How are countries of central and Eastern Europe coping with their communist legacies? Have their societies done well in the transition to democracy over the last two decades? And why do so many people in this region feel nostalgic towards the totalitarian past? And in what ways is the Czech Republic different from other ex-communist states countries in the region? These and other issues were the focus of an international conference “20 Years After” that took place in Prague last week.
With the fall of communism, it was not long before foreign investors began taking an interest in Czechoslovakia. This ranged from huge industrial multinationals to young college graduates, who arrived in Prague with backpacks in the early 1990s, and happened to spot a business opportunity. Many burned their fingers; some made a quick buck and disappeared, and others settled down and stayed here for good. In 1991, Radio Prague interviewed a few of these pioneering investors.
An official history of the British counter intelligence and security service MI5 has come up with some revelations about the work of the Communist Czechoslovak secret police. One of them is how it recruited agents among British Labour Party MPs. One of its biggest catches was a colourful and ambitious junior minister.
2009 marks several important anniversaries for the Czech Republic; one we have not heard so much about is the 100th anniversary of the cinema house. The place in question is Prague’s Lucerna Palace, which screened its first film on December 3rd, 1909, and is still today the most popular single-screen cinema in the country.
This week in Mailbox: the mystery lady from September’s quiz is revealed and we find out the names of the four winners who will receive small gifts from Radio Prague for their correct answers. Also, you get a unique chance to share your memories of the tumultuous events of 1989 with all our listeners around the globe. Listeners quoted: Uday I. Nayak, Kristina Pletková, Colin Law, Jason Meader, S. J. Agboola, David Eldridge, Hiroshi Katayama, Charles Konecny, Richard Chen, Constantin Liviu Viorel, Daniel Gutierrez, Hans Verner Lollike.
Last week I promised some recordings from Radio Prague in the early 1990s, but I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a break in our chronological journey through the archives, to play a recording that has special relevance this week. On Monday Pope Benedict visited the town of Stará Boleslav just outside Prague, famous for its links with the early days of Christianity in the Czech Lands. During his stay he prayed at an extremely rare medieval icon of the Virgin and Child, cast in metal and said to date back to the days of Princess Ludmila in the 10th
The first two names always given at the top of the pantheon of Czech classical music are Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana; the third is invariably Leoš Janáček. Probably the most innovative of the three, Janáček likely lags behind the famous duo only because even today, 80 years after his death, musicians, musicologists and music lovers are still reassessing those innovations, which took classical music into uncharted territory.
Two decades ago the attention of the world’s media was on the West German Embassy in a normally quiet corner of Prague, where thousands of East Germans were living in a makeshift camp, desperate to escape from communism. On the 30th of September, 1989 the then West German foreign minister made a dramatic announcement: those refugees were free to emigrate to the West.
Petr Wagner is the front man of Czech Christian punk group Goro, a presenter on Český rozhlas station Radio Wave, and a Hussite preacher based in Čerčany, near Prague. Ahead of Monday’s national holiday in honour of Saint Wenceslas, I met Petr in a sunny Prague park to ask him what he thought the nation’s patron saint meant to Czechs a millennium after his death: