General Milan Píka, whose father also held that rank and was executed following a Communist Party-orchestrated show trial, has died at the age of 96. Himself punished on false charges, the World War II veteran nonetheless managed to rise to the top of the Czechoslovak military – and eventually clear his father’s good name.
More than eleven centuries after the fall of the Great Moravian Empire, there are still direct descendants from the Slavic noblemen living among us. A study of DNA samples, carried out recently by the Moravian Museum in Brno, found eleven men from the region of Uherské Hradiště who definitely have Great Moravian ancestors in their bloodlines.
Eighty years ago today, on March 15 1939, Hitler gave Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha a stark choice: accept becoming a protectorate or face destruction. After Hácha reluctantly agreed to give up his country’s independence the German army started moving in. It was the beginning of six long years of occupation.
Right towards the end of their dynasty, the Přemyslids established what was effectively a short-lived central European empire. Its pinnacle was reached during the reign of Wenceslas II., during the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. Apart from ruling the Bohemian realm, Wenceslas also became King of Poland and secured the Hungarian crown of St. Steven for his son. However, his weak constitution and a flash of bad luck brought the short lived empire to a sudden end.
Over 25,000 books were looted from the Czech lands by the Swedes at the end of the Thirty Years War. Today these valuable prints and manuscripts are scattered in libraries all around Sweden, but also elsewhere in Europe. A new project by the Czech Academy of Sciences attempts to trace all the books that have survived and create a digital catalogue accessible both to researchers and the general public.
Voice of America (VOA), today the largest U.S. government-funded international broadcaster, ceased its Czech language broadcasts exactly 15 years ago today, on 27 February 2004, shortly ahead of the country’s accession to the European Union. The move followed budget cuts by the U.S. Congress and, the Cold War long over, a shift to “new audiences and new priorities”. We look back at the station’s local legacy.
On February 25 1969, exactly one month after Jan Palach, another man set himself alight in protest to Czechoslovak apathy following the Soviet invasion of 1968. The name of the second human torch was Jan Zajíc, a high school student from Šumperk. Fifty years on his act still brings chills of shock, but also respect among Czechs.