Czech history

News and updates about Prague and the Czech Republic

Information and news about Czech history

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  • Economic differences underpinned Czechoslovak divorce

    15.12. 2017

    "It’s the economy stupid." That phrase underlying US president Bill Clinton’s first election campaign sums up one of the major fault lines in Czech-Slovak relations in the 20th century and many of the reasons for the eventual divorce. Separated, the two countries initially followed different paths, but the outcome has been surprisingly similar with one notable exception, the euro.

  • Architects of Czechoslovak divorce say 25 years on that it was inevitable

    12.12. 2017

    The two main architects of the separation of Czechoslovakia 25 years ago exceptionally shared the same platform in Prague on Monday to give their version of why the dramatic move was necessary and how it played out. Not surprisingly, both the former Czech and Slovak politicians agreed wholeheartedly that history had proved them right.

  • “Winton child” Lord Alfred Dubs: I was luckier than most – I was met by my father in the UK

    11.12. 2017

    Today a life peer in Britain’s House of Lords, Alfred Dubs was just six years old when he became one of over 660 Jewish children saved from Nazi-occupied Prague by Sir Nicholas Winton. The Labour politician last year made headlines for attaching an amendment to an immigration bill that offered unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain, though the UK authorities later largely abandoned the scheme. When we spoke recently in London, I asked Lord Dubs – now 85 – about his own beginnings in the UK and attitudes to refugees today. But we began with his family background.

  • Twenty-five years after divorce, Czechs and Slovaks closer than ever

    08.12. 2017

    In 2018 Czechs and Slovaks will jointly mark the centenary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia. At the same time the two nations will look back on 1993, the year that their coexistence in a common state of Czechs and Slovaks ended in divorce. In the first part of Radio Prague’s miniseries on the Velvet Divorce we look at why Czechoslovakia broke up.

  • When Václav Havel allied himself with the hairy musicians

    07.12. 2017

    Václav Havel has been the subject of many books and quite a few have been devoted to the so-called Czechoslovak underground, the cultural movement which above all in music but also through literature and art ignored the desires and instructions of the ruling communist party. But while the link between the two has often been made, a new book bluntly argues that without the support of the underground, dissident leader Havel would have been nowhere in creating a coherent opposition.

  • Czech Catholic church seeks return of Cardinal Beran’s remains for 2018

    07.12. 2017

    The Czech Catholic Church says that it is near to sealing an agreement with the Vatican for the return of the remains of Cardinal Josef Beran back to his homeland. Cardinal Beran was persecuted by the communist regime when it came to power in 1948 but eventually left for Rome, where he ended his days.

  • The fascinating story of Czech settlers who founded the farm town of Prague, Oklahoma

    01.12. 2017

    From Praha to Prague – Czechs in an Oklahoma Farm Town is an ethnic history by historian Philip D. Smith published this year by the University of Oklahoma Press. As a history, it provides fascinating insight into the life of Czech settlers in the US state of Oklahoma in the late 19th century. During a land run in 1891, they settled in an area they named after the Czech capital and began new lives, assimilating into the dominant culture but never losing their pride in their own cultural identity. The historian told me much more about emigration to the US by Czechs then, including which factors contributed to them leaving their homeland.

  • “Hitler, Stalin and I” – an oral history based on Heda Margolius Kovály’s interviews with Czech filmmaker Helena Treštíková –published in English

    24.11. 2017

    Heda Margolius Kovály was a well-known writer and translator who survived the Auschwitz extermination camp and whose first husband, Rudolf Margolius, a deputy minister of foreign trade, was found guilty in the notorious Slánský show trials in what is one of the darkest chapters in Czechoslovak history. In the 1970s, Heda published a memoir which has been in print ever since. But now, a new publication called “Hitler, Stalin and I”, based on four days of interviews with documentary filmmaker Helena Treštíková in 2001 and made into a film of the same name, is set to be published in English.

  • Council of Europe commissioner welcomes Lety pig farm deal

    24.11. 2017

    Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, has welcomed a deal for the Czech government to acquire the site of a pig farm in Lety, southern Bohemia, which once housed a World War II internment camp for Roma.

  • Czech president calls author of Zvezda article a madman and demands apology

    22.11. 2017

    An article published on the website of Russian state-wide television channel Zvezda on Tuesday has drawn very sharp responses from Czech politicians, including Miloš Zeman, the Czech head of state. He called the article, which argued that Czechs should be grateful for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, an insult to the nation.

  • How the army became a “workshop” for cinema during communism

    20.11. 2017

    František Vláčil, Karel Kachyňa, Vojtěch Jasný, Jiří Menzel and several more of the greatest ever Czech film directors honed their craft in the army during the communist period. And as the Czechoslovak New Wave was blossoming, the country’s military were producing the kind of short films that were the envy of their counterparts elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. That’s according to historian Alice Lovejoy, author of the book Army Film and the Avant Garde. We spoke when Lovejoy, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, was in Prague recently.

  • Monika MacDonagh-Pajerová – how the spirit of the Velvet Revolution turned to cynicism

    17.11. 2017

    Monika MacDonagh-Pajerová is a political activist and university lecturer. Back in 1989, she served as a press spokesperson for the student leaders protesting against the communist regime. Pajerová also helped to organise some of the now famous protests that led to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. I joined her for an informal conversation about the subsequent mood in the country, and how for some hope soon turned to cynicism. But I began by asking her to briefly describe her role in the events of November 1989:

  • Honour for cremator’s son who helped preserve dignity of executed

    16.11. 2017

    As a teenager František Suchý helped his father secretly record the names and hide the ashes of people executed by the Nazis and the Communists. He himself was later sentenced to 25 years in a communist jail. Now, aged 90, he is due to receive a Memory of Nations award on Friday’s state holiday.

