The Czech Radio archives give us a rich and nuanced picture of the months leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 1938 that resulted in Nazi Germany annexing huge areas of Czechoslovakia. So many recordings survive that we can reconstruct the events leading up to Munich almost day by day. They include insights from many different angles, not least the perspective of the German-speakers of Czechoslovakia, those who supported, but also those who opposed Hitler. The archives offer a sober warning of how easily a democratic state can be shattered
In this episode I use the radio archives to evoke the atmosphere of Czechoslovakia during the First Republic of the 1920s and 30s. The recordings that survive offer a fragmentary picture, but they capture something of the spirit of the time, from Prague’s first traffic light to the charms of the Ruthenian countryside, just before Europe was torn apart by the Second World War.
Sport has always played a big role in Czech life. At the time of the national revival in the 19th century, the Sokol gymnastics movement was founded on the idea that a healthy body was a recipe not only for a healthy mind, but also for a civilised nation. In this episode of our series drawing from the archives, we hear recordings from the huge Sokol gathering of 1938 and from the Spartakiáda displays of mass callisthenics that replaced Sokol during the communist period. We also feature an ice hockey report from the Olympics in 1936, as well as Europe’s
We start this series with one of the great European democrats of the 20th century, Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Born in 1850, he was already in his late sixties when he became president in November 1918. He took inspiration from the western democracies, in particular the United States and Britain, having spent time in both countries during his First World War exile. But he was also a passionate European.
A new website launched on Tuesday by the Security Services Archive (www.mvu.ebadatelna.cz) allows the public access to information on the daily workings of the Communist-run Ministry of the Interior and an overview of key personnel in the StB secret police and their activities. Visitors will also be able to view records kept on a number of well-known figures at the website, which covers the period from 1969 until February 1990, when the StB was abolished. The archive is the Czech Republic’s main repository for communist-era secret police files.
Researchers at the Brno-based Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) say they have identified the structure of several viruses that affect bees and can now determine how the infection takes place. The worldwide breakthrough follows around two years of research at the unit of Masaryk University. The research gives some hope that a cure for some bee viruses could now be within reach. Bee populations across the world have plummeted in recent years with around 25 viruses that threaten them pinpointed by scientists.
Czech historians researching the totalitarian era breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday, when the Constitutional Court ruled that the accessibility of archives from that period will remain unchanged. The ruling overturns a proposal by the Supreme Court which was against an exception giving historians easy access to documents from the Nazi and Communist regimes.
Valuable papers and documents pertaining to the statesmanship and political and diplomatic work of the Bohemian king and Holy Roman emperor Charles IV are being installed at the National Archive in Prague on Wednesday. The items will be on show from Friday to Monday as part of the exhibition Archive of the Czech Crown – The Documentary Treasure of Charles IV. Most of the documents have never been publicly displayed before and virtually all of them passed through the ruler’s own hands, according to the archivists.
In the last programme in our series marking Radio Prague’s 80th birthday we heard recordings of Czechs and Slovaks fighting in the British armed forces during World War Two. This week our tour of the radio archives brings us forward to the heady days immediately after the war. It is May 1945, Czechoslovakia has been liberated, and Czechs and Slovaks who fought in the Allied armed forces are returning home. One recording evokes this moment vividly. It is a dramatized reading of a letter, written by a Czech soldier to an English girl at some point