Prague and Lima have been marking the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations this week through a number of events, including a ceremony in Lima preceding the return of an historic Czechoslovak-built tank to the Czech Republic. The LTP 38, as it is known, was built for Peru in the 1930s, designed specifically for high terrain. Originally, there were 24 of the armoured fighting vehicles.
Czechs and Slovaks spent most of the 20th century in one country, Czechoslovakia. Ever since its foundation, however, each nation had a different idea of how the country should work, and what their role in it should be. In his new book entitled Czechs and Slovaks in the 20th Century: Cooperation and Conflicts, historian Jan Rychlík argues that Czechoslovakia was in fact bound to fail as a state, and that communism only postponed its inevitable end.
On March 2 1978 - for the first time - a person was launched into space who was neither a Soviet nor an American citizen. His name was Vladimír Remek, and he came from Czechoslovakia. Millions of Czechs and Slovaks had the chance to follow the event live both on radio and television, and it was even celebrated in song:
In the 1970s the Cold War was fought on many fronts. One of them was Northern Ireland, where the tension and violence that raged throughout the decade also became part of the propaganda war between East and West. At the time, Czechoslovak Radio’s correspondent in London was Karel Kvapil, who had entered the radio after the wave of sackings following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, and later went on to become its last communist era general director. In 1977 Kvapil travelled to Belfast, to report on the Troubles. For part of his programme he spoke with
The Israeli author Tom Segev is in Prague to launch the Czech translation of his acclaimed biography of the Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal. Entitled Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends, Tom Segev’s latest work offers a critical yet compassionate look at the complicated man who devoted his life to tracking down Nazi criminals. Radio Prague spoke to Tom Segev during his Prague visit, and asked him how different the real Simon Wiesenthal was from the myths he himself helped create.
Anniversaries give us the chance to think again about the meaning of events and their relevance today. Next month it will be exactly 70 years since the destruction by the Nazis of the Czech village of Lidice in June 1942. The facts and figures are well known, and even in the shadow of huge numbers later killed in the Holocaust, still remain shocking: 340 people were murdered, including 88 children and all but two of the men of the village. They were killed systematically and in cold blood in a calculated attempt by the SS to prevent Czech insurgency.
If there was one sound guaranteed to infuriate Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders during the 1970s and 80s it was the call-sign of the US-funded Radio Free Europe, broadcasting from Munich to the countries of the Eastern Bloc. After the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, many Czech and Slovak émigrés of a wide variety of political hues ended up working for the station’s Czechoslovak Section. Back home they found a receptive audience and Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders became little short of obsessed with discrediting Radio Free Europe’s broadcasts.
Prague’s Old Town Square may be famous for its grandeur and architectural beauty, but it is, in fact, a shadow of its former self. A great chunk of the Old Town Hall building was decimated by the Nazis at the end of the war, and has never been rebuilt. To this day, a rather bare park stands where most of the building once did. And across from the famous Jan Hus sculpture used to be a towering Marian column, built in 1650 and felled in 1918, by Czechs who felt it symbolized the country’s Habsburg past.