As a war crimes investigator in former Yugoslavia Vladimír Dzuro took part in the exhumation of a notorious mass grave in which 200 massacred Croats had been dumped. He was later involved in the arrest of one of those responsible, delivering the first European war crimes indictment handed down by an international tribunal since the end of WWII. He has captured his sometimes hair-raising experiences in the book The Investigator: Demons of the Balkan War.
Historian Timothy Snyder is a leading expert on Central and Eastern Europe and has written forcefully about the threat posed by Putin’s Russia and how ordinary people can stand up to tyranny. This week Professor Snyder has been giving lectures in Prague that packed auditoriums. During his visit, Czech Radio’s Lenka Kabrhelová discussed aspects of this country’s history – and present – with Professor Snyder.
In December 1988 Francois Mitterrand had breakfast with leading dissidents in Prague, providing a major shot in the arm to the Czechoslovak opposition. The Czech Foreign Ministry is now reported to be planning similar events on the 30th anniversary of Mitterrand’s gesture to demonstrate the country’s support for human rights.
Taking advantage of relative liberalisation at home, the young Václav Havel visited New York in the spring of 1968 for the US premiere of his second major play, The Memorandum. It was staged by the Public Theater, which had just had a huge hit with Hair and was headed by director Joseph Papp. He and his wife Gail Papp got to know Havel at that time – and later visited the then dissident at his country home in communist Czechoslovakia.
This year the Czech Republic is celebrating many special anniversaries. Yet despite the importance of commemorating a hundred years since the Czechs gained independence, the 50 years since the 1968 invasion and more, there is and always has been one anniversary that overshadows the others in terms of political statement – November 17th.
Former Communist-era secret police lieutenant Ladislav Mácha, ultimately held responsible for the torture and death of Catholic priest Josef Toufar in 1950, died a free man some weeks ago. His passing went largely unnoticed until a makeshift memorial to Mácha’s most famous victim appeared on the pavement outside his Prague home.
One hundred years ago the new state of Czechoslovakia was already establishing its institutions. While celebrations were still going on in Prague, about 70,000 Czechs and Slovaks were fighting thousands of kilometers from home in Siberia, attempting to gain control over the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Among them was my great-granduncle.
One of the new books out marking the anniversary of the end of WWI is a collection of soldiers´ letters, diaries and memoirs giving a personal account of life in the trenches and on the battlefield. The book’s title Zum Befehl, pane lajtnant (which translates as At your command, lieutenant) is taken from the satirical comedy The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek. I spoke to one of the book’s co-authors, Pavla Horáková, and began by asking how the idea arose to put together such a collection.
Czech scientists are using the latest technology to study the ancient roads of the Bohemian kingdom. Unlike Western Europe, the area of present-day Czechia was not colonized by the Romans, who developed a sophisticated network of paved routes or “via Romana”. This means the road system was developed without any earlier blueprints.
When the Czechoslovak Republic was proclaimed in 1918, its primary founder and future president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, had grand plans for using one of the most famous periods in Czech medieval history as inspiration for what he wanted to be a state based on democratic and humanistic values. In many cases the references to Hussitism started during the era of the First Republic remain in some form or another until today. I decided to explore why Hussitism was so important in Masaryk’s First Republic and how its elements were combined into the new