August 18 marked the 130th anniversary of birth of one of the most distinct figures of the old Austrian empire, Emperor Franz Joseph I. He ruled his peoples for nearly seven decades, and although Czechs today don’t seem to identify with this particular period in their history, the legacy of the ‘aged monarch’, as he was semi-officially referred to towards the end of his life, is still apparent in most of his former empire today.
Café society was a reality in Prague and many other Czech towns and cities during a golden era before the First World War and between the wars. There were hundreds of such cafés with the latest addition often trying to outdo its predecessors in luxury and splendour. This edition of Prague Spotlight centres on one of the most famous of these cafés, the Café Louvre. It is one of the few great cafés which have survived the ravages of time and has been restored to some of its original grandeur.
Not many of the thousands of passengers arriving every day at London’s busy St Pancras Station are aware that they are passing just a few dozen metres away from one of the largest and most diverse collections of Czech books outside the Czech Republic. Tucked in beside the station is the huge, but surprisingly inconspicuous complex of the British Library. In this week’s Czech Books, David Vaughan shows us some of the highlights of the library’s rich Czech collection.
August 21 marks the anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and other communist countries. The occupation crushed an attempt to reform the communist regime, and drove the country into two decades of hard-line rule. What that all meant to the people of Czechoslovakia has been looked at many times. In our special programme today, we look at August 1968 from another perspective: that of the occupiers.
A monument was unveiled in Prague on Friday morning to Ryszard Siwiec, the Polish man who set himself alight in September 1968 in protest at his country’s participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Siwiec committed suicide in Warsaw just weeks after the invasion and six months before the Czech student Jan Palach made his own terrible sacrifice in Prague. The monument was unveiled on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of the invasion.
The Czechoslovak legions occupy an almost legendary place in Czech history. They comprise the armed forces that fought during and after World War I on the allied side in pursuit of an independent Czechoslovakia. The biggest force, and most potent myths, centre on the Russian force, which became embroiled in the civil war, spending three years and travelling thousands of miles before returning home. We look at the myths and facts about their exploits.
A gruesome find has made headlines in the Czech Republic: police have uncovered human remains in what appears to be a mass grave in a field near the village of Dobronin, in the Jihlava region. Fifteen Germans are said to have been brutally murdered there by the locals in the turbulent days after the end of World War II. The discovery is the first piece of evidence pertaining to this long-forgotten massacre and has once again re-opened a dark chapter of Czech-German history.
In his basement studio in the Šelmberkovský Palace in Prague’s Malá Strana, Oldřich Škácha is visibly amused as he points out a shot he took in 1991. It features then finance minister Václav Klaus, grinning broadly, flanked by two bunny girls at a Playboy ball. Škácha says he likes to exhibit the picture today as a little jab at the president.