Czech history

News and updates about Prague and the Czech Republic

Information and news about Czech history

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  • UK village to finally get monument to Anthropoid heroes

    23.02. 2017

    Prior to being dropped in Nazi-controlled Bohemia to carry out the assassination of German governor Reinhard Heydrich, the Czechoslovak parachutists Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were based in the English village of Ightfield, where they befriended the local Ellison family. Now – 75 years after their daring mission – the pair are set to get a monument there. The man behind the campaign to honour them in this way is Englishman John Martin, the author of a book on Operation Anthropoid.

  • Many gems of early 20th century Czech architecture among buildings newly listed as cultural monuments

    22.02. 2017

    Fifteen buildings were just recently added to the list of Czech Cultural Monuments, including an early 20th century power station in Poděbrady and Prague’s famous Lucerna Palace. The list also includes buildings from earlier periods, such as the Invalidovna complex, which featured prominently in Miloš Forman’s Amadeus.

  • Historian Matěj Spurný: Anti-humanist atmosphere is spreading – and we must fight back

    13.02. 2017

    At the start of this year historian Matěj Spurný came in for a great deal of online abuse – and even death threats – after an interview he gave a magazine headlined This country is not just for Czechs. Spurný’s work is focused on issues of nationalism and identity and he is a co-founder of Antikomplex, a group advocating for a more critical look at the post-war expulsion of the country’s German minority. When the Charles University academic visited our studios I was curious to know, given his specialisation, about his own family background.

  • Czech nobility under the spotlight in tv series

    11.02. 2017

    A series of eight programmes on public broadcaster Czech Television called Modrá Krev or Blue Blood is already around half way through. The series looks at the modern Czech aristocracy, in many cases families which have returned from exile during the Communist era, with each episode focusing on one particular noble family.

  • New documentary celebrates Czechoslovak war hero, RAF pilot Emil Boček

    10.02. 2017

    A new Czech documentary film pays tribute to one of the country’s last remaining war heroes, Czechoslovak RAF veteran General Emil Boček. The 94-year old war pilot made headlines last year when he got his wish to fly a Spitfire once again, more than seven decades after his last flight in the iconic plane. Documentary film maker Daniel Hnát was in London for the memorable occasion and the result is a half-hour documentary called “Twenty minutes over London”.

  • Jan Antonín Baťa always said he put his people first, says granddaughter Dolores Bata Arambasic

    06.02. 2017

    The Baťa family – who built a shoemaking empire in Zlín, Moravia – were perhaps the most important industrialists in interwar Czechoslovakia. One of the best-known members of the family was Jan Antonín Baťa, who headed the firm after the death of Baťa founder Tomáš Baťa, his half-brother. After fleeing the Nazis in 1939, the tycoon eventually settled in Brazil, where he established four new cities. His granddaughter Dolores Bata Arambasic, was born in one of those cities, Batatuba. Today in her late 60s, she is a frequent visitor to the Czech Republic. When we spoke in Prague, I asked what were her strongest recollections of Jan Antonín Baťa.

  • Architectural historian Barbara Peacock: in Britain we had no idea about the richness of the Czech cultural heritage

    02.02. 2017

    British architectural historian Barbara Peacock was recently honoured with a Point of Light Award by Prime Minister Theresa May for her work in helping to repair, preserve and enhance the Czech Republic’s rich architectural heritage. Following a visit to the Czech Republic in the early 1990s, Ms. Peacock set up The Friends of Czech Heritage fund, winning over British and Czech volunteers to help restore historic buildings, gardens and landmarks around the country. Jiří Hošek, Czech Radio’s correspondent in the UK, met up with Barbara Peacock to talk about her work and began by asking what sparked her interest in the Czech Republic.

  • Czech Holocaust hero Antonín Kalina remembered in home town

    27.01. 2017

    On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Czechs are marking the memory of Antonín Kalina, a Czechoslovak Communist who risked his own life to save at least 900, mostly Jewish children from the Holocaust. A documentary about the unsung hero of the Holocaust was premiered on Czech Television this week while his hometown of Třebíč announced plans to open a memorial hall dedicated to their famous son.

  • Fashion Behind the Iron Curtain: A new book explores how Czechoslovakia’s communist regime used fashion to further its ideological aims

    27.01. 2017

    A new book, Fashion Behind the Iron Curtain, released by Grada and Prague’s Museum of Decorative Arts (UPM) has taken on the task of mapping fashion in Czechoslovakia from 1948 – 1989, a period that followed the Second World War, the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, a brief window of democracy and freedom and itself was marked by 40 years of totalitarian rule.

