Just a few minutes’ walk from Prague Castle, the monumental Černín Palace stands out in Hradčany’s Loreto Square. Built in the 17th and 18th centuries as the residence of the Černín aristocratic family, the Baroque palace now houses the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic. But the history of the largest of Prague’s Baroque palaces has seen more than politics – it has witnessed ambition, corruption and even a mystery death.
This week marks exactly 100 years since the death of Josef Hlávka, an architect, builder and the biggest Czech philanthropists of all time. This year, it has been 104 years since Hlávka established a foundation in support of education, science and art. When he died, he bequeathed all his property to the foundation. It was probably the only case in Czech history that someone left his entire fortune to charity. Yet, nowadays, many people don’t even know who Josef Hlávka was.
Monday marks the 60th anniversary of the mysterious death of Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia in the 1940s and son of the country’s founder and its first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. On the morning of March 10, Jan Masaryk’s body was found in the courtyard of Černín Palace, the seat of the Foreign Ministry. To this day his tragic death remains unexplained and is one of the great mysteries of modern Czech history.
Just a few years ago the Jewish Museum in Prague launched its Lost Neighbours project, aiming to piece together the stories of forgotten Czech Jews persecuted by the Nazis in the Holocaust. The project, most unusually, brings together stories recorded and researched not by journalists or professional historians, but by elementary and secondary school students, with the aim of helping young people learn firsthand about what happened sixty years ago.
This week in Mailbox: the beneficial properties of sea water once again, the Barrandov film studios in Prague, an Oscar for Czech musician Markéta Irglová, the 30th anniversary of Czech cosmonaut Vladimír Remek’s flight into space. Listeners quoted: Robert Fraser, Howard Barnett, Stephen Hrebenach, Thomas Kuca.
The six months leading up to the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939 were a strange period. After Germany, Poland and Hungary had annexed over a quarter of the country’s territory as a result of the Munich Agreement in September 1938, it was hard to see how the rump Czechoslovakia – the so-called “Second Republic” - could keep going. But Radio Prague’s shortwave broadcasts continued, and not surprisingly they focused on sustaining the much shaken international confidence in the country. Here is the famous Czech professor and scholar
Thirty years ago Vladimír Remek became the first man in space who was not from either the United States or the Soviet Union. Remek became a hero not in only in his native Czechoslovakia but throughout the Eastern Bloc after taking part in an eight-day Soviet space mission in March 1978. The former cosmonaut spoke to me about his memories of that historic flight – and the propaganda which accompanied it
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek awarded Milan Paumer, the third member of the so-called Mašín group, with a medal of honour on Tuesday. Last week, during a trip to Washington, Mr Topolánek broke one of the greatest Czech taboos by awarding medals to the two Mašín brothers, who along with Milan Paumer and two other anti-Communist fighters made a daring escape from Czechoslovakia in 1953, killing six armed men in the process. For decades the group were demonised by Communist propaganda, and Czechs are still deeply divided over the legitimacy