Show trials featuring trumped up charges and fabricated confessions remain one of the strongest symbols of Communist state repression throughout the former Eastern Bloc. Czechoslovakia's most infamous show trials involved senior Communist Rudolf Slansky and resistance leader Milada Horakova, both of whom were given the death penalty. But not all defendants were so high-profile: a newly discovered recording reflects Communist Party efforts to use the courts to crush a whole class - relatively wealthy farmers.
One of the steps taken by the Czech Republic to come to terms with its communist past were so-called 'lustrace', or screening laws. They were meant to prevent former communist secret agents and other people associated with the former regime from taking government and senior civil service posts. But it appears that some former secret police, or StB, agents have managed to slip through the net. It has just emerged there are far more former agents in the police than previously believed - 800 rather than a few dozen. Dita Asiedu reports:
Anyone interested in archaeology is likely to be attracted to a new exhibition just opening at the Prague City Museum titled "Through the Valley of Shadows". The exhibit - which took a year to prepare - features samples of a number of Prague burial sites dating from as far back as the Stone Age to the early Middle Ages. It shows how ancient cultures - German, Celtic, and Slavic - dealt with death in practical as well as symbolic terms.
Some years ago, Madeleleine Albright, the Czech-born American Secretary of State, learned that although she had been raised Catholic, all four of her grandparents were Jewish. Not every Czech family tree contains such a big surprise, of course, but almost any Czech who digs into their family history will learn things they did not know or expect. To help them, the Czech Genealogy and Heraldry Society in Prague has just launched a new course.
Public broadcaster Czech Radio and a number of professional institutions like the Jewish Museum in Prague and Prague's Institute of Contemporary History recently signed a new agreement to cooperate on mapping and preserving important stories and oral histories from 20th century Czechoslovakia. Reporters Mikulas Kroupa and Adam Drda initiated the project, explaining to journalists that the main aim was to record lasting and complete testimonies by witnesses who survived some of history's most difficult periods: the Second World War, the Holocaust,
From September 12-15, 2006 the Austrian capital of Vienna played host to the first-ever international conference devoted exclusively to the phenomenon of central European samizdat and tamizdat networks. Hosted by the Vienna Institute for Human Sciences, in cooperation with German, American and Hungarian-based scholarly institutions, the meeting brought together a group including members of the former democratic opposition in communist Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Russia, as well as scholars and journalists who write about this
On Wednesday the government backed a plan long prepared by the ruling Civic Democrats to found a new Institute for National Memory - covering the legacy of Communism in Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1989. It is not the first time the creation of such an institute has been discussed, but not all are in favour. As the Czech Republic already has an Office for the Investigation of Crimes under Communism, some have questioned whether an additional institute would be needed at all.
Though I would say I am reasonably familiar with Czech culture and history, I must admit that I often have to scratch my head a bit - and consult the internet - whenever we feature a new question in our Radio Prague monthly quiz. The subject of the most recent competition - the remarkable prize-winning tennis, ice hockey and football player Karel Kozeluh - was certainly somebody I should have been familiar with, and I learned about his amazing career with fascination.
In this week's edition of Spotlight, join Dita Asiedu as she is given a tour of the Mendel Museum in the Moravian capital of Brno. The Museum is located in the Augustinian Monastery, where Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) conducted his famous inheritance experiments thanks to which he is now known as the Father of Genetics.
A new internet "game" called Total Burn-out of Lidice has been making a lot of headlines in recent days. The title refers to the 1942 razing of the Czech village of Lidice and the massacre of its inhabitants, one of the worst single atrocities of World War II. Visitors to the site are given the mission of burning the village down, with 10 points for killing a Czech, or 50 if they are trying to escape. It seems to be in shocking bad taste, but it actually has a serious purpose - attempt to start and you are asked "What are you playing at?! This