If you go to Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC - to the point where Embassy Row begins - just round the corner from the World Bank - you'll find a statue of Czechoslovakia's first president, Tomas Masaryk, head of state from 1918 to 1935. The statue was unveiled just over a year ago to commemorate both the close links between Masaryk and the United States, and his deep commitment to democracy in Europe. For this week's One on One, David Vaughan is joined in the studio by Czech American Phil Kasik, who was instrumental in having the memorial
This Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the "Slovak National Uprising," the anti-fascist military action that began on August 29, 1944. In its simplest telling, the uprising was the culmination of years of planning by Slovak partisans, 18,000 of whom fought alongside 60,000 Czechoslovak soldiers against the Nazis and the nominally independent state of Slovakia led by President Jozef Tiso. But as Brian Kenety reports, the politics behind the uprising are far more complex.
Jan Masaryk was the son of Czechoslovakia's first president T.G. Masaryk. Like his father, he would come be defined by his service for his country, working as both a diplomat and later as foreign minister during some of Czechoslovakia's darkest days. Following the Second World War he witnessed the 1948 Communist coup that ended hopes of a return to democracy in Czechoslovakia and paved the way for forty years of oppressive rule.
Perhaps no figure in modern Czech history is as controversial as Edvard Benes. He was the second president of Czechoslovakia: twice he had to give way to hostile forces while in power and he is also often criticised for signing the decrees that resulted in 2.5 million Germans being deported from the Czech lands after the Second World War. To mark the 120th anniversary of his birth a special seminar has been held in Prague to redefine his legacy.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia's second president Edvard Benes, in a more than one hour long ceremony attended by hundreds on Sunday. The ceremony took place in Sezimovo Usti in south Bohemia, where Mr Benes once maintained a personal villa and was later buried. On Sunday President Klaus, criticised his predecessor's treatment by those he said "would like to rewrite history". Similarly, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that Mr Benes had been demonised in connection with the expulsion of some two-and-a-half million ethnic Sudeten Germans after World War II. According to Mr Spidla, Mr Benes was a "democratic politician who had done all he could" within the circumstances of his day.
A bill stating that the former president Edvard Benes made an outstanding contribution to Czechoslovakia, is to become law. Edvard Benes was president just before and after the Second World War. The bill has divided the Czech Lower House and the Senate, with the latter strongly opposed to it. It has also evoked strong criticism in neighbouring Austria and Germany where some politicians have described it as a slap in the face to the 2.5 million ethnic Germans who were forcibly expelled from post war Czechoslovakia under decrees issued by Benes. President Klaus decided he would neither sign, nor veto the bill, saying that he believed each citizen should be allowed to form his own opinion about historical events.
The Chamber of Deputies has outvoted the Senate's veto on a bill stating that former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes did outstanding service to the state. Several Senators voted against the bill, saying Mr Benes did not deserve a special law in his honour. Some have questioned Mr Benes' commitment to the state, due to his passive stance at the time of the 1938 Munich agreement, which allowed Hitler enter Czechoslovakia, and the Communist take-over in 1948. The bill is yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus, who has the right to reject it and send it back to the lower house.
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has turned down a bill stating that former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes did outstanding service to the state. In a discussion preceding the vote, the senators did not dispute the service that president Benes rendered in establishing an independent Czechoslovakia but many pointed to his disputable role during the period of the Munich crisis in 1938 and during the Communist coup d'etat in 1948. A similar law commemorating the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, was passed in 1930, and according to many senators was intended at the time to remain unique. Appeals to the Senate and the president to reject the bill have also been made by the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft who have long demanded the abolition of the decrees enacted by president Benes that expelled ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War Two. The senators made it clear, though, that their objections were not related to those appeals.
March 7th marked a very important day in Czech history as it was the 154th anniversary of the birth of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founder and first president of an independent Czechoslovakia following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To commemorate the occasion the current Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla paid a visit to his grave. Both consider his legacy to be the most significant in recent Czech history.
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