After years of debate, the Czech Republic has finally got an official body dedicated to examining the country’s communist past. Entitled the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, it will give both the public and historians access to tens of kilometres – and millions of pages – of secret police and military intelligence files. I spoke to director Pavel Žáček at the new institute’s official opening on Friday morning.
In recent weeks, I’ve tried to capture something of the tense atmosphere of the time leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 30 1938, when the British and French Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Daladier allowed Hitler to carve up Czechoslovakia and march unopposed into the Sudetenland. The agreement left the country as a fragment of its former self; not only Germany, but also Hungary and Poland, claimed large chunks of Czechoslovakia’s borderlands. Here is how Radio Prague reported on the final border agreement, reached some weeks after
There’s a rather unusual film festival underway at Prague’s Ořechovka cinema at the moment. Called “The Magic Eights”, it examines the strange significance of the number "8" in modern Czech history. The festival features around a dozen films either made in or about the crucial moments in this country’s recent past, most of which occurred in a year ending in "8".
We quite often hear it said that in the run-up to World War Two, no-one quite realized the scale of the threat that Nazi Germany posed in Europe. When Hitler set his eyes on Czechoslovakia, there were plenty of politicians in Western Europe who really seemed to believe him, when he said that the Czech borderlands, the so-called Sudetenland, were his “last territorial claim”. But Czech Radio’s archives show clearly that here in Prague there were also plenty of people who were only too aware of the worldwide menace that Hitler posed. As Britain and
The 17th century Czech philosopher and writer, Jan Amos Komenský – known internationally as Comenius - is one of the best known Czechs of all time. He is most widely celebrated for his progressive and enlightened ideas about education that earned him the epithet “the Teacher of Nations”. But the many other aspects of his thinking - and he was indeed a prolific writer with some 250 books to his name – remain somewhat neglected. This is something that Benjamin Kuras has decided to try to put right, in a small but inspiring book that he has just written
One of the most dramatic - but least known - events in Czechoslovak Radio’s history dates back to September 21 1938. This was the day that the government announced that it was willing to succumb to German pressure, and would give up large areas of the country’s borderlands to Nazi Germany. By this time it was clear that Britain and France would not be willing to fight for Czechoslovakia’s territorial integrity, and that to say no would mean invasion. The announcement sent a shockwave through Czech society, and immediately thousands took to the
Jiří Josef Kamel was a botanist and missionary born in Brno in 1661. When he was 26, he was sent to the Philippines by the Jesuits to spread God’s word, but it seems that he spent most of his time rooting-out and documenting the islands’ weird and wonderful flora. To commemorate all that he did for botany, one of the prettiest and best-known species of flower has been named in his honour…
It’s twenty years since a group of anti-communist dissidents took the brave decision to revive the newspaper Lidové Noviny, once the spiritual home of the Czech nation’s most eminent journalists and essayists. The dissidents were searching for a way of getting uncensored news and views to a wider audience. For two years, from January 1988 until December 1989, they distributed a monthly “samizdat” version of Lidové Noviny, until the paper was revived as a regular daily in January 1990. An archive of those samizdat editions has now been put
This week we continue our look into the dramatic events in Czechoslovakia just before World War Two. By the summer of 1938, Hitler’s Germany was demanding nothing less than the immediate annexation of the entire Sudetenland – all parts of Bohemia and Moravia with a German speaking majority. The Sudeten German Party had made big gains among German speakers in local elections earlier that year, and the Nazi rhetoric of their leaders was unambiguous.
April 26th, 1986, is a day that will live in infamy. When Reactor Number Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, the resulting fire left a cloud of radiation hanging over Europe. Chernobyl was the world’s worst nuclear disaster, but ten years earlier, there was an accident at a similar Soviet-built reactor – this time in Czechoslovakia - that could have been equally devastating, had it not been for the actions of two men. For years the case was shrouded in secrecy. Only now has the story come to light.