After meeting with Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič on Thursday, Czech President Miloš Zeman expressed the hope that the Visegrad group, which includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, could be expanded to include Slovenia. The Slovak press reported on Friday that Mr Gašparovič, however, is not in favour of such a move. On the second day of his visit to Slovakia, Mr Zeman is scheduled to lay a wreath at the statue of the co-founder of Czechoslovakia, General Milan Štefánik, in Bratislava. The Czech president will complete his first international visit with a lunch on Friday with the chairman of the Slovak Parliament, Dušan Paška.
Prague’s National Museum will this weekend exhibit the diplomas of Czechoslovakia’s first three presidents, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Beneš and Emil Hácha. The historical parchment documents – which officially informed each president of his election – will be on show on Saturday and Sunday at the usually inaccessible Presidential Salon at the museum’s Vítkov National Memorial building.
The first ever direct presidential election brought renewed focus on a trauma that continues to haunt Czech society even sixty years after it occurred. The forced deportations of some three million Germans from Czechoslovakia after the end of WWII still divide Czech society, as does the historical role of Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, who sanctioned the move.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will miss the evening’s ceremony at Prague Castle where President Václav Klaus, for the last time as head of state, presents state honours and decorations to distinguished personalities. A spokesman for the prime minister said Mr Nečas could not attend the event for health reasons while Mr Schwarzenberg told the news website lidovky.cz he was out of Prague for the day, adding it didn’t really matter whether politicians attended the ceremony.
Czechs on Sunday mark the 94th anniversary of the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia, observed as a national holiday. Several events commemorate the establishment of the precursor of modern-day Czech Republic; a ceremony with a military oath was held at the National Memorial at Vítkov; another ceremony was hosted by the National Museum in Prague. The celebrations conclude with a ceremony at Prague Castle hosted by President Václav Klaus.
If you tune in to Czech Radio on New Year’s Day, at some point you will hear the stirring tones of the presidential fanfare, introducing the president’s annual address to the nation. It was Czechoslovakia’s first head of state, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who established the tradition, when he spoke to listeners on the Czechoslovakia’s tenth birthday in 1928. Here is a short extract from his address, which also happens to be one the oldest recordings in our archives:
Lany chateau, the summer residence of Czech presidents, opened to the public on Saturday with a guided tour by none-other than the first lady herself, Mrs. Livia Klaus. Hundreds of people queued up since 6 am for the special treat and Mrs. Klausova smiled and joked as she took groups of people round the chateau and well-tended park gardens. Lany chateau is rarely open to the public. During President Masaryk’s time in office it only opened its gates to the public twice. The last time it did so –during President Klaus first term in office - it attracted 11 thousand visitors.
The Czechoslovak legions occupy an almost legendary place in Czech history. They comprise the armed forces that fought during and after World War I on the allied side in pursuit of an independent Czechoslovakia. The biggest force, and most potent myths, centre on the Russian force, which became embroiled in the civil war, spending three years and travelling thousands of miles before returning home. We look at the myths and facts about their exploits.
The 1948 communist takeover of Czechoslovakia remains a trauma for many Czechs today. Could the country’s fall under Soviet domination have been prevented? Why did Czechoslovak politicians of the era so severely underestimate the threat of communism? These are some of the issues discussed in a new biography of the politician Prokop Drtina, one of the key figures of the brief period between the end of the war and the start of the communist regime.
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