Germany Welcomes Havel
In a very friendly atmosphere, President Vaclav Havel, accompanied by his wife Dagmar, paid his first state visit to Germany ever on May 9 - 12, marked by a number of awards and warm welcomes. During the course of his presidency, however, Vaclav Havel has visited this neighboring country many times, where he is accepted not only as a well-known politician but also as a moral authority who has helped to raise Czech-German relations to their current status, which is considered by both sides to be the best in the history of mutual relations.
The Czech head of state was hosted by his German counterpart Johannes Rau. The Presidents exchanged their respective countries' highest state awards: President Havel received Germany's Federal Cross for Merit and awarded President Rau the Order of the White Lion. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder underscored in a meeting with the Czech President his support for Czech EU membership and declared that issues related to Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII could not be used as a pretext for hindering Prague's accession to the EU. In Berlin, the Czech President took a walk through the Brandenburg Gate, the site of the former Berlin Wall. He followed his own footsteps - he had taken the same stroll in early 1990, when he visited the two former German states, this being the first foreign visit in his capacity as the Czechoslovak President. During the tour of the Bundestag, German Parliament, President Havel enjoyed the cordial spontaneous reception of ordinary Germans.
On the site of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the President together
with Brandenburg Prime Minister Manfred Stolpe unveiled a memorial dedicated
to Czech students deported after the forced closure of Czech universities
on November 17, 1939. At the closing of his German stay, President Havel
visited the state of Bavaria, where the largest number of Germans expelled
from Czechoslovakia after WWII live. Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber
mentioned their compensation requests, but on the other hand assured President
Havel of Bavaria's support of Czech Republic's admission to the EU.
Message from the Ambassador
One of the attendant topics of the current National Missile Defense debate is the question of preference for offensive or defensive strategic means. It is common knowledge that democratic countries, which must take public opinion into account, tend to opt for defensive and more realistic approaches, while undemocratic states relying on authority or ideology do not balk at offensive and messianic approaches.
However, not every democrat sees it in this way. Proponents of total disarmament in particular tend to take the potential enemy lightly, viewing him through the prism of their peaceful visions. Thus it was claimed, typically by Western European peace activists, that the Soviet Union did not harbor any offensive intentions.
It may be interesting in this context to look at a document discovered recently in a Prague archive by the young historian and diplomat Petr Lunak. It is an operational plan of the Czechoslovak People's Army dating from 1964. The document, approved by the highest leaders of the communist Czechoslovakia, is written in Russian, apparently at the direct command from Moscow. The plan called for the Czechoslovak army, with the help of Soviet nuclear strikes, to conquer Western Germany and Eastern France up to the city of Besancon in seven days.
The plan reflected the Kremlin's hubris of the time. While the West was gradually transforming its defensive approach from a massive retaliation strategy to the flexible response, the Czechoslovak plan built on a possible preemptive nuclear strike. While the West settled on a strategy of a limited war, because its options always reflected a compromise between soldiers and politicians, the East, unhindered by democratic elections, was willing to escalate the conflict to a nuclear war.
Let this newly discovered document remind us that not all states necessarily
have the same commendable intentions. It is therefore prudent to seriously
consider the defensive options that the development of technology makes
possible. In my opinion this is a goal that the NATO allies should pursue
Embassy Event Commemorates Burma Election
Continuing support for human rights has been an important part of the Czech foreign policy agenda. The repeated sponsoring of the UN Human Rights Commission resolution on Cuba is just one example. The Czech Embassy in Washington continued this commitment on May 15 when it co-hosted, together with the National Endowment for Democracy, a panel discussion devoted to the situation in Burma.
The disturbing situation to which the speakers referred is well-known: in 1990, after almost 30 years of military dictatorship, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won over 80 percent of the seats in free elections. Nevertheless, the ruling military junta refused to honor the results and allow the parliament to convene, and resorted to the oppression of NLD members. This situation remains fundamentally unchanged to this day. NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for six years, was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by President Vaclav Havel, which she was awarded in 1991.
The participants viewed the videotaped message from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who explained the conditions under which the NLD and the recently established Committee Representing The People's Parliament continue their work and stressed the lasting importance of the 1990 ballot:
Introduced by Carl Gershman, the President of the National Endowment for Democracy, the panelists brought interesting viewpoints to Burma's continuing struggle. Dr. Thaung Htun, director of the UN office of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, stressed the continuing validity of the 1990 election. Ambassador Alexandr Vondra recalled the deep impression his 1995 meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon made on him. H.E. Asda Jayanama, permanent representative of Thailand to the UN, discussed the possible ways of democratizing Burma's regime. Eric Schwartz, Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs at National Security Council, described the dismal results of Burma's government in social and economic spheres. Phil Fishman, Assistant Director of the AFL-CIO international affairs department, focused on the sorry state of the workers' rights in Burma.
