Soviet-led forces invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968 in response to the Prague Spring, a reform movement launched earlier that year by then freshly installed Communist Party chief Alexander Dubček. But how soon into Dubček’s rule did Moscow become concerned about developments in Prague? And what, if any, steps did the Slovak-born leader take to appease the Russians? Those are just a couple of the questions I discussed with Kieran Williams, who is the author of The Prague Spring and its Aftermath and teaches at Drake University in Des Moines,
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to twenty years in jail in a political trial after protesting against Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has been on a hunger strike in a Russian prison for over three months now. Amidst growing international concern for his health, the Czech NGO People in Need has launched a campaign calling for his release. I asked Zuzana Gruberová of People in Need to tell me more.
One hundred years ago this October, just before the end of World War I, Czechoslovakia declared independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. While these are basic historical facts you might expect every schoolchild to know, a newly released poll shows that almost 1 in 5 adults cannot name an event from 1918 – and even fewer knew the basic history of more recent decades.
Petra Tonder’s father Ivo Tonder took part in the Great Escape in 1944 and later also succeeded in breaking out of prison in his native Czechoslovakia. There, like many former RAF aviators, he had been persecuted by the Communists after their 1948 takeover. In the second half of a two-part interview, Petra Tonder shares details about her own incredible journey to freedom as a very small child, and the lives her family led in the UK. But first she discusses her parents' post-war return to – and subsequent escape from – Czechoslovakia.
Philosopher Julius Tomin left communist Czechoslovakia for the UK a few years after signing Charter 77. As he explained when we spoke, the Plato expert found it near impossible to find a job in academia in his adopted country. But the second half of our two-part interview begins with his underground seminars in Prague; they led to the creation of the Jan Hus Educational Foundation in Oxford after Mr. Tomin invited leading Western philosophers to deliver clandestine lectures.
The Czech philosopher and Charter 77 signatory Julius Tomin is perhaps best-known for inviting top Western philosophers to speak at clandestine seminars he ran in Prague during the late communist era. Recently the UK-based Mr. Tomin visited his native city for events marking the 40th anniversary of that move, which eventually gave rise to the Oxford-based Jan Hus Educational Foundation. But when we met I first asked the 79-year-old ex-dissident about his family background.
Former political prisoner František Suchý has died at the age of 91. As a
teenager Mr. Suchý helped his cremator father keep clandestine records of
the names of people executed by the Nazis and the Communists. The pair also
hid the ashes of many victims of those regimes.
In later years Mr. Suchý was sentenced to 25 years in a communist jail for aiding a people smuggler working with the US intelligence services. Last year he received a Memory of Nations award recognising his resistance to totalitarianism.
Czechs regard the 1989 Velvet Revolution as the highlight of their
nation’s greatest moment since the foundation of Czechoslovakia a century
ago, while for the Slovaks their proudest hour was the Slovak National
Uprising in 1944. That is according to parallel opinion polls conducted in
both states and published on Tuesday.
Some 72 percent of Czechs polled rated the revolution as the “most positive” moment of the last century. By contrast, Slovaks placed the events of 1989 third among great moments since 1918, behind the Slovak National Uprising and the establishment of independent Slovakia.
Towering Jewish-American author Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. And while most of the tributes will rightly focus on his many prize winning works over 60 years, there was another aspect to his life as well: the timely help he gave to dissident Czechoslovak writers after 1968 and the crushing of the so-called Prague Spring.
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The 1968 invasion: When hope was crushed by Soviet tanks
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