  • International dimension to Czech freedom and democracy awards

    15.11. 2017

    The Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has handed out its annual awards for contribution to freedom and democracy. Among this year’s recipients is the Belarussian opposition politician Vincuk Viačorka, or the Slovak photographer Tibor Kováč, who captured images of the Soviet invasion of the Slovak city of Košice.

  • New plaque honours Czechoslovaks in RAF

    14.11. 2017

    A plaque bearing the names of over 2,500 Czechoslovaks who served with Britain’s RAF has just been unveiled on the Winged Lion monument in Prague.

  • Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi – never far from home

    08.11. 2017

    Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi was born in Prague in 1932. As a member of the German-speaking minority in Czechoslovakia, she and her family were forced to flee the country at the end of the Second World War. She later settled in Vienna, where she became a journalist and author – ever with an eye on events happening in her old homeland. I joined Barbara at her home in Vienna to discuss her life and work.

  • Czechoslovak leaders caught up in Russian Revolution

    07.11. 2017

    The 100th anniversary of the revolution bringing the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin to power in Russia is being marked with discussions and exhibitions in the Czech Republic. Although the events preceded the creation of a separate and independent Czechoslovakia around a year later, Czechs and Slovaks were very much caught up in what was happening.

  • Prague under the spotlight during First World War

    04.11. 2017

    A new exhibition looking at the First World War and its impact on the people of Prague has just been launched in the Czech capital. The exhibition is timely, coming ahead of celebrations next year of the centenary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, but suggests that opposition to the war and Austria-Hungary was far from universal throughout the period.

  • Masaryk exhibition highlights Czechoslovakia’s contribution to creation of State of Israel

    03.11. 2017

    Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek and Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic David Meron on Thursday opened an exhibition recalling the contribution of Czechoslovakia’s first president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, and his son, Jan, who later became foreign minister, to the creation of the State of Israel. I spoke with Ambassador Meron during the exhibition launch at Černín Palace and first asked how the idea for such an exhibition arose.

  • Milada Horáková’s daughter explains role in new feature film about mother

    02.11. 2017

    The long-awaited film about Milada Horáková, a democratic MP executed by the Communists in 1950 and perhaps the most powerful symbol of resistance to Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime, officially premieres in Prague on Thursday evening. The film was made by Czech US-based director David Mrnka. The role of Milada Horáková is played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer:

  • Czechs commemorate 99th anniversary of founding of Czechoslovakia

    28.10. 2017

    Czechs marked the 99th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia at the end of the First World War on October 28, the country’s national day and holiday.

  • A century of Czech history “beneath Stalin”

    26.10. 2017

    The dank space beneath where a huge statue of Stalin stood in Prague will next year house an exhibition focused on the country’s totalitarian past.

  • Prague Castle treasures and relics to be exhibited in Moscow

    18.10. 2017

    Relics from the 14th century and copies of the Czech crown jewels will go on display in Moscow during an upcoming visit by Czech President Miloš Zeman.

  • Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad

    07.10. 2017

    Czechs abroad have always been an integral part of the nation’s identity, but in the years of communism this bond was broken. The cultural and political life of Czech emigrés and exiles, especially in the West, came to be seen as a threat. Nearly three decades after the fall of communism, something of this suspicion still remains, and in the Czech Republic it is surprising how little we know about the Czech diaspora and their contribution both to their host countries and to the idea of what it means to be Czech. The historian and political scientist Martin Nekola has been working to put this right. He met David Vaughan.

  • Author highlights old age affair of Czechoslovak founder TGM

    07.10. 2017

    A relationship starting up between a married woman in her mid-forties and a widower approaching 80 might still raise eyebrows even in these modern Viagra times. But in 1920’s Czechoslovakia when the man was the iconic president of the country, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (TGM) it would clearly have done much more than that.

  • Rare coin treasure troves headed for Czech museum

    04.10. 2017

    Two rare treasures have been discovered by chance this year in South Bohemia. One of them, consisting of hundreds of silver coins from the 11th century, has now gone on display at the Museum of Prácheň in Písek.

  • Czech researchers gain access to Soviet World War II prisoner of war records

    29.09. 2017

    Czech and Slovak researchers have received a wealth of documents from the Russian authorities about the fates of thousands of Czechoslovak citizens imprisoned within the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War. The access only pertains to military archives, and involves around 38,000 Czechoslovak soldiers fighting on behalf of Nazi Germany – mostly ethnic Germans, Slovaks and Hungarians. I spoke with Adam Hradilek of Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which received a copy of the documents this week, and began by asking him about how helpful this information might be to the surviving families of such prisoners:

  • Days of the Jackal: International terrorists in communist Prague

    23.09. 2017

    Why did Prague become a base for notorious terrorists such as Carlos the Jackal in the 1970s and ‘80s? And why did the local Communists want them out?

  • Hana Marritz: Escape to the West, aged three

    18.09. 2017

    When Hana Marritz’s father became a marked man following the Communist takeover, her family had to make an arduous escape across the Iron Curtain.

  • Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk: Seeing and listening to the jungles of our human society

    14.09. 2017

    Eighty years ago this week, Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk died at the age of eighty-seven. He had led the country from its independence in 1918 for the next seventeen years, enjoying immense popularity throughout that time. Masaryk was known widely as the “President Liberator” and “Father of the Nation”, but although this popularity often slipped into hero-worship, he remained a lifelong democrat and humanist, in stark contrast with many of the world leaders emerging in the 1920s and 1930s. His values are reflected in several recordings of and about President Masaryk that are preserved in the Czech Radio archives. Some of them remain strikingly relevant even to our own time. David Vaughan has more.