Prisons and prisoners’ letters under the Communist era ‘Normalisation’ of the 1970s and 1980s is the subject of this edition of Czech History. For the political prisoners that resulted from the Communist crackdown following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, those letters were a vital link with the outside world, not just to family and friends but also their supporters worldwide.
Protestant cleric Tomáš Bísek was forced to leave Czechoslovakia in the 1980s for his dissident activities and spent over a decade ministering in Scotland. His family had been active members of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and – despite the communist regime – he himself had eventually become a clergyman in a small town in the Bohemian Moravian Highlands. However, his life became increasingly difficult after he and his wife signed the Charter 77 protest document. I began the first half of a two-part interview by asking the now retired
Since the fall of communism, the Czech Communist party has well established itself on the Czech political scene. It has a stable support base, and since 1990 has not been voted out of the lower house. What is the Communist Party’s appeal for Czech voters? What is its role in the country’s political system? And what are the outlooks for the Czech Communist movement?
People around the country marked the 26th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution amid heightened security on Tuesday. Overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Paris and the migrant crisis in Europe the anniversary of the country’s return to democracy and European values took on new meaning in light of present day attitudes to migrants.
One of the hottest tickets at this year’s Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival was main competition film RINO, a fascinating portrait of the only Communist mole known to have infiltrated the CIA: Czechoslovakia’s Karel Koecher. Director Jakub Wagner interviewed numerous former US agents and other officials for the film. But it is the charismatic and elusive Koecher who steals the show.
Karel Weirich is perhaps an unfamiliar name to most Czechs and to most of the world. Yet this modest man contributed in large part to keeping the world informed about the plight of Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi occupation. And he also helped to save the lives of hundreds of Jews living in Italy during WWII. The exact number is not known.
After three years of extensive renovation, the burial site of the House of Liechtenstein in the south Moravian town of Vranov was re-opened and re-consecrated. The unique mausoleum to the influential noble family was seized by the Czechoslovak state after WWII and has been crumbling apart ever since.
An exhibition in Opava, called In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes has focussed on how, in the 20th century Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective was depicted and in some cases misrepresented or even parodied in the Czech lands. The show, covering book illustration but also theatre and film, was put together by art historian Tomáš Kolich.
In this special programme on Czech Independence Day I am joined by noted historian Jan Rychlík, and we will also be hearing from Jan Hartl of the STEM polling agency. We will examine the influence of foreigners and minority groups in the Czech lands throughout history and try to gain a greater understanding of contemporary Czech attitudes in this regard.
In the course of a life that spanned over 90 years, the writer and translator Heda Margolius Kovály survived the very worst that the twentieth century could bring: first Auschwitz and then the anti-Semitic show trials in 1950s Czechoslovakia, in which her husband was sentenced to death and executed. Heda Margolius Kovály died in 2010, but her moving account of her life, Under a Cruel Star, continues to be read widely. She also wrote a second book, a detective story set in Stalinist Prague. The book is a novel – taking inspiration from Raymond Chandler