As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. In the fourth episode of our mini-series, we visit the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly building, where some key political changes took place 30 years ago.
The Prague Municipal Court on Wednesday rehabilitated the late General
Milan Píka over his unjustified imprisonment by the Communist regime in
the late 1940s. The judge said it was the only possible response to the
wrongs committed against him by the regime.
Milan Píka was jailed in 1948 for allegedly plotting to break his father, General Heliodor Píka, out of prison. In 1949 war hero Heliodor Píka became the first victim of judicial murder during Czechoslovakia’s Communist show trials.
Milan Píka died earlier this year and the case to clear his name was taken by his daughter Dagmar Sedláčková.
Harold Wilson Fernyhough an aide to Prime Minister Harold Wilson who was
reported to have spied for Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s and 1960s, was
very likely unaware that he was not associating with diplomats, but
communist secret police handlers, according to Czech archivist Svetlana
Ptáčníková, who heads the Security Services Archive, said that according to the secret police files Fernyhough shared information willingly, but without knowledge of who he was dealing with. The archivist noted that secret police handlers were often placed in diplomatic posts in order to acquire information.
According to the files Fernyhough never revealed anything confidential, only sharing information that was either common knowledge or was later made public.
Reports that Harold Wilson Fernyhough had spied for the Czechoslovak communist secret police appeared in the British press at the weekend.
During the 1960s as the Warsaw Pact sought to change the balance of military power decisively in its favour it employed a largescale disinformation to fool NATO about its strength and intentions. One of the enterprises conducted to support this deception effort was Operation BLÍN. Its story is one of a daring embassy heist right under the noses of NATO intelligence officers reminiscent of a Hollywood thriller.
Until recently Zdeněk Toman was an obscure name to many Czechs. However, his incredible story has now reached a broad audience thanks to an eponymous film about him that was released last autumn. Just this week Toman was nominated for 13 prizes at the upcoming annual Czech Lion awards. I spoke to Martin Šmok, the man who originally discovered his extraordinary story.
In her book The Greengrocer and His TV: The Culture of Communism after the 1968 Prague Spring, historian Paulina Bren offers fresh perspectives on various aspects of Czechoslovakia’s normalisation period. These include how the Communists used TV serials to get their message across at a time when the nation, forced to accept the re-imposition of relatively hardline rule, largely turned inward. She makes particular reference to TV writer Jaroslav Dietl, creator of some of the most popular shows of that era.
The short-lived secret organisation Světlana formed in 1948 grew to become the largest anti-Communist group in Czechoslovakia, boasting several hundred members at its peak, operating in more than a dozen cells, mainly in Moravia. That’s one version of events. Many long believed that Světlana was not only infiltrated by the State Security force, or StB, but was in fact a creation of it – part of operations to ensnare “counter-revolutionaries”, those sympathetic to what is now known as the Third Resistance movement. Other questions remain as to whether
One of the most fascinating Cold War spy tales, involving a Czechoslovak spy who fooled a woman into thinking he was her long abandoned son, is being adopted as a screenplay by a Hollywood studio. Jaroslav Kmenta, who is the author of a book on the spy and later sold the rights to Fox Searchlight Pictures, says the studio has used its option to go ahead.
Former Communist-era secret police lieutenant Ladislav Mácha, ultimately held responsible for the torture and death of Catholic priest Josef Toufar in 1950, died a free man some weeks ago. His passing went largely unnoticed until a makeshift memorial to Mácha’s most famous victim appeared on the pavement outside his Prague home.
US President Donald Trump and his then-wife Ivana were the target of an
extensive spying operation conducted by Czechoslovakia’s communist secret
service, (StB) together with “friends” from the KGB, The Guardian
reported in its Monday edition.
According to The Guardian, the StB first opened a file on Trump following his marriage in 1977 to his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková. The operation was run out of Zlín, the provincial town in south-west Czechoslovakia where Zelníčková was born and grew up. Ivana’s father Miloš regularly gave the StB information about his daughter’s visits from the US and on his celebrity son-in-law’s career in New York. Zelníček was classified as a “conspiratorial” informer. His relationship with the StB reportedly lasted until the end of the communist regime.
The StB’s interest in Donald and Ivana intensified in the late 1980s, after Trump let it be known he was thinking of running for president, The Guardian wrote.