Late last month the Czech literary world finally paid its due to Natalia Gorbanevskaya a Russian poet, translator and civil rights activist who in 1968 risked her life to voice her opposition to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. More than 40 years after her brave deed her book Red Square at Noon reflecting the events was finally published in Czech.
One of the more curious aspects of Radio Prague in the early 1990s was that the station’s name kept changing. In 1991, for no particular reason, we stopped calling ourselves Radio Prague and became Radio Prague International. Then, at the beginning of 1992, in order to seem less Prague and Czech centred, we became Radio Czechoslovakia. The change was largely cosmetic, because the great majority of programmes, with the exception of a daily commentary sent from Bratislava, continued to come from the Czech part of the federation.
A painting depicting the most famous fratricide in Czech history – the murder of prince Vaclav by his own brother Boleslav in 935 has emerged to see the light of day after gathering dust in an attic for close to 170 years. In this edition of Panorama we look at why the monumental work spent so many decades hidden from the eyes of the world.
A memorial plaque to Zdeněk Urbánek, a writer, translator and a close friend of the late Václav Havel, was unveiled at the weekend at his Prague home. Zdeněk Urbánek, who died in 2008, was a significant figure of Czechoslovakia’s the anti-communist opposition, and it was at his house in the Prague district of Střešovice where the human rights manifesto Charter 77 began its journey.
One of the most passionate debates in Czechoslovakia in the first years after the fall of communism was over what to do with people who had collaborated with the secret police – the StB – or had held prominent functions in the Communist Party. In 1991 the so-called “screening law” was passed, under which former StB collaborators were prevented from holding certain senior posts – for example in academia or in the civil service. At the time Radio Prague invited two Czech politicians into the studio: the left-of-centre member of the Federal Parliament,
With the fall of communism, it was not long before foreign investors began taking an interest in Czechoslovakia. This ranged from huge industrial multinationals to young college graduates, who arrived in Prague with backpacks in the early 1990s, and happened to spot a business opportunity. Many burned their fingers; some made a quick buck and disappeared, and others settled down and stayed here for good. In 1991, Radio Prague interviewed a few of these pioneering investors.
My guest today is Josef Čermák, a very sprightly 88-year-old Czech who was born in 1924 in a small village called Skury just outside of Prague. He studied law and in 1949 emigrated to Canada and he’s lived here ever since. He has served as the president of both the Czech and Slovak Association of Canada and also Sokol, Canada, and he is also the author of a number of books, including It all Began With Prince Rupert – The Story of Czechs and Slovaks in Canada.
Many Czechs today consider the First Czechoslovak Republic a golden age in the turbulent 20th century. The country, which existed between the two world wars, is seen as the first free state of Czechs and Slovaks after centuries of Austrian rule, and one of Europe’s few democratic states of the time. But its reality, its values and conflicts often escape the popular understanding of the era. One of the First Republic’s outstanding personalities was the army general and writer Rudolf Medek who embodied some of the values of the time. In this edition
Last week I promised some recordings from Radio Prague in the early 1990s, but I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a break in our chronological journey through the archives, to play a recording that has special relevance this week. On Monday Pope Benedict visited the town of Stará Boleslav just outside Prague, famous for its links with the early days of Christianity in the Czech Lands. During his stay he prayed at an extremely rare medieval icon of the Virgin and Child, cast in metal and said to date back to the days of Princess Ludmila in the 10th