Written by Naďa Straková
Prague – As president Klaus pointed out in his 2008 New Year´s speech, any year ending with the digit 8 happened to be fateful for the Czech/oslovak nation. (See some of the turning events in the history of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic in the Infobox at the bottom of the article.)
In an end-of-year wrap up Aktuálně.cz has prepared a list of 8 key events that took place in 2008. They may have not changed the world but influenced the country´s home affairs, some people’s views and/or lives or just served as a good reason to celebrate.
CAGE BED STORY ON BBC. In its flagship Ten O´Clock News program, the public broadcaster BBC showed a report which proved that the use of the infamous cage-beds continues in some of the Czech children care homes, despite the existence of a law which banned it in January 2007.
The Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas did not approve of the BBC undercover report. “It’s normal, my children were living in a cot with bars until they were three years old,” he told Aktuálně.cz. “It does not matter whether a client is twenty, their mental age makes the difference.”
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (in ČR). Marked by many as the longest and most difficult presidential election in the country’s history, president Klaus was finally reelected head of the state in February.
The tension of the battle for the Prague Castle, which indicated behind-the-scenes vote buying and horse-trading deals, suggested only one way out: a direct vote. That is widely supported not only by the public but by almost all the MPs as well. Whether they will act accordingly and pass the adequate legislation before the next presidential vote remains to be seen.
SINGER IRGLOVÁ WINNING OSCAR AWARD. If someone told you that a modest and unobtrusive modern day film musical where the usual leading acting stars are replaced by non-actors will become a multi-awarded smash hit, maybe you would question that person’s sanity.
Yet, this is precisely the case with Once, a simple film with a simple name, that has been collecting one award after another and finally reached up to the top and won Oscar for the best song.
The song Falling Slowly was performed with her Irish partner Glen Hansard who was also present the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles.
During their Oscar ceremony speeches, Hansard challenged the world to “make art”, while Irglova urged people not to give up and “dare to dream”. It´s possible, says she.
CZECH ATHLETES IN CHINA and one in Germany. For the first time in its history, the Olympic Games´ gold medal chart was led by the Czech Republic. At least, for a day.
The first gold medal in Beijing was not won by China, as expected, nor by their big rival the United States but by the Czech Republic. Kateřina Emmons, born Kůrková, won the 10 meter air rifle round on the first day of the Games.
Then Barbora Špotáková won the Olympic gold in javelin and her great year was crowned in September at the World Athletic Final in German town of Stuttgart by throwing a world record 72.28m. Špotáková also won the female performance of the year award after setting the new world record in Stuttgart.
COMING TO GRIPS WITH COMMUNIST PAST. It has been more than a quarter of a year that former prosecutor Ludmila Brožová-Polednová was sentenced to six years in prison for sending a prominent democratic politician Milada Horáková to the gallows nearly six decades ago.
She was supposed to be in jail since October but it looks like she will likely avoid prison, as she filed a request for pardon on health and age grounds.
86-year old Brožová-Polednová was probably the last person to face a trial out of all people involved in infamous political processes in the 1950s. Interestingly, the former communist prosecutor feels guilty only for overly respecting the then political bigwigs.
The case will be heard by the Supreme Court within the next few months to which Polednová filed an appeal, arguing that the case was time-barred.
COMMUNISTS BACK IN POWER. Since the November regional election five members of the Communist Party (KSČM) are among the top officials of regional leadership. Two of them used to be members of the Communist Party before 1989.
It is the first time since 1989 that the Communists have received any executive posts.
“Our goal is not to promote our (communist) ideology. But we want to show the people we can do it too,” chairman of the party Vojtěch Filip said for Aktuálně.cz.
Aktuálně.cz asked these five regional government officials about their opinions of their own party’s past and about the current communist regimes in some countries.
Was Joseph V. Stalin a dictator and mass murderer? Do the current communist regimes in China, Cuba and North Korea murder, maltreat and oppress innocent people? Did the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia represent military aggression? Et cetera.
Former prison guard and now an MP of the Communist Party (KSČM) Josef Vondruška will face criminal charges for his actions as a prison guard in the 1980s. Interestingly, most of them refused to answer, some arguing that it is important now to concentrate on the presence and the future, rather than the past.
In a vote of key events in 2008, Aktuálně.cz readers voted the Communists return to power as the most significant one.
RADAR BASE ON CZECH SOIL. It has been here so many times before and it is a world-known fact by now that two thirds of Czechs oppose the US radar base as a part of the missile defense shield in the Brdy region, some 100 km westward Prague.
Countless protests staged in the capital as we as around the country show that a majority of Czechs do not buy the “rogue state” argument the United States has been trying to sell the world and the Czechs via the Czech government.
In spite of all this US and ČR sign a missile defense treaty in July during the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
LISBON TREATY. “The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and Treaty on establishing the European Community and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are not in conflict with the constitutional order,” were the first words of Pavel Rychetský, chairman of the Constitutional Court during its session over the Lisbon Treaty in November.
The Lisbon Treaty was submitted to the Constitutional Court by the Senate in March this year. Among fierce critics of the treaty and EU as such is also Czech president Václav Klaus. He warned the Treaty would reduce the sovereigntyof the Czech nation. It won’t, said the Court. The Treaty is yet to be ratified by Czech MPs.
Aktuálně.cz readers have a chance to vote eight key events by their own choice. According to them, at the moment of all the world and domestic affairs the victory of Barack Obama is the most significant event of the year, followed by the global economic crisis and Czech communists joining regional governments.
We would like to know the opinion of our CzechNews readers. What key events that took place in the Czech Republic do you consider the most important ones? Please use the discussion forum below to suggest your own views of the most important events in 2008.
And don´t forget to have a look at the photogallery capturing some of the eye-catching images of key events in 2008.
Infobox – Historic years ending in ‘8’
1918 The Republic of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed declaring its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Tomáš Masaryk was elected its first president.
1938 A Conference in Germany’s Munich resulted in annexing Sudetenland to Germany and Czechoslovakia’s president Beneš resigned.
1948 Communists organized massive strikes and won majority in the government. Klement Gottwald became the first “workers'” president.
1968 Alexandr Dubček, member of the more liberal wing of the Communist Party, attempted to usher in what is popularly known now “socialism with a human face”. But Soviet led Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21 and Dubček’s reforms were over.