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.
Councillors at Prague City Hall unanimously voted in favour of creating a Museum of 20th Century Memory in the Czech capital on Monday. The plan is to provide the country with an equivalent to renowned twentieth century museums abroad such as the Topography of Terror in Berlin or the Museum of the Second World War in Danzig.
A new exhibition, marking the start of the school year, got underway at the National Museum in Prague on Monday. It is dedicated to the 17th century Czech philosopher and thinker Jan Ámos Komenský or Comenius, known as ‘The Teacher of Nations’, and focuses on his most famous work for children, called Orbis Pictus.
The establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or dual monarchy, came as bitter blow for Czech intellectuals who hoped for equal status under a federalist state. While the liberal era after 1861 and resulting German centralist approach had all but destroyed the hopes of Austrian Slavs for equal treatment, the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 establishing the dual monarchy, left Czechs in Bohemia in particular feeling disenfranchised, and brought an end to political Austro-Slavism.
Since the discovery of a Byzantine-era church in Israel’s Ashdod-Yam, archaeologists have had a better opportunity to study the Eastern Roman Empire’s sixth century footprint in Palestine. Among them is a Czech archaeologist, who helped find evidence this summer that the building may not be of Georgian origin as originally thought.
T.G. Masaryk’s daughter Alice was imprisoned in 1915 for treason, a charge that carried the death penalty. Her time in a grim jail in Vienna is the focus of Charlotte and Alice, a freshly published and highly illuminating collection of over 200 letters between her and her US-born mother, Charlotte Masaryk. The book is the work of Anne Johnson, an American editor and translator who lives in Brno. She explained its genesis when we spoke recently in the city.