The participants also listened to the message of support for democracy
in Burma signed by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Ambassador Vondra
read this message at the next day event attended by Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright and members of Congress.
President Havel Suggests Documentation Center for Chechnya
In his closing remarks in a public hearing on the violation of human rights in Chechnya on May 26, President Vaclav Havel stressed that "with respect to Russia's future, we cannot be silent in the face of what is happening there." The public hearing was organized at Prague Castle by the People in Need Foundation (PINF) and the Office of President. The Czech President assured participants that he would support everything that would contribute to the upholding of human rights in Chechnya and to the prevailing of peace there. President Havel also recalled a resolution of the Council of Europe according to which Russia must not be isolated by a suspension of its membership and that, on the contrary, communication with Russia is necessary. He stressed that the Council must demand and enforce communication with Russian officials and Russians must open up Chechnya to international observers, mass media and humanitarian organizations. President Havel presented an idea to establish a central documentation office that would assemble all the facts about the conflict in Chechnya for possible future legal actions.
The People in Need Foundation established a relief operation for refugees in the northern Caucasus region in January 2000. It provides regular aid supplies for Chechens living in 24 spontaneous settlements ("wild camps") in Ingushetia, and since mid-January has delivered more that 550 tons of food to nine locations inside Chechnya. PINF, together with the Czech and Austrian branches of Caritas, are planning to open an office in Grozny this summer to facilitate humanitarian deliveries.
Czechs Win Hockey Championship Again
The Czechs won their second consecutive World Hockey Championship by defeating neighboring Slovakia 5-3 in the gold medal game in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 14. After triumphing at the Olympics two years ago, this win gave the Czechs consecutive World Championship crowns for the first time since 1991-92.
The Czechs took a 3-0 first-period lead as Michal Sykora, Tomas Vlasak and Martin Prochazka beat Slovak goalie Jan Lasak, a member of the Nashville Predators.
Martin Strbak scored Slovakia's first goal at 7:43 of the second period, but Jan Tomajko restored the Czech's three-goal lead 3:35 into the final period. Slovakia, however, made a late charge. Miroslav Hlinka scored at 15:22 and, just over two minutes later, Miroslav Satan of the Buffalo Sabres, with his 10th goal of the tournament, pulled Slovakia to 4-3. Robert Reichel, who had consecutive 40-goal seasons with the Calgary Flames from 1992-94, added an insurance goal for the Czechs in the final minute.
On their return home, the members of the victorious Czech team were greeted by thousands of enthusiastic fans at Prague's Old Town Square. Acknowledging the pride Czechs take in their hockey players' exploits, politicians did not stay behind: Chamber of Deputies chairman Vaclav Klaus attended the final in St. Petersburg and Prime Minister Milos Zeman met with team members who autographed the hockey jersey Zeman was wearing for the occasion.
A hitherto unknown operational plan of the Czechoslovak Army dating from 1964 was discovered recently by Petr Lunak, a Czech historian and diplomat. In the absence of documents from Soviet archives, this plan provides valuable information about the Soviet bloc military thinking at the height of the Cold War. Unlike other known plans from that era, it bears the signatures of the leaders of Communist Czechoslovakia, including the Minister of defense and the President.
The plan describes the first week of an attack of the Czechoslovak front on enemy territory. Although Communist leaders professed peaceful intentions in public, the plan relies on a "preemptive nuclear strike" delivered in advance against the nuclear strike that NATO was planning, or so the Soviet bloc strategists believed. As many as 35 nuclear bombs were to be delivered during the first week. "The main strike should be concentrated in the direction of Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Epinal, Dijon," says the document. By the seventh or eighth day of the attack, the troops of the Czechoslovak front were supposed to reach the cities of Dijon and Besancon in eastern France and be ready to advance southward towards Lyon.
The 17-page document was written by hand in a single copy. It is telling that an official document signed by the highest representative of the state was written in Russian.
The document was made public by the Parallel History Project on NATO
and the Warsaw Pact and is available online at www.isn.ethz.ch/php.
Protest telegrams to President Klement Gottwald, who sanctioned the death sentence, were sent by Czechs abroad, French intellectuals, even Albert Einstein - to no avail. The President wanted to show how all enemies of communism would be dealt with, perhaps also because this was the first trial which proceeded according to the Soviet model.
