In this week’s Czech History we look at one aspect of the Cold War, the use of secret agents to spy on and disrupt the enemy’s propaganda services. In particular, we focus on the circus that surrounded the return of a Czechoslovak double agent Pavel Minařík 40 years ago in 1976 which was aimed at discrediting the US financed and Munich-based broadcaster Radio Free Europe.
Český Krumlov is a small town situated in the far south of Bohemia, about 25km from the city of České Budějovice. Bordering the Šumava region, the UNESCO World Heritage site is surrounded by a countryside of gentle, rolling hills. Despite its hidden-away location, Český Krumlov has become a major tourist destination for nearby Germans, Austrians, for countless global tourists visiting the country – and also for many Czechs.
Thousands of Jewish writers and musicians found their careers cut short by the Holocaust. Tragically, this was the culmination of a long history of persecution and pogroms in many parts of Europe. Lives were destroyed and in many cases people’s work was lost, forgotten or torn from its cultural and linguistic context. Now a major new project is underway to bring to together some of the shattered fragments of this rich legacy of music and theatre. It will culminate in an international festival, Out of the Shadows, which will take place in several
A book issued at the end of last year has more than woken up a rather tired and threadbare debate about the death of former Czechoslovak foreign minister Jan Masaryk in 1948. Jan Masaryk, was found dead in his pyjamas in the street outside the foreign ministry. His death was explained as a suicide with the version given out that he had jumped from his flat at the foreign ministry building. But suspicions of murder were hard for the Communist authorities to quash. The communists had just taken over power a few weeks earlier.
Former communist-era prime minister Lubomír Štrougal will not face criminal proceedings over the deaths of 91 people who died on the Iron Curtain trying to escape Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. A criminal complaint against the former communist leader has been shelved on the grounds that the statute of limitations in the case has long expired.
On Monday, officials announced that Czech archaeologists had made a remarkable discovery at Abusir, near Cairo, unearthing parts of a wooden boat more than 4,000 years old. Its location near the tomb of a prominent noble is a unique find. Such vessels, used by the spirit of the deceased to navigate the underworld, were usually reserved for members of the royal family.
During WWII, the London-based Czechoslovak government in exile had only one method of communicating regularly with its people at home: over the airwaves of the BBC. To discuss the content of these programmes, ministers’ broadcasting skills, coded messages to the resistance and much more, I recently caught up with academic Erica Harrison, who has conducted ground-breaking research into the subject. My first question: How much broadcasting did the exile government actually do?
Power, sex, and film world glamour, against the backdrop of the rise and fall of the Nazi regime. The story of Czechoslovak film actress, Lída Baarová, has it all. And it’s therefore not surprising that the Czech film world has returned yet again to Baarová this month, first with a documentary film about the actress and then with a full length feature film.
Commemorative events are being held around the country to honour the memory of Jan Palach, a Charles University student who set himself ablaze on Wenceslas Square 47 years ago to protest against growing public apathy to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. His act rekindled the desire for freedom in the nation and was a powerful motivating force behind the 1989 protests that toppled communism.