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
Many countries have had famous war animals, one remembered in Great Britain this year was Antis, an Alsatian belonging to Czech airman Václav Robert Bozděch. 60 years ago, in 1949, the animal was awarded the PDSA Dickin medal, the eqivalent of the Victoria Cross, for bravery and outstanding service during World War II. The dog and his owner, part of a six-man crew, flew more than 30 bombing missions over occupied Europe and Nazi Germany, evading formidable German defences, always lucky to make it back. As his and his owner’s fame grew, Antis went
If you can imagine a group of scientists in the 25th century going through the cushions of your couch, and excitedly labelling your loose change and lost socks, then you can get some idea of what has been going on in Prague Castle for over the last few months. Taking advantage of the restoration of a floor in a main hall, archaeologists sifting through the backfill have stumbled upon a hoard of items of everyday use - that are now historical treasures.
In last week’s From the Archives we followed the tragic last days of the student Jan Palach, who on January 16 1969 set himself alight in protest against growing apathy in the face of the Soviet invasion five months earlier. The whole country was in shock. Such a drastic and violent sacrifice had little precedent in modern Czech and Slovak history, and perhaps for just that reason Palach immediately became a symbol of the country’s lost liberty and a rallying cry for those who still hoped to save something of the reforms of 1968. Those in power
Under communism, hundreds of people died trying to escape across Czechoslovakia’s borders into the West. However, the traffic was not all one way, as in the years following the Communist takeover of 1948, Western states sent Czechoslovak agents into the country to work secretly with the small anti-communist resistance. They are the subject of a new exhibition in Prague.