In what way was this fragile woman, this minor character, so dangerous for the communist regime, that it decided to resort to the death penalty? Of what was she guilty, this representative in Parliament and member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party, one of the Czechoslovak democratic parties, who worked during the war in the anti-fascist resistance movement and who suffered in a concentration camp for her activities? What kind of "conspiracy" against democracy could a woman organize whose model her whole life was Tomas G. Masaryk, to whose legacy she professed even in her opening defense statement, and who relinquished her mandate as a member of Parliament in protest against the increasing violence in Czechoslovakia, precisely on the day when Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Masaryk was found dead?
Milada Horakova studied law at Charles University in Prague, after which she worked in the Municipal Office of the City of Prague and from 1929 became politically active. After the signing of the Munich Agreement, Milada Horakova, together with the Chairwoman of Sokol, Marie Provaznikova, found herself at the head of the Committee for the Assistance of Refugees, in which capacity she helped tens of thousands of Czech families, cleared from the Sudetenland by the Nazi regime, to resolve their onerous situation. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939, she immediately joined the ranks of the resistance movement, to which she tried to connect all of the branches of the Women's National Council. For this activity she was imprisoned from 1941 until the end of the war.
Immediately after the war she became a representative in Parliament.
She wrote articles for the newspaper, in which she did not spare communists.
Her public speeches began to be regularly monitored in 1946 by state security,
which was in the hands of the communists. On the 27th of September,
1949, she was arrested, accused of anti-state activities, and convicted.
She was not the first to be condemned to death in a show trial by the communist
regime, and she would be far from the last. In the years 1949-1953,
215 people were executed. Her execution became a symbol of the betrayal
of all democratic ideals and of the demeaning of the most basic human values.
The Abilympics movement was founded in the 1970s in Japan. Its widely ranging activities focus on intensive support of the employment of people with disabilities. Presided over by the International Abilympic Federation, the International Abilympics is a regularly organized world-wide contest of the disabled in working skills and abilities, the aim of which is to encourage these people in taking an active part in the labor market. It allows each participant to demonstrate his or her professional skills in an open contest with disabled people from around the world. Final contest results depend solely on the quality of the performance.
For more information on the event, please contact: Mr. Jiri Venzara, Prezident, Czech Abilympics Association, V haji 4, 171 04 Prague 7, Czech Republic, tel. (420-2) 808-664, fax. (420-2) 802-237, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, URL: www.abilympics.cz.
If you should find yourself reading a contemporary Czech fiction book in English, chances are it was published by Robert Wechsler. Catbird Press, the publishing house he operates from his Connecticut home, is the only U.S. publisher specializing in modern Czech literature.
Born in 1954, Wechsler studied at Columbia University Law School and practiced law in Boston. In 1987 he decided to start a publishing house and wanted to take advantage of his special areas of knowledge. Apart from his knowledge of 20th-century American prose humor, one such area was his command of Czech. Wechsler had read Czech literature and history, and after his visit to Czechoslovakia, he learned to read in Czech. As with many Americans, the first Czech writer he read was Milan Kundera. But Wechsler wanted to see if he could revive interest in the works of Karel Capek, a great Czech pre-WW II writer whose work has mostly slipped into oblivion in the USA. Capek turned out to attract readers' interest, and Wechsler was able to publish a number of his works in new translations. "I feel Capek is one of the great world writers, and is not more recognized primarily because it seems so simple that intellectuals too often do not bother to look further," Wechsler says about him.
Capek was followed by the first English translation of another pre-war author, the humorist Karel Polacek, the Nobel laureate poet Jaroslav Seifert, and newer Czech authors, including young contemporary writers in the anthology Daylight in Nightclub Inferno: Czech Fiction from the Post-Kundera Generation, and his latest offering, Jachym Topol's novel City Sister Silver. It is rare for a literature of a small nation to have such an up-to-date representation in the English language. "The younger generation does not have the black- and-white political situation of Communism to write about and to attract the attention of the West with," says Wechsler of the younger writers. "Instead, they are trying to express themselves in ways they were not allowed to before, which is of little interest in a world where anything goes, as long as people want to buy it."
Wechsler has worked with such well-established translators as Peter Kussi and Michael Henry Heim, and he has also brought in some new ones, who were laboring without any hope of publication. He translates himself as well; he has also written a book on the art of translating. He has recently begun to translate a novel by Alexandr Kliment. "It is so beautifully and originally written, and so difficult, I greedily did not want anyone else to have the joy of translating it," says Wechsler.
Apart from Czech books, published under the imprint Garrigue Books, named after the American wife of the first Czechoslovak president T. G. Masaryk, Catbird Press Wechsler also publishes prose humor in the classic American tradition and contemporary American and British writers. It has published 40 books, which works out to about 4 a year. "I am in the very fortunate position of being able to publish my favorite writers," says Wechsler. It is also a very fortunate position for Czech literature in English.
