Celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution began at the weekend and, of course, they began with Václav Havel. The dissident playwright cum philosopher-president was the main figure behind the bloodless uprising that toppled 40 years of communism within just a few weeks. At the weekend, Mr Havel held a semi-private concert to commemorate the music that accompanied the overthrow of communism, inviting Joan Baez, Lou Reed, and Suzanne Vega, among others. In exclusive interviews, Radio Prague spoke to some of the guests who
Agnes of Bohemia was a princess of royal blood yet she refused a politically arranged marriage – as was the order of the day – and went into a nunnery, devoting her life to caring for the ill and needy. More than seven centuries after her death she was canonized by Pope John Paul II, just days before the 1989 Velvet Revolution. The twentieth anniversary of her canonization comes amidst speculation that restorers may have uncovered her long-lost remains.
While the split of Czechoslovakia happened quietly and almost unnoticed, the situation in Yugoslavia could hardly have been more different. There had always been close links between the two countries, and Czechs and Slovaks were deeply shocked as Yugoslavia sank into civil war. In an interview for Radio Prague in 1993, the head of the Euro-Atlantic Section of the Czech Foreign Ministry, Ivan Bušniak, pointed to some of the two countries’ historical bonds:
The fall of communism turned around the lives of millions of people. In a special edition of Czechs Today we talk to a father and son of the same name about how this dramatic change affected their lives. Petr Cibulka senior was born in Opava and moved to Prague in August of 1989 –less than three months before the Velvet Revolution broke out. He now owns a hotel in Lednice, Moravia. His son Petr Cibulka junior belongs to the generation which was barely touched by the communist regime. He moved to Prague at the age of 15, later went for a study stay
November 17 is the anniversary of the start of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution. But what is less well known is that six days earlier it was preceded by what has been described as the “smog revolution”, when hundreds of people – angered by the appalling state of the local environment – took to the streets in the north Bohemian city of Teplice.
President Václav Klaus is making his own contribution to the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The Czech president has penned his own assessment of how and why Communism collapsed and how the new leadership, including himself, dealt with the challenges in a book that has just been released.
World leaders past and present on Monday gathered in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The celebrations, which are expected to culminate with the toppling of a symbolic wall of dominoes, have attracted more than 100,000 people. One of them is Štepán Benda a Czech émigré who has lived in Berlin since 1968 when he emigrated from communist Czechoslovakia. He was there when the wall came down and earlier today he shared his memories of the historic event.
Anyone who has ever visited the Czech capital will have visited the 14th century Charles Bridge; but if you think you know the city’s most famous landmark, think again. You may be surprised to learn that part of the structure houses two hidden chambers - large enough for dozens of visitors. The areas, not surprisingly, remain off-limits and even their very existence until now was known only by a very few.
After the split of Czechoslovakia at the beginning of 1993, Radio Prague devoted several programmes to the impact of the new border on ordinary people’s lives. For most, life stayed much the same, but the split did have a very real impact on people living close to the border, and on Czechs living in Slovakia or vice versa. Here is one Slovak student, settled in the Czech Republic, talking to Radio Prague a few months after the split: