Exactly a year after the Prague Spring was crushed by a Warsaw Pact invasion, many thousands of Czechoslovaks went into the streets once more to protest their country’s occupation. The subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators, this time by their own countrymen, resulted in hundreds of arrests and even five deaths. It crushed the last vestiges of hope and persuaded the public that “normalisation” was here to stay.
On the 17th of November 1939, Nazi soldiers executed eight Czech university students and a professor seen as ringleaders of protests against the occupation and deported more than 1,200 of their peers to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The last survivor of that internment, Vojmír Srdečný, died this week, aged 99. He had dedicated his life to working with physically handicapped and warning about the dangers of totalitarianism.
This Friday marks the 600 year anniversary since the death of King Wenceslas IV., who was simultaneously the king of Bohemia and of the Romans. His rule was marked by political miscalculation and excessive drinking. However, he was also an important patron of the arts. On the occasion of the anniversary, Prague Castle has opened an exhibition depicting some of the most accomplished gothic craftsmanship produced during his era.
Over 90 percent of books in the Czech National Library printed after the year 1800 are threatened with destruction caused by acid, which has been forming in the paper over the years. The library has now taken a major step to prevent the valuable volumes from turning to dust, sending several thousand of them to Germany to undergo special chemical treatment, called de-acidification.
Czech archaeologists are using plain white sugar to preserve what may be the oldest wooden structure ever discovered in Europe – a water well made of oak trees felled some 7,000 years ago. The well was unearthed earlier this year during the construction of the D35 highway as an isolated find, bearing marks of construction techniques used in the Bronze and Iron ages.
600 years ago, an angry crowd stormed Prague’s New Town Hall and threw its councillors out of the window. The event, which has since become known as the First Defenestration of Prague on is often seen as the starting point of the Hussite Wars. A brutal religous conflict which saw Bohemia ravaged by civil war, but also created many of the nation’s most remembered victories and characters, which are remembered today in monuments, art and film. To better understand the role of the defenestration and how it came to be, I spoke with Dr. Pavel Soukup,
The interdisciplinary study of archaeology and genetics can bring about many new discoveries, some of which have helped shed new light on periods previously clouded in myth. One of these is a more precise understanding of the ancestors that make up today’s Czech population, which is apparently more pre-historic than Slav.
In days of yore, when the greedy pagan Prince Křesomysl reigned over the Czech lands from the ancient Prague castle at Vyšehrad, he forced peasants to abandon their villages and fields to pan for gold and mine for silver to fill the royal coffers. With famine looming – so the legend goes – a knight named Horymír tried to reason with the prince, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. What’s more, miners torched the knight’s estate, setting off a cycle of revenge. And Horymír would have been beheaded – if not for his noble steed, Šemík. The white horse
In the early days of space travel, years before the Apollo 11 mission, an Austrian journalist walked into a travel office in Vienna asking to reserve a flight to the Moon. Pan American Airways took his reservation, launching what would years later become the carrier’s ‘First Moon Flights Club’. Among the nearly 100,000 people who joined it was the grandfather of Czech documentary film producer Veronika Janatková. Her directorial debut, ‘Ticket to the Moon’, offers a unique perspective on universal longings across the divide of the Iron Curtain,