Celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution are taking place not only in the Czech Republic but also among Czech and Slovak communities abroad. The Czech consulate in Chicago has prepared several events highlighting the 30 years of freedom, including a showcase of photos by the award-winning photographer Karel Cudlín.
Old Trabant cars parked near the German Embassy in Prague were a nostalgic reminder of the heady days of 1989 when thousands of East Germans fled to the West via Prague, getting asylum at the West German embassy until they were granted free passage. To mark the 30th anniversary of the East German exodus, the German Embassy in Prague organized a festival titled The Way to Freedom.
Kramářova vila is the official residence of the Czech prime minister, currently Bohuslav Sobotka. I’m at a reception at the villa in honour of Miroslav Kusý, one of the few Slovak signatories of Charter 77. He is receiving the Karel Kramář Award from the prime minister for his contributions towards Czech and Slovak understanding. The event is attended by several notable figures, including historians, fellow Charter 77 signatories such as Vilém Prečan and Senator Petr Pithart, and the Slovak ambassador Peter Weiss.
It’s probably widely accepted these days that all countries spy on each other, even states on their so-called allies. And a book presented in Prague this week about the former East German secret police, the STASI, shows how it was true of the fraternal Communist countries of the former Eastern bloc, including former Czechoslovakia, as well.
Twenty-five years ago, the West German Embassy in a normally quiet part of Prague’s Malá Strana became a refuge for hundreds of East Germans, desperately trying to escape from communism. On September 30 1989, they got the news they were hoping for, when West Germany’s foreign minister stood before them and announced they were free to emigrate to the West.
A procession of Trabant cars is set to pass through Prague on Monday afternoon, marking the 25th anniversary of the passage of thousands of East German refugees through the then West German Embassy in the city. From September 30, 1989 many East Germans abandoned their Trabants near the embassy in the Malá Strana district as they sought asylum. Around 4,000 reached the West in this way. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who was West German foreign minister at the time, and around 150 of the then refugees will visit Prague on Tuesday.
On Monday, the Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge made available to the public for the very first time the results of one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history. The documents, collected by Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB defector, were handed over to the UK authorities in 1992 and include details on the Soviet agency’s infiltration efforts regarding the 1968 Czechoslovak Prague Spring. In total, 19 boxes of Mitrokhin’s notes will be made available, and could help Czech historians shed more light on a painful chapter in the country’s history.
The German embassy in Prague is marking the 25th anniversary of the East German exodus. In the summer of 1989, several thousand citizens of communist East Germany sought refuge at the West German embassy in Prague in a prelude to the fall of the Berlin Wall. To commemorate these historic events, the embassy on Thursday opened its doors to the public.
For a few weeks in the late summer of 1989, Prague became the scene of a bizarre – and now largely forgotten - refugee crisis. It had all begun in the spring, when Hungary had declared its decision to take down the barbed wire on its borders with Austria. A growing number of East Germans, desperate at the suffocating lack of reform in their country, took advantage of this new gap in the Iron Curtain as a way of fleeing to the West. But smuggling themselves into Austria was an uncertain business, and before long, they started seeking refuge at the