This year, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, we are reminded how much of twentieth century history has passed through the Czech capital. The focus of much that has happened in Prague over the last hundred years has been Wenceslas Square, tree-lined and nearly a kilometre long, right at the heart of the city, and with the bronze statue of the Czech patron, Saint Wenceslas, standing guard at the top of the square. One person who has lived on Wenceslas Square nearly all her life is Věra Kölbelová. From her unique vantage point
When Ivan Klíma was a little boy, he knew he wanted to be a writer. Today, he is one of the most respected figures of Czech literature. Ivan Klíma’s life journey included years in a Nazi concentration camp, membership in the communist party, and later a life on the fringe of the society, after he was expelled from the party and joined Czechoslovakia’s opposition movement. In his latest book, My Crazy Century, Ivan Klíma explains what happened that he found himself in the ranks of the communist party, a totalitarian and criminal organization that
A small group of Czechs who have been seeking justice for almost 70 years have now been promised they will be compensated for property lost before and after WWII. The Czechs lost out when the Hungarians and then the Soviet Union took over Subcarpathian Ruthenia – formerly the most eastern tip of Czechoslovakia. After many setbacks, Czech lawmakers have now given the final go-ahead for compensation.
If you tune in to Czech Radio on New Year’s Day, at some point you will hear the stirring tones of the presidential fanfare, introducing the president’s annual address to the nation. It was Czechoslovakia’s first head of state, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who established the tradition, when he spoke to listeners on the Czechoslovakia’s tenth birthday in 1928. Here is a short extract from his address, which also happens to be one the oldest recordings in our archives:
The five-day conference on Holocaust era assets, held as the final major event of the Czech EU presidency, came to a close in Prague on Tuesday. Representatives of more than 40 countries around the world adopted the Terezín Declaration – a set of guidelines aimed at providing better care for Holocaust survivors, as well as at easing the restitution of property stolen during the Holocaust.
In June 1989, a group of people around the dissident and future president, Václav Havel, put together a petition to the communist authorities asking them to stop oppressing freedom in the country. Over five months, more than 40,000 Czechs and Slovaks signed the Několik vět petition, fuelling the demise of communism in Czechoslovakia.
The expression “jako kůl v plotě” – “like a fencepost” - entered Czech folklore in the summer of 1989. The date was July 17 and Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party chief Miloš Jakeš was meeting local party activists in the small West Bohemian town of Červený Hrádek. The authority of the party was being increasingly challenged, and thousands had signed Charter 77's appeal for greater recognition of human rights, "Několik vět" (a few sentences). Not realizing that he was being recorded, Jakeš complained bitterly that he felt he was standing on his own
Part of a large art collection that once belonged to the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is dispersed in several Czech museums – often without their curators being aware of it. That’s what researcher Jiří Kuchař discovered after three years of investigation. Following last week’s TV report on the case, a gallery in south Bohemia even removed three statues from public display, citing security reasons.