’s first president. A year later the political landscape of Europe and changed completely. Hitler had come to power in Germany, and suddenly Czechoslovakia’s position in Europe seemed perilous. It was in this atmosphere that Radio Prague was launched as the international service of Czechoslovak Radio in 1936. The aim was to counter German propaganda and remind the western democracies
Unknown diaries by playwright and dissident Václav Havel, kept when he was jailed by the Communist regime in 1977 will be published later this year by the Václav Havel Library on the occasion of what would have been the late Czech president’s 80th birthday. The recently discovered entries were written over a period of several months following the release of the Charter 77 manifesto in January 1977. I asked Michael Žantovský, the head of Václav Havel Library, to tell me more about their origin:
There is a magic about radio; it preserves moments in time, fragments of conversation from the past, and as long as these fragments are kept in an archive somewhere, they enable us to travel in time. As Radio Prague celebrates its 80th birthday, I shall be taking us through some of the episodes that make up our history. I’ll be helped by Czech Radio’s impressive and extensive archives and by students in my History of Journalism course at Prague’s Anglo-American University.
Gulag.online is a freshly-launched interactive virtual museum of the infamous Soviet system of labour camps. The unique project comes from the group Gulag.cz, which documented the remains of camps in remotest Siberia and converted the results into maps and a 3D camp tour that are accompanied by the testimonies of Czechoslovak survivors. Gulag.cz is headed by Štěpán Černoušek, who worked at Radio Prague’s Russian section in the early 2000s. When we met, I asked Černoušek where his interest in all things Russian had come from.
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.