New facts have emerged about the downing of a Polish plane by communist Czechoslovakia’s air force in 1975, resulting in the death of a Polish citizen trying to flee to the west. For three decades the circumstances surrounding the incident have been veiled in secrecy, but now the veil has been lifted.
If there was one sound guaranteed to infuriate Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders during the 1970s and 80s it was the call-sign of the US-funded Radio Free Europe, broadcasting from Munich to the countries of the Eastern Bloc. After the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, many Czech and Slovak émigrés of a wide variety of political hues ended up working for the station’s Czechoslovak Section. Back home they found a receptive audience and Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders became little short of obsessed with discrediting Radio Free Europe’s broadcasts.
Before the Second World War, the Czech capital was home to several ethnic groups – the Czechs, the Germans, and the Jews. Their co-existence in the modern era was often a source of conflict that only deepened after the 1918 foundation of Czechoslovakia. The question of identity in the multi-ethnic environment posed considerable challenges for leading intellectuals of the time; among them was the Prague writer, journalist and composer Max Brod. In this edition of Czechs in History, we talk to the Prague-based French historian Gaelle Vassogne, the
Pre-war Prague with its multi-national and multi-cultural environment has inspired many scholars and writers who explore the life of Czechs, Germans and Jews in the city of a hundred spires before it was swept away by the two totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Our guest in this edition of One on One is Professor Peter Demetz, the author of Prague in Black and Gold, Stage: Prague, and other works. Mr Demetz was born in Prague in the 1920s to a German and Jewish family but left the country after the communist takeover of 1948 and later became
In the 1970s the communist authorities tolerated popular music as long as it was insipid, colourless and unoriginal – everything that the Czech psychedelic rock band The Plastic People of the Universe most definitely was not. Their music was inspired by Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground, their lyrics anarchic, their behaviour unconventional and their hair long. In 1976 four members of the band were sentenced to prison terms for what was described as “organised disturbance of the peace”, and in December of the same year Czechoslovak Radio broadcast
The 1960s had seen a thriving musical scene in Czechoslovakia, which had been broadly tolerated by the regime, especially during the 1968 Prague Spring. With the political clampdown of the early 70s, rock and pop music were also to suffer. But this was a gradual process, and, initially at least, the communist authorities were careful not to go too far to alienate young people.
The Czech EU Presidency last week launched a bid to make a mark on history by creating a Europe-wide platform for the study and recognition of the crimes committed by former Communist regimes. The move has sparked a debate within the Czech Republic and abroad over whether such a step aimed at unlocking the problematic past is desirable.
An 87-year-old former “people’s prosecutor” has entered prison to begin a six-year sentence for her role in one of the most notorious Communist show-trials of the 1950s, in which democratic politician Milada Horáková was sent to the gallows on trumped up charges. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová voluntarily entered prison on Thursday evening, and will now undergo medical tests to ascertain whether she is fit to serve her sentence.
In the course of 1969 and 1970 Czechoslovak Radio was transformed back into what it had been in the 1950s, a tool of hard line propaganda. In the process, over 700 radio staff were forced to leave their jobs. Those who stayed found their freedom of expression severely curtailed. To give an idea of the extent to which things had changed by August 1969 - the first anniversary of the Soviet led invasion – I will start with a short extract from Radio Prague’s broadcasts back in 1968, as the tanks rolled into the city. At the time the radio was playing