The city of Prague on Thursday bowed to the courage of Russian pro-democracy activists who laid down their lives in the quest for human rights. The square Pod kastany where the Russian Embassy stands was officially renamed after the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and a nearby promenade was named after investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya shot to death in 2006. Among those watching the ceremony was Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna and one of Politkovskaya’s former colleagues.
When Eda Kriseová was barred from journalism after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion she chose an unlikely escape from the grim reality of that time: voluntary work at an isolated mental hospital. She also wrote in samizdat, which led to her gradually becoming part of Czechoslovakia’s anti-Communist dissent. As we will hear, Kriseová – whose husband is filmmaker Josef Platz – found novel ways to resist secret police pressure. But the first part of this two-part interview begins with the author’s early days.
Philosopher and one-time dissident Jan Sokol is perhaps best-known among the Czech public as a failed presidential candidate, having missed out to Václav Klaus in the final round of voting in 2003, the last time the country’s head of state was chosen by legislators. Professor Sokol has known the current, directly elected president since before 1989 – and offers sharp criticism of Miloš Zeman in this the second half of a two-part interview. But first we discuss the period when, after the fall of communism, he was finally allowed to pursue an academic
Philosopher Jan Sokol was an MP in the early 1990s, served as Czech education minister and lost in the final round of voting for president in 2003. Barred from studying under the Communists, Professor Sokol came to philosophy via his father-in-law Jan Patočka, an early signatory of Charter 77. In the first part of a two-part interview, he discusses Patočka’s death, the achievements of Charter 77 – which he also signed – and the Velvet Revolution. But our conversation began with Jan Sokol’s family background and his own beginnings.
The Czech government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Helena Válková (ANO) is under pressure after the news site Info.cz accused her of defending laws used against dissidents during the normalisation era, providing an article on “protective surveillance” that she penned with a famous show trial procurator in 1979 as evidence. Mrs Válková told Czech Radio that the accusation was a “horrendous lie”. However, the opposition has called for her resignation and even the prime minister says that the allegations need to be explained.
Former minister of justice and current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, defended laws against dissidents during the
Communist regime, the news site info.cz reported on Thursday.
At the turn of the 1970s and 80s, Mrs Válková published a series of articles in which she defended measures used by the Communist regime to restrict the rights of its opponents, the website writes.
It also says she collaborated on writing one of her articles with the state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Mrs Válková, whom President Miloš Zeman recently proposed for the post of the Czech Republic’s ombudswoman, denied any wrongdoing, saying the article was insulting and untruthful.
Thirty years ago this Christmas, Czechs were in an especially festive spirit – the entire Communist Party leadership had resigned a month before, and in a matter of days a majority democratic parliament would elect Václav Havel as president, bringing the Velvet Revolution to a glorious end. Ahead of the holiday, I spoke to Adéla and Petr Mucha – a historian and theologian, respectively, born into practicing Catholic families under Communism – about their experiences with the “Underground Church”, religious figures active in the dissident Charter 77
The Náchod district court has ruled that Pavel Wonka, believed to be the
last Czech political prisoner to have died in prison under Communism, had
been illegally incarcerated.
His brother had filed a lawsuit to have him ‘rehabilitated’ and can now claim damages from the state over the unjustified imprisonment.
Following the verdict on Wednesday, Jiří Wonka told reporters that it was a moral victory and that he had not filed the lawsuit to get compensation.
Pavel Wonka was imprisoned in April 1988 for several weeks and died under unclear circumstances. He had initially been released due to bad health, but a judge sent him back to prison for another five months.
Wonka was posthumously awarded the Medal of Merit in 2013.
The former political regime in Czechoslovakia deemed much of Western culture “damaging” and “ideologically subversive”, but authorities struggled in particular to control the flood of foreign rock ’n’ roll and pop music. State cultural agencies and censors rarely allowed Western bands to perform here or even play their music on the airwaves. But unofficial channels filled the demand – through illegal imports, home-copying networks and ‘magnetizdat’ – do-it-yourself music. At the same time, state authorities sanctioned Western music when sung by Czech