Monday marks exactly 40 years since the moment man first set foot on the moon. At that time, in 1969, Czechoslovakia was one of the only Soviet satellite states broadcasting the event. Among those relaying history live to the nation of 15 million on national TV was Antonín Vítek, one of the country’s leading experts in cosmology. He recalled the day for me in his office in the Academy of Sciences.
Igor Lukeš is professor of international relations and history at Boston University in the US. He left Czechoslovakia in the 1970’s and has become one of the foremost historians of its 20th century history as well as a sought after expert on Central Europe and Russia. One of his recent works was “Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: the Diplomacy of Edvard Beneš in the 1930’s.” He drew heavily on Czech archive sources for the work. I talked to Igor Lukeš on one of his frequent trips back to the Czech Republic and asked him how it had been
One of the best kept secrets among Czech castles and historic sites is the gorgeous Kozel Chateau founded in the late 18th century in western Bohemia. Founded by nobleman Jan Vojtěch Černín, a member of Emperor Joseph II’s court, the stone residence served an as exquisite hunting chateau and today is one of the best examples of Classicist architecture in Bohemia. The site is surrounded by fine lawns, a beautiful park and forests perfect for visits in the spring and summer. What’s more, Kozel is only an hour or so away from Prague and just minutes
For a few weeks in the late summer of 1989, Prague became the scene of a bizarre – and now largely forgotten - refugee crisis. It had all begun in the spring, when Hungary announced its decision to take down the barbed wire on its border with Austria. A growing number of East Germans, desperate at the suffocating lack of reform in their country, took advantage of this new gap in the Iron Curtain as a way of fleeing to the West. But smuggling themselves into Austria was an uncertain business, and before long, they started seeking refuge at the West
It is often noted that the Czech Republic lies in the heart of Europe; what then lies at the heart of the Czech Republic? Well, there are pastures, woods and hills, a history of war and conquest, a strong musical heritage, excellent lager and a small town called Polička, where all of the above can be experienced.
A new row has blown up over the treatment of the Czechoslovak secret police files. This time a former anti-communist dissident says he will take the step of publishing what he describes as crucial computerised databases on around 100,000 people who had dealings with the secret police. He says he has taken the step because the official state guardian of the police records would not do so.
This year, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, we are reminded how much of twentieth century history has passed through the Czech capital. The focus of much that has happened in Prague over the last hundred years has been Wenceslas Square, tree-lined and nearly a kilometre long, right at the heart of the city, and with the bronze statue of the Czech patron, Saint Wenceslas, standing guard at the top of the square. One person who has lived on Wenceslas Square nearly all her life is Věra Kölbelová. From her unique vantage point
When Ivan Klíma was a little boy, he knew he wanted to be a writer. Today, he is one of the most respected figures of Czech literature. Ivan Klíma’s life journey included years in a Nazi concentration camp, membership in the communist party, and later a life on the fringe of the society, after he was expelled from the party and joined Czechoslovakia’s opposition movement. In his latest book, My Crazy Century, Ivan Klíma explains what happened that he found himself in the ranks of the communist party, a totalitarian and criminal organization that