On the airwaves, 1968 ended very much as it had begun. For New Year’s Eve, Czechoslovak Radio chose the same format as the year before, with the light-hearted musical cabaret of the Semafor Theatre. But behind the scenes, the Soviet-led occupation in August had changed everything. The Soviets were only too pleased for the radio to give the impression of normality. A gradual, almost imperceptible drift back to hard-line communism was beginning. The process came to be known cynically as “normalization”, a word that was first used by Alexander Dubček himself
What would happen if the Czechs still had a monarch? Or if the country’s population was still one-third German? What would be different today if the 1948 communist coup had been defeated? These are some of the questions explored in a new Czech TV show entitled What If which looks at some of the turning points in modern Czech history. Rather than providing answers, however, the creators of the new programme say they wanted to provoke viewers to look at some of the historical milestones from a different perspective. In this edition of Czech History,
You will probably not have heard of Gross Sarne, Brande, Blechhammer or Schatzlar, but these are places that should be remembered. They were all Nazi slave labour camps in World War Two. The last on that list, Schatzlar, or Žacléř as it is known in Czech, was in what is now the Czech Republic, in the part of north-eastern Bohemia annexed by the German Reich in 1938. Few people in this country, even among the inhabitants of Žacléř itself, know that the camp even existed, but a new book should help to put that right. The daughter of one of the survivors
This week marks the 35-year-anniversary of the founding of Charter 77, an informal civic initiative against the communist regime. Many of its signatories would later become important figures in post-communist Czech society, such as philosopher and playwright Václav Havel, who was elected the country’s first president after the revolution. Now, the anniversary of the charter is being honored in Prague with a week-long commemoration, the Week of Charter 77.
Prague City Museum recently put on display a part of the biggest silver treasure ever found in the country. Visitors are able to admire just a fraction of the vast depot of nearly half a ton of silver jewelry, tableware, goblets, coins as well as raw silver, which was hidden in a Prague building some time after the end of WWII. The museum is now trying to find out who hid such a huge treasure, only discovered by accident roughly three years ago.
For the younger generation that had grown up after the end of World War II, the Soviet-led invasion of August 1968 was traumatic. The Prague Spring had brought an atmosphere of optimism and genuine enthusiasm for change, and all these hopes were crushed overnight. In this week’s From the Archives, we’ll hear what students had to say at the time, as recorded by Czechoslovak and foreign radio stations as the occupation unfolded.
The National Museum has opened an exhibition highlighting the personality cult of the first Czechoslovak communist president, Klement Gottwald. The exhibition, named Laboratory of Power, is located in Prague´s Vítkov Memorial which the communist regime turned into a mausoleum for Gottwald after his death in 1953. One of the exhibition’s organizers Marek Junek took me through the underground rooms built for the army of people who took care of the embalmed body for nine long years. He started out by explaining how the memorial underwent a significant
In this week’s From the Archives we continue our look at how radio covered the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Today we follow the part played by the United Nations. Within just a few hours of the tanks crossing the border, the UN Security Council met for a special meeting to discuss what to do about the invasion. Czechoslovakia’s Ambassador to the UN, Jan Mužík was unequivocal: