The murky death of Jan Masaryk in 1948 has been back in the news recently, after the discovery of fresh evidence prompted the reopening of the case. The new investigation is welcomed by Masaryk’s great-niece Charlotta Kotik, who says that if he had wished to kill himself he would have done it in his characteristic style.
A group of historians, educators and archivists – including from Czech Radio – has rolled out a digital app designed to stimulate students’ interest in using primary sources. The overall aim of the HistoryLab project is to develop students’ historical literary and critical thinking, and help teachers craft interactive, multimedia lesson plans.
The once picturesque village of Libkovice lay nestled in a small valley not far from the hilltop where legend has it the primal Father Čech decided his people would settle in Bohemian. Founded nearly a millennium ago, Libkovice was the last town slated for liquidation after 1989 to make way for coal mining operations. Its residents, together with environmental activists faced off against freshly minted capitalists in an ultimately futile battle to save the village, which lay above a rich seam of coal. But the sad story has one silver lining: the
As a result of the Munich Agreement of September 1938, Czechoslovakia ended up losing 30% of its territory, a third of its population and the greater part of its industry and raw materials. Few people had much faith in the country’s long-term survival as a democracy amid dictatorships. It was, as Jan Masaryk put it, an “experiment in vivisection”. The radio archives give a vivid picture of the consequences of that experiment, which was to last less than six months and end in occupation and eventually war.
Thirty years after November 17, 1989, the Czech Republic sees perhaps the largest commemoration of the Velvet Revolution this Sunday. Politicians, artists, academics and the wider public are all paying tribute to the revolution which ended communist rule. The role of Václav Havel, as well as various liberties gained through the revolution are among those repeatedly highlighted by speakers from much of the political and social spectrum. But some have also been loud in voicing their disapproval with the current government.
Thirty years ago Czechs took to the streets to demonstrate for freedom and democracy, for the chance to speak their mind without reprisals, to vote in free elections and shape their own future. Today they are taking stock of the country’s successes and failures, of how far they have come along the road to a liberal democracy and market economy and whether the ideals of 1989 are still alive in people’s hearts and minds.
The date is November 17, 1989, eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A cordon of Czechoslovak riot police blocks the path of thousands of university students staging a march through Prague, calling for democracy – and freedom. As police truncheons begin to rain down on their heads, they chant “We have bare hands” – we are unarmed. Hundreds are bruised and bloodied; one student reportedly dead. The Velvet Revolution, as it came to be known, had begun.