Czechs are marking the anniversary of the fall of communism in their
country 21 years ago. On November 17, 1989, then-Czechoslovakia’s
communist police cracked down on a student demonstration on Prague’s
Národní třída (National street) setting in motion a series of massive
protests that eventually brought down the country’s totalitarian regime.
On Wednesday, the president, the prime minister and other politicians, and
members of the public marked the anniversary by lighting candles or laying
flowers at the memorial at Národní třída as well as other key sites.
On the day, Czechs also marked the anniversary of the student march in 1939 against the Nazi occupation, which was brutally suppressed. The Nazis raided university campuses, executing nine students without trial while deporting 1,200 to concentration camps. All Czech universities were then closed. On Wednesday evening commemorative events in the country will conclude with a prayer at Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral, followed by speeches by the president as well as Church and university representatives.
Speaking at an event on Wednesday commemorating the students’ 1939 resistance to Nazi rule, Czech President Václav Klaus stressed that Czech violence committed against Germans following the end of the war was incomparable to atrocities committed by the Nazis. The president called it frustrating that - in his view - the true dimensions and chronology of the historic events were being forgotten, and said that while it was not possible to be proud of what some fellow citizens did in the post-war period, it was, in his words, “a far cry” from what had taken place in Nazi-occupied areas, prisons and concentration camps.
Václav Havel – the former dissident turned president following the Velvet Revolution - discussed steps the Czechs had taken since 1989, saying that the basic direction was right. He made the statement while recalling the days after November 1989 at a commemorative act honouring students who stood up to the former Communist regime. At the same time, the former president indicated he was sorry that the Czech Republic had echoed some mistakes made by democracies established earlier. He said on the whole he was not disappointed - pointing out that the country was experiencing the longest period of security in its history.
A 31-year-old man in Ostrava has been arrested by police for allegedly
trying to blackmail the family of nine-year-old Anna Janatková; she went
missing in Prague on October 13th, sparking an intense nationwide search.
The man responded to the family’s offer of a 3.5 million crown reward
any information leading to her whereabouts, threatening to harm the child
unless he received the funds. He is reportedly not the only imposter to
and take advantage of the family’s situation. Others have called lines
provided by a number of commercial broadcasters making false claims. If
found guilty the Ostrava man could face between six months to four years
One person, a 41-year-old man suspected of having a hand in Anna Janatková’s disappearance, was charged earlier. Sources report, however, that the police have so far not found direct evidence.
Around one thousand people demonstrated in the capital on Wednesday against the recently-agreed coalition between the Civic and Social Democrats at Prague City Hall. Protesters gathered at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square, some charging elected officials were corrupt and calling the agreement a con against voters. The coalition deal was reached between party representatives in the early hours of Tuesday morning, freezing out the winners of the recent municipal election in Prague, TOP 09. Critics have charged that the pact will do little to dispel allegations of corruption and clientelism at Prague City Hall.
UNESCO has added two Czech traditions to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, promoting the safeguarding of traditions specific or unique to different parts of the world. One of the items added covers masks and traditions from the Hlinsko area in eastern Bohemia. Those are related to carnival parades beginning on or after Epiphany, the Christian feast day. The other tradition is falconry, a listing which had been proposed by 12 countries with similar heritage. Czech falconry has roots from the time of the Great Moravian Empire in the 9th century. The only previous Czech tradition listed by UNESCO was an 18th century military recruit folk dance from Slovácko, southeast Moravia, which was added in 2005.
Specialists have suggested that human remains removed from the tomb of Tycho Brahe on Monday at Prague’s Church of Our Lady Before Týn are indeed those of the famous Danish astronomer who died under mysterious circumstances in Emperor Rudolf II’s court in 1601. Czech TV reported that experts examined the small pewter coffin from the astronomer’s tomb at the anthropological depository of the National Museum on Tuesday, finding almost complete skeletal remains as well as hair and facial hair samples. Those were first examined in 1901 – 400 years after Brahe’s death – when the coffin was first opened. The remains will now undergo new testing. Samples of the astronomer’s hair and beard taken during the previous exhumation in 1901 revealed a high level of mercury, suggesting the famous astronomer may have been poisoned. Some have theorised he could have been murdered by his collaborator Johannes Kepler or at the behest of the Danish king.
Air quality in the region of Moravia-Silesia worsened on Wednesday morning with the concentration of dust particles reaching double the daily limit of 50 micrograms per square metre in some areas. The situation followed a worsening a day earlier and only improved on Wednesday afternoon. All the same, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute is warning smog may continue to increase in the region. It may implement measures limiting, for example, factory production or transport, in the need to cut emissions. A decision by the institute could be taken on Thursday. People with breathing difficulties or heart problems, and children and seniors in areas where particles reached double, the limit have been warned to avoid physical exertion outdoors.
Prague customs officers revealed on Wednesday that a Lithuanian man had been detained at Prague airport at the weekend trying to smuggle almost 750 grams of cocaine into the country, which he had swallowed in capsules. The man had been travelling from Sao Paolo via Zurich, customs authority spokesman Jiří Barták said. Suspicious behaviour by the man prompted officials to test him for the presence of drugs, confirmed by a computer tomography scan. On the street, the cocaine would have been worth more than 1.5 million crowns, the customs official said.
The regional court in Central Bohemia on Thursday will hold the opening hearing of the case against motorist Luboš Lacina who – in an apparent display of road rage in March - slammed his car into a nearby vehicle on the D1 highway, sending it flying off of the road. The female driver in the second car miraculously survived without serious injury after her Mazda rolled several times before hitting a tree. The entire incident was caught on video. Mr Lacina is accused of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm which carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison, if found guilty. In his defence, the driver has said he paid a 70,000 crown advance for damage caused, and also said he had called for help following the incident.