Until the advent of the First World War, intellectuals and artists sitting in Prague’s smoky coffee houses would have talked in ‘isms’: modernism, cubism, futurism, and realism- just as did they in Paris, Vienna and other cultural hubs around Europe. These artistic movements of the early Twentieth Century celebrated the wonder of contemporary progress, the speed of its technological advance and the power of the machine.
One of the curious things about Central Europe is how little people from the various countries of the region know about each other. A recent sociological study suggested that Czechs and Poles have very similar views of the world and similar sets of values. They share a border five hundred miles long, speak languages that are close enough for them to be able to understand each other without too much difficulty, and yet the two nations have a habit of acting as if the other didn’t exist. Even in these days of open borders, assumptions and prejudices
Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the Munich Agreement which granted Nazi Germany large parts of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans. A prelude to the Second World War, the deal forged by Germany, Italy, France and the UK dealt a final blow to pre-war Czechoslovakia whose decision to accept the agreement rather than defend the country’s integrity against Nazi expansion deeply demoralized the society. Does the Munich trauma still affect Czechs today? And what lessons can be drawn from what happened in Munich 75 years ago? In this
Jostled between nation states and ideologies for the best part of two centuries, traces of an ever changing Czech identity crisis sit subtly in the foreground of the Prague we know today. Whatever rule Bohemia or Czechoslovakia was under - whether it be the Hapsburg Monarchy in the eighteenth century, National Socialism in the 1940s or Communism until 1989; the bridges over the Vltava have seen and lived through it all. A closer look at two of Pragues busiest bridges unveils a history not so distant in Prague’s past.
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.
Judita Matyášová is a young Czech journalist who by pure chance happened to come upon the story of some 700 Jewish children from around central Europe who were smuggled to Denmark to escape the Holocaust. Unlike the story of Nicolas Winton’s children this one had not been researched and Judita made it her own special project to find as many of the 100 Czech children as she could, reunite them and tell their story. Her close to three year endeavor is the topic of a book due to come out in October. Judita visited Radio Prague’s studio this week to
In a chilling echo of the past, Russian police on Sunday arrested a group of human rights activists commemorating the 45th anniversary of a 1968 protest against the Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Although the protesters were reportedly detained for taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration and soon released, the move has evoked widespread condemnation in Prague.
This week the 45th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia was commemorated in this country. What some may not realize is that many of the iconic images from the tumultuous August of 1968 appearing in the media belong to one person – Josef Koudelka. A world renowned photographer whose career spans almost six decades and across all of Europe, Mr. Koudelka decided six years ago that he wants his life’s work to have a home in the Czech Republic.
On Wednesday, Czechs marked the 45th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion that crushed the period of reforms known as the Prague Spring. They weren’t alone: reaction also came from Sofia, where artists overnight anonymously sprayed an infamous Soviet-era monument pink. With the words ‘Bulharsko se omlouvá’, they apologised for Bulgaria’s role in the 1968 invasion, a gesture that did not go unnoticed and made world headlines.