  • Czechs marking Palach anniversary with chain hunger strike, debates and remembrance acts

    16.01. 2017

    Czechs are marking the 48th anniversary of the self-immolation of student Jan Palach, a brave protest against the loss of freedom and gradual apathy following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. One of the most painful moments of the country’s modern history, Palach’s suicide remains a powerful memento that democracy must be nurtured and defended.

  • Mrs. Thatcher’s triumphant Czechoslovak procession, the Union Jack car, and what to do with Denis

    14.01. 2017

    One of the annual milestone events in history is the annual New Year release of British government archives. Most of them become public after a period of 30 years. In the latest haul of documents being made public under a different timetable are papers from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office from 1989 and 1990. They give a picture of how Margaret Thatcher’s government and officials were struggling to get to grips with the rapid melt down of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the prospects of a united Germany.

  • Researchers welcome ruling protecting access to historical archives

    12.01. 2017

    Czech historians researching the totalitarian era breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday, when the Constitutional Court ruled that the accessibility of archives from that period will remain unchanged. The ruling overturns a proposal by the Supreme Court which was against an exception giving historians easy access to documents from the Nazi and Communist regimes.

  • WWII US bomber highlights threat of treasure hunters to Czech heritage

    11.01. 2017

    Two tales more than 70 years apart have been seized upon by the Czech Institute of Archeology. The first was the story of a Second World War US bomber shot down over Czech territory shortly before the end of the war. The second tale is of the rush to save the remains from “treasure hunters.”

  • Remembering Clare Hollingworth, the war correspondent who saved thousands of Czechoslovaks from the Nazis

    11.01. 2017

    The great British journalist Clare Hollingworth, who has died at the age of 105, is most famous for breaking the news that the Nazis were poised to invade Poland and start World War II. But many also revere Hollingworth for her earlier work saving the lives of thousands of refugees, many from Czechoslovakia.

  • Charter 77: An original signatory on Communist Czechoslovakia’s most important protest movement

    06.01. 2017

    It is exactly 40 years since the launch, on 6 January 1977, of the landmark Charter 77 declaration. Calling on Czechoslovakia’s Communist rulers to honour their commitment to human rights under the 1975 Helsinki Accords, it was to become the dissident movement’s most significant protest against the regime.

  • “Absolutely marvellous” lost Havel text set for release on 40th anniversary of Charter 77

    05.01. 2017

    Part of a 100-page personal report on the Charter 77 period written by Václav Havel is set for publication on Friday as part of events marking the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Charter 77 protest document. After being lost for many decades, the valuable text was recently discovered in the papers of another leading Chartist and friend of Havel’s, the late Zdeněk Urbánek. Michael Žantovský is the director of the Václav Havel Library, which is issuing the facsimile of "The Case of Charter 77: The First Assault". He told us all about it.

  • Czechs prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of Charter 77

    02.01. 2017

    Czechs will mark the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto. The text, signed by dissidents such as playwright Václav Havel, philosopher Jan Patočka and writer Pavel Kohout in January 1977, criticized Czechoslovakia’s communist regime for failing to implement human rights provisions of agreements it itself had signed. These included the Czechoslovak Constitution and the Helsinki Accords.

  • NGO challenges Czechs to dig into their family roots

    29.12. 2016

    A recent poll commissioned by the Post Bellum organisation which collects 20th century oral history recordings has found that while 86 percent of Czechs believe knowing one’s roots is important, less than a half of the population actually do anything about it. And that’s what the organisation aims to challenge, with a public contest searching for the most captivating personal accounts from the 20th century.

  • Commemorations mark fifth anniversary of Václav Havel’s death

    16.12. 2016

    Commemorative events are being held around the Czech Republic on Friday and at the weekend to honour the late president Václav Havel on the fifth anniversary of his death. The former dissident, playwright and one of the first spokesmen of Charter 77 died on December 18, 2011, at the age of 75. One of the main events, a two-day screening of films related to Václav Havel, gets underway in Prague on Friday afternoon:

  • Slovak Charter 77 signatory Miroslav Kusý honoured by Czech prime minister

    15.12. 2016

    Kramářova vila is the official residence of the Czech prime minister, currently Bohuslav Sobotka. I’m at a reception at the villa in honour of Miroslav Kusý, one of the few Slovak signatories of Charter 77. He is receiving the Karel Kramář Award from the prime minister for his contributions towards Czech and Slovak understanding. The event is attended by several notable figures, including historians, fellow Charter 77 signatories such as Vilém Prečan and Senator Petr Pithart, and the Slovak ambassador Peter Weiss.

