Barbara Day works for a non-profit organization called The Prague Society, promoting international links in business, politics and academia. Twenty-five years ago, Barbara was doing a job that, at least on the surface, seems very similar. Then based in London, she was coordinating visits by Western academics to Czechoslovakia. But times could hardly have been more different. In those days, such initiatives were seen by the communist regime as a subversive activity. Constantly harangued by Czechoslovakia’s secret police – the StB – visiting lecturers, including
The House of Rosenberg was one of the most powerful noble families in Czech history. They were the de facto rulers of Bohemia for much of the Middle Ages, but their dynasty came to an end with the death of the celebrated Petr Vok, in 1611. Now, archaeologists in South Bohemia, where the family had its seat, have come across their family tomb, and in doing so have set straight a well-known legend that surrounds them.
Deep beneath the city of Prague is another city altogether, one that most people are completely unaware of, and that they’ll hopefully never see. It is a system of hundreds upon hundreds of concrete bunkers with their own electricity, water and ventilation systems awaiting the day that you might hear the air-raid sirens wailing.
The Czech architect Jan Letzel is remembered today above all for his design of what later became the Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome, a memorial to victims of the 1945 bombing. Having spent much of his short career in Japan, Letzel authored only a few works in Bohemia and Moravia. But recently, a tombstone designed by the famous architect was recently discovered in a cemetery in the south Moravian city of Brno.
Exactly 20 years ago, during the Velvet Revolution, the country was flooded with posters, both home-produced and professionally printed, calling for change. They bore slogans like Free Elections, Teacher You Don’t Have to Lie to Us Anymore, and Havel to the Castle. Now many of those posters have been gathered in a fascinating new book.
Hello and welcome to Czech Books. This week we're discussing the novel The Glass Room, by Simon Mawer, one of this year's nominations for the prestigious Man Booker prize. The novel, which has already been translated into Czech and had a very positive local reception, is inspired by the functionalist masterpiece, the Tugendhat Villa in Brno, and covers over half a century of Czech history, focusing mainly on the fates of the Jewish industrialist Victor Landauer and his wife Liesel. I met with a professor of English Literature at Charles University's
The events of 1989 commemorated 20 years on this week brought back many emotional memories. I was 19 when it happened, still living at home, only not in Czechoslovakia, but in Canada. Like thousands of others of Czech descent, born in new countries, I watched the Velvet Revolution unfold on the TV screen, night after night, until, somehow, miraculously at the end of it, the Communist system crumbled and collapsed.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes is under pressure this week after a petition was circulated calling for the dismissal of the Institute’s director, Pavel Žáček. Such petitions are not uncommon in the Czech Republic and this one – circulated by former dissident Stanislav Penc – might have gone more or less unnoticed had it not been signed by ex-president Václav Havel.
Za Svobodu! – called Be Free! in English – is the title of an exhibition the Czech National Museum opened on Tuesday’s anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution. It is located in the institution’s new building, the former home of Czechoslovakia’s Federal Assembly, and is co-curated by Lucie Swierczeková.