The long and bitter dispute between the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the European association of similar agencies came to a head on Wednesday when the Czechs announced they were leaving the Europe-wide network. Both sides quote several reasons behind the rift but ideological as well as personal animosities seem to be at the core of the squabble.
Piotrek Gawlinski unearths and scans rare and frequently stunning pictures of the Czech capital for his excellent historical photoblog Lost and Found in Prague. A Polish tour guide based in the city, Gawlinski uses his Tumblr account to draw attention to work by greats such as Josef Sudek but also provides a unique forum for pictures by unknown photographers who captured a now disappeared Prague.
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.
Ever since Czech TV began broadcasting its own version of BBC’s show Who Do You Think You Are, many people have developed an interest in finding more about their own history, about who their ancestors were, where lived, and what they did. In this edition of Panorama, we discuss the boom in genealogy with researcher Blanka Lednická who a few years ago left her IT job and set up her own genealogy business.
Former Czechoslovak Communist party ideology chief Vasil Bilak, the last surviving hardliner who sent a letter of invitation to Soviet leaders, officially justifying the Warsaw Pact invasion that crushed the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968, has died in Bratislava at the age of 96. Bilak was charged with high treason in 1991 but the case was later closed for lack of evidence. I asked prof. Jan Rychlik, who specializes in Czechoslovak history, how Vasil Bilak will be remembered.
The Czech agency that administers the files of the communist-era secret police has clashed with a European network of similar organisations. The latter has suspended the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, questioning the past of some of its advisors. However, the Czechs are fighting back – and say they will quit the network themselves if it does not back down.
Czech-born author, journalist and Radio Free Europe broadcaster Milan Schulz died in Munich on Monday at the age of 83. He emigrated in 1969 but the link to his homeland remained firm and for hundreds of thousands of his compatriots behind the Iron Curtain his daily commentaries on RFE were a breath of fresh air in the constrained atmosphere of communist rule. I asked his former colleague broadcaster Petr Brod to share his memories of those days.
Kevin Klose is serving a second term as president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American-funded international broadcaster based in Prague since the mid-1990s. Mr. Klose oversaw the station’s move here from Munich on the invitation of President Václav Havel, before later going on to head National Public Radio in the US for a decade. In part one of a two-part interview, he discusses RFE/RL’s search for a new identity in the post-Cold War era and its move east.
Most people date the beginning of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia to November 17th, 1989, when a peaceful student demonstration was brutally broken up by riot police. But cracks in the regime's grip on power began to appear much earlier in that year, when people gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of Jan Palach's self-immolation in January 1969. For seven days starting January 15th, 1989, demonstrators who tried to gather on Wenceslas Square were beaten and sprayed with water cannon. Among them was Ivana Varju, who was a student at Charles