“Twenty years on Czech and Slovak Squares” is the name of a new exhibition of photos, posters, newspapers and other memorabilia documenting the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia and developments in both countries since. The venue, the Czech National Museum’s New Building, is wholly appropriate, as in the past it housed the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly.
Today, in Prague’s bookstores one can find titles in a number of world languages – English, German, Russian, French, and of course Czech. It is much harder these days, although not impossible, to find books published in Hebrew. But five hundred years ago, a little less than a century after the Gutenberg press was invented, the first Hebrew book in Central Europe, and possibly north of the Alps, was printed right here in Prague.
How have Czechs and Slovaks got used to the border between their two countries twenty years after the split of Czechoslovakia? A British journalist decided to find out by travelling the length of the border last summer by bicycle and producing a book on his experiences. In Czech Books, David Vaughan finds out more.
For Czechs and Slovaks, New Year’s Day has a special meaning as the independent Czech and Slovak Republics emerged 20 years ago today. But what strained their relations while they were still living in one country? Why did Czechoslovakia split against the wishes of most of its inhabitants? And what lessons can be learned from the history of their common country? In our special New Year’s Day programme, we discuss these issues with Jan Rychlík from the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University, and political scientist and historian Juraj Marušiak
A series of events have been held in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic observing the first anniversary of the death of Václav Havel, who led the country to democracy in 1989’s Velvet Revolution. The commemorations have included the unveiling of a new plaque to the late president at a statue of Woodrow Wilson in the capital.
Among those closest to Václav Havel was Michael Žantovský. The two were among the founders of the opposition Civic Forum in the whirlwind period of the Velvet Revolution, which toppled Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime after four long decades. Soon after Mr. Havel was elected president on December 29 1989, he made Mr. Žantovský his press spokesperson – and part of a team at Prague Castle that had to learn double-quick how to run a country.
Josef Svoboda is a professor, Arctic ecologist and author. Born in 1929 in Prague, Mr. Svoboda studied science and philosophy at Masaryk and Charles universities. He was imprisoned for nine years by the communist regime in 1949 for alleged treason and espionage and then emigrated to Canada in 1968, where he has lived ever since. I began by asking Svoboda about his earliest memories of growing up in pre-war Czechoslovakia.
A unique new museum is due to open in the Czech Republic next autumn – rather ten museums in one, spread out in ten towns and cities across the country. Called ’10 Stars’, the museum will be housed in synagogues and will tell the story of local Jewish communities which all but vanished in the Holocaust.
Communist state prosecutor Karel Vaš, a key player in some of Czechoslovakia’s notorious show trials of the 1950s, died at a Prague nursing home at the weekend. He was 96. Vaš, who remained unrepentant to the last, escaped punishment for his crimes in the post-1989 period – a source of regret to some historians and former political prisoners.
Efforts to commemorate ethnic Germans murdered by Czechs during a wave of post-war expulsions have frequently led to heated debate in this country. One such controversy is the subject of Jan Gebert’s debut documentary Stone Games, which follows a vocal campaign by a group of locals to remove a monument to eight Sudeten Germans killed in the north Bohemian town of Nový Bor in 1945. The protesters are led by an eccentric would-be politician – and their cause attracts the attention of national figures, including now presidential candidate Miloš