history of czechoslovakia

Poland’s Neighbors: Today (17.11) is the 28th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (1989) in Czechoslovakia.

■ The Velvet Revolution (Czech: sametová revoluce) or Gentle Revolution (Slovak: nežná revolúcia) was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurring from November 17 to December 29, 1989. Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia combined students and older dissidents. The result was the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent dismantling of the planned economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic.


animated gals - Queen Titania
Sen noci svatojánské (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Sep. 25th, 1959
Jiří Trnka

filed under: Czechoslovakia, 1950sroyalty, supernatural


Bratislava, august 1968 by Ladislav Bielik

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia was a joint invasion of Czechoslovakia by four Warsaw Pact nations – the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland – on the night of 20–21 August 1968 approximately 250 000 troops crossed Czechoslovak borders.


Sen noci svatojánské (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

77 in x of animated feature film history
Release: Sep. 25th, 1959
Country: Czechoslovakia 
Director: Jiří Trnka

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream is based on the famous poetic comedy by William Shakespeare, first performed in 1605. Three worlds meet in this story: the noble world of three Athens couples, a common popular world of tradesmen amateur theatre and a fairy-tale happiness of magic creatures as elves and nymphs. The film is considered the most remarkable Jirí Trnka’s work and a milestone in the history of the world animation.

Right before the wedding of Theseus (Duke of Athens) and Hippolyta, the young couple Lysander and Hermia want to be together, but her father forbids it. Meanwhile, Demetrius is also in love with Hermia, and Helena is in love with him. The four end up in the forest that evening. The same night, Oberon (King of the Fairies) enlists his servant Puck to trick the queen, Titania. He’s to collect a magical flower with dew that causes love. The fairies’ plan goes awry when the mortals get in the way. 

An English-language dubbed version was made with narration by Richard Burton.

The film won several awards including the Prize of the Technical Committee in Cannes and an Honorable Medal at the Venice Film Festival.”


A Midsummer Night’s Dream is available on YouTube.

The speech by Premier Zhou Enlai was focused primarily on the situation in Czechoslovakia. He said that the Soviet Union committed ‘a violent crime against the Czechoslovak people,’ that this type of behavior is 'the most shameless, typical example of behavior by a fascist power,’ and that the Chinese government and Chinese people 'condemn this crime of aggression’ and are behind the Czechoslovak people. Comparing what was happening in Czechoslovakia with what Hitler did in that country, and what the US did in Vietnam, Premier Zhou Enlai stressed that 'Soviet revisionism degenerated into Social[ist]- Imperialism and Social[ist]-Fascism,’ and that the US and the Soviet Union are trying to divide the world [among themselves].

Excerpt from A series of three telegrams reporting on a reception held at the Romanian Embassy in Beijing on August 23, 1968. Premier Zhou Enlai attended the event and gave a speech condemning the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Text available via the Wilson Center Archives.


I got a request to cover some of the “Cold War” era as it happened in Asia (outside the U.S.) Americans are often taught the Cold War through a rather binary lens, in a strictly East-West/Soviet-U.S./Communist-Capitalist divide.

Of course, things are more nuanced than that. This is a snippet of a telegram report from 1968 which sheds light on the ups and downs of international diplomacy.

Here, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai criticizes the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia which had happened three days earlier on August 20, 1968. The Soviet Union had led Warsaw Pact troops into Prague, with the intent to crack down on reformist trends. These troops had been gathered from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, East Germany, and Bulgaria under the guise of Warsaw Pact military exercises. Instead of exercises, however, the Warsaw Pact troops overtook Prague.

Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia was quick, and Soviet leaders justified the action under the “Brezhnev Doctrine” - claiming the Moscow could invoke the right to intervene wherever a country’s Communist government had been threatened. These actions furthered what is known at the Sino-Soviet split, a conflict developed over diverging USSR and PRC (China) interests and interpretations of communism.

The introduction of the Brezhnev doctrine in this way sparked concerns in Beijing that with time, the USSR would use it as a way to justify either interfering in Chinese communist affairs or invading China.

Milan Rastislav Štefánik ( July 21, 1880 – May 4, 1919)  -  Slovak politician, diplomat, and astronomer. During World War I, he served as a General in the French Army and, at the same time, as the Minister of War for Czechoslovakia. As one of the leading members of the Czechoslovak National Council (i.e. resistance government), he contributed decisively to the cause of Czechoslovak sovereignty, since the status of Czech- and Slovak-populated territories, among others, was in question until shortly before the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. 

Somerset Maugham Departs for Spy Work in Russia

Somerset Maugham in the 1920′s.

July 28 1917, San Francisco–The famous writer Somerset Maugham had already worked for British intelligence in Switzerland in 1915, before departing for the South Pacific to write The Moon and Sixpence.  In 1917, the Americans, having no true intelligence service of their own, recruited him to serve as an agent in Russia.  Before leaving, he talked extensively to Emmanuel Voska, head of the Czech intelligence ring in the United States, developing contacts within the greater pan-Slavic community.

Maugham departed for Japan on July 28, and would at long last reach Petrograd via the trans-Siberian railroad in early September.  His remit is still, to this day, relatively unclear.  Whether it was to gather intelligence, develop propaganda for the American or Russian audience, or to attempt intrigues to keep Russia in the war, is uncertain.  He was forced to leave Petrograd after the Bolsheviks took over, though he was a chief actor in the Allies’ immediate response to it.  Maugham’s later work Ashenden: Or the British Agent is loosely based on his time in Switzerland and Russia, though the character’s importance in the days leading up to the October Revolution are likely overblown.

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Today in 1915: American Occupation of Haiti Begins
Today in 1914: Kaiser Wilhelm Optimistic for Peace; Austria Declares War on Serbia