  • Czechoslovak secret police files reveal interest in Trump couple

    02.12. 2016

    The Czechoslovak communist-era secret police took an active interest in the Czech born first wife of US president-elect Donald Trump back in the late 1970s and 80s, according to newly examined archive materials. The StB kept an eye on Ivana Zelníčková after she immigrated to Canada in 1971, and later during her marriage to the American real estate mogul, who was apparently already revealing his presidential ambitions.

  • Foreign Ministry building recounts Czech history in a new novel

    01.12. 2016

    The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located in the majestic Baroque Černín Palace just above Prague Castle. The majestic building, as well as the nearby Loreta Church, plays a major part in a recently published novel titled “Chvála oportunismu” or “In praise of opportunism”. Its author, Czech diplomat Marek Toman, a guest in Radio Prague’s Czech Books programme earlier this year, works at the ministry and knows the building inside out. I began by asking him how he came up with the idea to make the actual palace the narrator of his latest book.

  • Alice Masaryková’s charity heritage remembered

    29.11. 2016

    This Monday marked exactly 50 years since the death of Alice Masaryková, the first daughter of Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and his American wife Charlotte. A prominent figure in Czechoslovakia between the wars, Alice Masaryková is mostly remembered today as the founder of the Czechoslovak branch of the International Red Cross.

  • Che Guevara’s mysterious stay on the outskirts of Prague

    26.11. 2016

    Che Guevara is probably one of the most famous revolutionaries of the 20th century. His iconic photograph, one of the best known images in the world. And for a few months between revolutionary episodes in his life, he spent a few months in 1966 at a secret intelligence villa on the outskirts of Prague.

  • Secrets recounted of STASI operations in former Czechoslovakia

    24.11. 2016

    It’s probably widely accepted these days that all countries spy on each other, even states on their so-called allies. And a book presented in Prague this week about the former East German secret police, the STASI, shows how it was true of the fraternal Communist countries of the former Eastern bloc, including former Czechoslovakia, as well.

  • Mixed emotions as Czechs mark centenary of Emperor Franz Joseph’s demise

    22.11. 2016

    This Monday marked an important anniversary in the history of the Czech lands. It was exactly one hundred years to the day since the death of Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, and King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia. The Habsburg monarch ascended the throne in 1848 and ruled the Czech nation for nearly seven decades.

  • Velvet Revolution Blues: How Civic Forum collapsed

    17.11. 2016

    The relatively rapid and bloodless Velvet Revolution that swept the communists from power in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and replaced them with a set of civic activists, mostly with little past experience of power, lived on in the memory of many.

  • Jana Kopelentová-Rehak: The old men said they used to work together – at a labour camp uranium mine

    17.11. 2016

    Czech Political Prisoners: Recovering Face is the title of a book of photographs and texts by Jana Kopelentová-Rehak, a Czech anthropologist based in the US city of Baltimore. When the Šumava-born academic was in Prague recently we discussed the political prisoners, or “mukls”, she met and how they were marked by their experience of brutal communist labour camps. But first we spoke a little about her own life, starting with a key encounter in the 1980s, when she was taken in by Charter 77 signatory Miloslava Holubová.

  • Czechoslovak diplomat recognised as “Righteous among the Nations”

    15.11. 2016

    Former Czechoslovak diplomat Vladimír Vochoč, who helped hundreds of Jews escape from the Vichy regime in France during the Holocaust, has been recognised as “Righteous among the Nations”, the highest Israeli tribute to non-Jews who saved the lives of Jews during the Second World War. Mr Vochoč is the 116th Czech to receive the tribute, sponsored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

  • Kinski Palace library contains wealth of information on French Revolution

    10.11. 2016

    In the world of advanced information technology there are still remnants of an era when all human knowledge was painstakingly collected in libraries that reflected the social status of their owners. Deep in the bowels of Kinski Palace, on Prague’s Old Town Square, the Kinski family library is preserved as it served the family for generations. Its administrator for the National Museum Richard Šípek took me around one of the two remaining palace libraries in the city.

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