Last time in Czech History, Michal Pullmann discussed his research into Czechoslovak society in the 1980s. In this second in a two-part special, he reflects upon the public role that historians play more generally in the Czech Republic today. I met him in his office at Charles University’s Institute of Economic and Social History, so it seemed only natural to start by asking him about his teaching:
This Friday marks the 47th anniversary of invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in 1968, which crushed the short-lived Prague Spring reform movement and brought in political and moral decline which lasted until the late 1980’s. On Friday, the event was commemorated at a traditional ceremony in front of the Czech Radio building, which bore witness to one of the most brutal clashes between civilian protesters and the occupying forces.
Michal Pullmann is head of the Institute of Economic and Social History at Charles University in Prague. In this first of a two-part edition of Czech History, he discusses his research, which has focused most recently on the last years of communism in Czechoslovakia. When I met Pullmann in his office recently, I started by asking him about his book Konec Experimentu (The End of The Experiment), which examines the influence of Soviet Perestroika on different groups in Czechoslovak society in the late 1980s. My first question was how Perestroika was
A number of ceremonies in Prague this week paid tribute to the 2,500 Czechoslovak pilots who flew with the RAF in WWII. Close to 500 of them died in action. Those who came home received a hero’s welcome, but the nation’s gratitude was short-lived. When the communists came to power in 1948 they were portrayed as enemies of the state, jailed and persecuted.
The historic town of Stará Boleslav, northeast of Prague, may soon become the Czech Republic’s “little Vatican”. The Catholic Church plans to turn the small town, an early Přemyslid stronghold built in the late 9th and 10th century and one of the country’s major pilgrimage sites, into a major cultural and religious centre.
One of the early atrocities of World War Two was the violent suppression of protests by Czech university students on 28 October 1939. This was just over six months after German troops had marched into Prague. One student was killed and three weeks later a further nine were executed. Twelve hundred more were sent to concentration camps. The news caused outrage in countries fighting Nazi Germany and 17 November was declared International Students’ Day. With the help of staff from the Czech Radio archive, David Vaughan and students from the Anglo-American
A team doing research at the former Terezín concentration camp in north Bohemia have just presented remarkable findings in the form of previously undocumented inscriptions made by Jewish prisoners in the walls of the fortress. The Czech-German group behind the ongoing Ghettospuren (Ghetto Traces) project had previously discovered valuable items in attics and cellars at Terezín.
There were many cases of passive resistance to the communist regime that only came to light years after it collapsed in 1989. Reporters at Czech public television recently uncovered the story of a brave act of defiance that put the face of a young woman jailed for running a Scouts organization on the Czechoslovak crown.
The Moravian city of Brno has been marking a double anniversary this week: 183 years since the birth of the founder of modern genetics Gregor Mendel, and 150 years since his discovery that led to uncovering the science behind heredity. St. Thomas’s Abbey in Brno’s Old Town – in whose garden Mendel made his famous discoveries growing peas, and which today houses the Mendel Museum – hosted the celebrations on Monday, including an audiovisual show created by award-winning American “biomedical animator” Drew Berry, backed by music from Czech-based composer