In his basement studio in the Šelmberkovský Palace in Prague’s Malá Strana, Oldřich Škácha is visibly amused as he points out a shot he took in 1991. It features then finance minister Václav Klaus, grinning broadly, flanked by two bunny girls at a Playboy ball. Škácha says he likes to exhibit the picture today as a little jab at the president.
No visit to Prague is complete without a stroll across Charles Bridge. A masterpiece of mediaeval architecture, the bridge has survived floods, sieges and even some poorly executed renovations. In this edition of Spotlight, we walk across the bridge with architect Martin Krise from a preservationists’ association called the Club for Ancient Prague.
The funeral has taken place of Milan Paumer, who died on July 22 at the age of 79. He was a member of the controversial Mašín group, who dramatically shot their way across the Iron Curtain in the 1950s. Though many people consider the group killers, a number of senior Czech politicians attended Wednesday’s ceremony, and the prime minister no less made a strong defence of their actions.
Jan Bubeník was one of the organisers of a student march in Prague on November 17, 1989 to mark the anniversary of a Nazi crackdown on Czech universities 50 years previously. When the marchers carried on to Národní St in the centre of the city they were brutally attacked by police, an incident which set in train the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. Bubeník quickly became one of the student leaders of the Velvet Revolution, and even served briefly as a member of parliament. Today he runs a successful recruitment agency. At its Prague offices
Milan Paumer, a member of a group who made a dramatic escape from communist Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, has died in Prague at the age of 79. He, Josef and Ctirad Mašín and their associates were fierce anti-communists and were extremely unusual in taking up arms against the regime. Some Czechs regard Paumer and the rest of the Mašín group as freedom fighters. However, for others they were not heroes but cold blooded killers.
Archaeologists have just discovered what they say is the first evidence that the Czech Republic’s most important pilgrimage site was inhabited during the era of the Great Moravian Empire; pieces of ceramic material found during a dig at Velehrad are being seen as proof that it was indeed settled in the 9th century.
A Czech noble has weighed into ongoing talks about whether the Czech state should sell one of Prague’s Baroque architectural masterpieces to its current tenants: the German embassy. For the Germans, the building is more than a 17th century architectural jewel, it is also part of their recent history.
The name Jaroslav Preiss does not create many ripples when it is thrown out today. Perhaps one Czech in a hundred could identify who he was. But at the birth of Czechoslovakia and in the 1920s and 1930s, Preiss was an economic and business colossus and contributed to making the country into a major industrial player between the wars. Chris Johnstone looks at the life of the controversial figure.