Not everyone who marked the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover on Monday was mourning the victims of the regime. Several hundred mostly elderly Communist Party sympathisers gathered in Prague, shouting slogans and waving red banners with the hammer and sickle. It was a reminder that not everybody in this country believes the class struggle is over. So how do today’s communists see the events of February 1948?
It was 60 years ago Monday, that Czech President Edvard Beneš, under enormous pressure, capitulated and appointed a communist government led by Klement Gottwald. This event, known as the February putsch is viewed by many as a tragic blunder on the part of the president – had he stood firm, and not accepted the resignations of the non-communist parties in the government, which outnumbered the communists, the ascendancy of one party rule may have been averted.
Recent editions of this programme have been rather full of doom and gloom, as we have approached the Second World War in our archives. So this week we look at something a bit more cheerful. Here is a Scottish visitor to Prague in 1938. After singing the praises of Czechoslovakia, he suddenly changes tone – making a rather curious observation.
As a writer Jiří Stránský has never had to look far beyond his own extraordinary life story for inspiration. He was born in 1931 into an influential Prague political family – in fact his maternal grandfather even served for three years as prime minister in the 1930s. During the German occupation Jiří’s father Karel survived Auschwitz, and as a teenager Jiří took part in the Prague Uprising in the last days of the war. But ironically, the family suffered just as much under the communists after the war as they had under the Germans. They had never
In 1938 at the height of the Sudeten crisis, Jan Masaryk was Czechoslovakia’s ambassador in London. He was the son of the country’s first President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and was well known as being both articulate and entertaining. He was also completely bilingual, his mother Charlotte being from the United States. But Jan Masaryk’s abilities as a communicator failed to influence the politicians in Britain, when, in September 1938, they agreed to let Hitler take over the Sudetenland. Masaryk resigned immediately as ambassador and in the following
As one art critic once said, the paintings of Josef Lada accompany Czechs from cradle to grave. He is as well known for his illustrations of fairy tales and children’s readers as he is for his landscapes, which each Christmas are printed thousands of times over on the front of the nation’s Christmas cards. Lada was also the artist who gave the grinning, rotund Good Soldier Švejk his form.
When an 86-year-old former communist prosecutor was convicted last year for her role in the judicial murder of politician Milada Horáková, those looking for justice for the crimes committed under communism rejoiced. There was little chance the elderly and infirm woman would serve a day of her eight-year prison sentence, but they saw the verdict as a symbolic victory. But Monday witnessed a turnaround – the conviction was overturned by the High Court.
Don’t eat that – its fifty years old! Czech researchers eat a package of soup that had been sitting around for half a century. “Six fingers are better than five,” says a boy who should know. And, the Wallenstein family clan has a get-together in Prague. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.
We have heard plenty in recent weeks from the two candidates in this year’s Czech presidential elections. But what about their predecessors? The Czech Republic and previously Czechoslovakia have had ten presidents since 1918 when Czechoslovakia was founded, and in this programme we let some of them speak for themselves through Czech Radio’s archives.
In sombre tones the second Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš announced his resignation on Czechoslovak Radio on October 5 1938. Since becoming president in 1935, he had been haunted by the spectre of Nazi Germany, as Hitler had fuelled separatist sentiment among the country’s 3.5 million German speakers. Here is an extract from one of President Beneš’ vain appeals for reconciliation, in April 1938.