Czechs are celebrating the 101st anniversary of the founding of an independent state of Czechs and Slovaks on October 28, 1918.
The anniversary is being commemorated with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Prague’s Vítkov Memorial, at the grave of the country’s co-founder and Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk at Lány near Prague and at Prague Castle where President Zeman is to hand out high state awards to leading personalities on Monday evening.
Among this year’s laureates are former president Václav Klaus, the last surviving Czech RAF pilot Emil Boček, ice hockey legend Jaromír Jágr, Škoda Favorit designer Petr Hrdlička, Srbian film director Emir Kusturica, the head of the Supreme Audit Office Miloslav Kala or, in memoriam, Corporal Tomáš Procházka, who died last year while serving with the Czech military contingent in Afghanistan.
The anniversary is being marked arround the country at landmarks linked to the founding of Czechoslovakia.
Czechs top officials, members of the military, church dignitaries and WWII veterans gathered at Prague’s Vítkov Memorial before mid-day on Monday for a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to mark the centenary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia and pay homage to those who laid down their lives for the country.
The event was attended by President Miloš Zeman, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the speakers of both houses of Parliament and Cardinal Dominik Duka. The ceremony ended with a gun salute and a fly-by of Gripen fighter jets.
Congratulations from foreign statesmen have poured in on Czechoslovak Independence Day. Presidents, kings and Pope Francis have sent well-wishes to the Czech nation on the 101st anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.
Among the well-wishers is US President Donald Trump who sent a congratulatory letter to President Miloš Zeman. In a reference to the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the return of democracy to Czechoslovakia, the US president writes that the United States honors and celebrates the courageous, dedicated and visionary citizens that helped bring this about. Our shared ideals and values form the foundation of a strong Transatlantic alliance and friendship, the letter says.
The US president also expresses his gratitude for the Czech Republic's international commitment to peace, human rights and prosperity. The US appreciates the Czech Republic's participation in the international mission in Afghanistan and its support in Syria, the letter says.
In line with tradition, President Miloš Zeman appointed new army and police generals at Prague Castle on the anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s founding.
Among those raised to the highest rank were the head of the General Inspectorate of the Security Forces Radim Dragoun, Commander of the Cyber Force and Information Operations Miroslav Feix and the head of the Military History Institute Aleš Knížek.
The president once again rejected the prime minister’s proposal to raise the head of the country’s counter-intelligence service BIS Michal Koudelka to the rank of general.
The president has been highly critical of the work of the counter-intelligence service. In a recent interview on commercial TV Barrandov, President Zeman said the BIS director should focus on real economic crime in the Czech Republic rather than engaging in a “fictitious hunt for Russian and Chinese spies”.
Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová highlighted the significance of the anniversary of the founding of independent Czechoslovakia in Bratislava, laying wreaths at the Czechoslovak statehood memorial and by the statue of one of the co-founders of the common state Milan Rastislav Štefánik.
The Slovak president noted that Czechoslovakia had helped Slovakia on the road to democracy and economic prosperity stressing that without it, the country would not be where it is today. She said it would be worth considering whether Slovakia too should not declare the anniversary a public holiday.
Slovakia celebrates its independence day on January 1st, when it separated from the Czech Republic in 1993.
Europe is facing a new threat in the rebirth of neo-Nazism and fascism, the chairman of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters Jaroslav Vodička said at a gathering of war veterans organized on the occasion of Czechoslovak Independence Day.
Vodička pointed to growing antisemitism in Europe, saying the society must remain vigilant in order to prevent history repeating itself. The fight against fascism, neo-Nazism and other forms of discrimination is a challenge we face in the present day as well, Vodička said.
The Czech Union of Freedom Fighters comprises World War II freedom fighters, their family members and supporters. It has faced criticism over the fact that members served the pre-1989 security services.
The union’s chairman caused an outcry last year when he presented a medal of merit to Communist Party MP Zdeněk Ondráček, who beat up demonstrators while a member of a Communist riot squad in 1989.
Tuesday should be overcast with rain and day temperatures reaching just 8 degrees Celsius.
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