The freshly released files of the so-called Mitrokhin archive shed light on Soviet intelligence activities during the Prague Spring of 1968. The files, smuggled by senior KGB officer Vasiliy Mitrochin to the UK in the 1990s, have been opened to the public by Cambridge University. They suggest that the KGB aimed to undermine Czechoslovakia’s democratization process, with Soviet illegal agents targeting dozens of Czech and Slovak public figures.
On Monday, the Archive Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge made available to the public for the very first time the results of one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history. The documents, collected by Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB defector, were handed over to the UK authorities in 1992 and include details on the Soviet agency’s infiltration efforts regarding the 1968 Czechoslovak Prague Spring. In total, 19 boxes of Mitrokhin’s notes will be made available, and could help Czech historians shed more light on a painful chapter in the country’s history.
On July 5, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival screened a fresh copy of the New Wave classic Ostře Sledované Vlaky (Closely Watched Trains, 1966). This is the latest Czech film to have undergone a major restoration. At the same time, the Czech National Film Archive is waiting to see if funding is made available for the restoration of a further ten films from its renowned collection. In this special programme, Dominik Jůn visits the archive to discuss issues related to restoration, digitisation - and the difference between the two.
This spring I worked on a project to explore the Czech Radio archives with a group of international undergraduate students, studying at the Anglo-American University in Prague. This followed up on a similar project last year to mark the radio’s 90th birthday. Czech Radio has one of the biggest radio archives anywhere in the world, going way back to the late 1920s and it includes several hundred recordings in English, most of them from the radio’s international broadcasts. Working in groups, the students spent time delving into the archives and they
Prague’s much envied public tram, metro, and bus network is marking a special day this Tuesday with the 100th anniversary of the debut of punitive fines being imposed by ticket controllers. And for the special day, the force of around 150 controllers will be showing a different face to the travelling public with the hand out of small presents rather than the customary fairly stiff fines.
Last week’s decision by a Bratislava court that Czech finance minister Andrej Babiš was falsely described as being an agent of the Communist era secret police has sparked a lively debate about the apparent clearing of his name. Part of that debate focuses on how the StB functioned and whom it recruited. We look at the working of the StB in former Czechoslovakia and the ongoing arguments about the Babiš’ affair.
One of the Czech Republic’s iconic landmarks will be handed back to the Roman Catholic Church following a decision by the country’s custodian of historic buildings and sites, the National Heritage Institute. The decision forms part of the settlement with religious institutions following the confiscation of most of their property by the former Communist regime. Decisions about other significant sites are also pending.
Tribute has been paid to the great Czech industrialist Emil Kolben, with the unveiling of a plaque at his former Prague home on Wednesday morning. Kolben, who died in the Holocaust, co-founded one of the country’s most important electrical engineering companies – and today a street and metro station in the capital bear his name.
In the second of our series looking at the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, we follow the continuing Bohemian connections on the eve of the fateful Sarajevo assassination and afterwards. These include the fateful wrong turn in the city by the archduke’s driver, the sentence served by the assassin, and the bullet that soon caused so many deaths and injuries.
The new documentary Toman Brod: Praha – Terezín – Birkenau – Märzbachtal – Praha is the portrait of a Holocaust survivor who is today in his mid 80s. But what’s different about this feature-length film is that it was made by a schoolboy. Indeed, director Matouš Bičák was only 15 when he and his classmates – inspired by a school project – set off with Toman Brod to record his remarkable stories of survival in Nazi concentration camps.