Few people today have heard of Bertha von Suttner, the Prague-born writer and activist whose message of peace stirred great powers to action. Yet her thoughts live on in today’s international organisations such as the European Union or the Permanent Court of Arbitration and her dreams of ending military conflicts through disarmament continue to be pursued by parliamentarians and civil society groups across the world.
The former political regime in Czechoslovakia deemed much of Western culture “damaging” and “ideologically subversive”, but authorities struggled in particular to control the flood of foreign rock ’n’ roll and pop music. State cultural agencies and censors rarely allowed Western bands to perform here or even play their music on the airwaves. But unofficial channels filled the demand – through illegal imports, home-copying networks and ‘magnetizdat’ – do-it-yourself music. At the same time, state authorities sanctioned Western music when sung by Czech
In the first of this series we heard the voice of Czechoslovakia’s first President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. His wife Charlotte was American, and thanks to her influence Tomáš became a champion of feminism. Charlotte went on to inspire many women both within Czechoslovakia and beyond and in this programme we hear some of them, speaking in their own words from the Czech Radio archive.
After the end of the Second World War it was often very difficult to catch and bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice. Historian Vojtěch Kyncl from the Czech Academy of Sciences has written a new book called Beasts: Czechoslovakia and the Persecution of Nazi Criminals, which explores the Czechoslovak side of this endeavour. I began by asking him when the allies, including Czechoslovakia, first committed to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
A rose-coloured porcelain cup and saucer made 225 years ago has pride of place at the Museum of Porcelain in Klášterec nad Ohří. It is the oldest preserved item which was made within a series of experiments in porcelain production in 1794. The other pieces fell apart, but the rose-coloured cup and saucer heralded hope for the future. Today the famous Thun brand of porcelain is exported to countries the world over.
The creator of the Czech Republic’s most famous liquor, Josef Vitus Becher, was born exactly 250 years ago in Karlovy Vary. It was he who invented the drink, which has come to be known as “Becherovka”, by adjusting a recipe he received from an English physician called Christian Frobrig. The liquor has since become one of the most recognised Czech exports.
We start this series with one of the great European democrats of the 20th century, Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Born in 1850, he was already in his late sixties when he became president in November 1918. He took inspiration from the western democracies, in particular the United States and Britain, having spent time in both countries during his First World War exile. But he was also a passionate European.
Archaeologists, excavating the site of the former WWII internment camp for Roma in Lety, have found some of the victims’ graves. Those who took part in the project say that the discovery is not only the first time that graves of Roma people persecuted by the Nazis have been found in Europe, but also undisputable proof of what happened in the camp.
The fate of a controversial statue of Soviet Army commander Ivan Konev in Prague 6 has finally been decided. On Thursday, the local council voted in favour of moving it to a new location and replacing it with a monument to the soldiers who liberated Prague in 1945. The Russian Embassy has hit back, calling the decision outrageous.