How Americans View Czech Business
The trade office of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York recently conducted a survey of American companies doing business in the Czech Republic. We received a variety of responses both positive and negative, of which the results are most interesting.
On the whole, most Americans were satisfied with their efforts to do business in the Czech Republic. Of the respondents, 70 % agreed that the companies they contacted responded promptly with the information they needed and 31 % said they were able to start a business relationship that they felt had long-term potential.
A common criticism was aimed at the ability of Czech companies to communicate effectively with foreign businesses. According to the survey, it seems that although most Czech firms are eager to start some type of business with their American contacts, many still have problems with the basic means of communication necessary for international trade. Some of the respondents to the survey commented on the frustration they felt when trying to contact a Czech company where telephone and fax numbers had been disconnected, changed or simply out of service.
Another communication problem expressed in the survey was that of language. Apparently some Czech firms still keep representatives unable to communicate in basic English. One American complained that one company sent him a fax completely in Czech.
From the survey it is clear that many Americans still consider Czech companies promising business partners. Many cited the advantages of a highly skilled work force, top quality products or competitive prices. American businessmen who had made visits to the Czech Republic also appreciated the sincere hospitality of the Czech people. Unfortunately, Czech companies can not take advantage of these benefits unless they promote themselves properly. The average American businessman will not tolerate anything less.
It is important that if Czechs are to exploit those advantages they have over Western companies, they must be prepared to communicate with the world outside their borders. This means a stable system of telecommunications, staff proficient in English, and promotional materials targeted for Western markets. Without catalogues that are clear, concise and error-free, companies will find it difficult to penetrate the lucrative American market.
The previous experience of EU enlargement proves that the impact in the employment field and labor markets in the member states is not as big as some member states had been afraid of. The commissioner added that when Greece, Portugal and Spain joined the EU, there was exactly the opposite movement of immigrants back to the new member states because the economic conditions improved.
The 15 member European Union is currently in accession talks with 10 countries, six of which - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus - are well along in the process, aiming to join the Union by 2003. The European Union is scheduled to open negotiations with the six applicants on the sensitive chapter dealing with the free movement of labor in May.
Previously, Austria said it would insist on temporarily limiting the number of foreign workers allowed to cross its borders in forthcoming negotiations on the admission of Eastern European countries into the EU.
The mission said Czech growth was still subdued due to the continuing corporate and banking restructuring, but elements conducive to growth were in place, such as stronger demand from European Union trading partners, and an increase in investment. It said interest rates needed to be flexible in the medium-term and the Central Bank should protect its "hard-won" gains in recent years, when it lowered inflation from double-digit annual rates to below three percent last year.
Meanwhile, state spending will need to be tight next year to meet budget deficit goals and offset heavy inflows of foreign investment, the IMF mission said.
Tens of billions of crowns are expected to come into the country as privatization of major banks and industries is completed and greenfield investment picks up. The Czechs have no outstanding IMF debt after paying off structural adjustment credits in the early 1990s.
The mission welcomed central bank efforts to keep the Czech crown weaker to help sustain the recovery, specifically praising its late-March intervention which knocked over two percent off the crown's value against the euro, ending a long firming trend. The IMF also praised new laws which should speed bankruptcies and financial settlements, eventually allowing commercial banks to reduce their provisioning against loan losses. There is no doubt that there has been tremendous progress in amending new laws, said Roger Nord, IMF country director for the Czech Republic.
Ruzicka, Jr. (1973), jazz saxophonist and occasional composer, is the
son of jazz pianist and composer Karel Ruzicka, Sr. Enfant Terrible
of the Czech jazz scene in his early years, he was a monster of jam sessions,
a born talent and an indefatigable soloist. He left trombone studies at
the Prague Conservatory and taught himself the saxophone, going on to study
privately in New York with Bob Mintzer and others. Ruzicka is regarded
in the Czech Republic as the most gifted jazz talent of his generation.
He is a devotee of legendary saxophonists John Coltrane and Joe Henderson,
as well as players Michael Brecker and Bob Berg. Owing to an outstanding
technique and his broad musical taste, Rozicka gigs even with rock and
funk bands in both recording and live performance. His style has
continued to mature, incorporating an "old-time" hard-bop saxophone sound.
He now lives in New York, establishing himself as a performer on that city's
jazz club circuit. He can be heard on his debut recording,
What I Mean.
According to the reviewer Joan Reinthaler, "it was sung with convincing and stylish poise by the ensemble and played crisply and with nice attention to color and balance by the orchestra under Joel Lazar's baton. The dancers projected their assorted characters with energy tempered by spooky remoteness. Sharon Wyrrick's direction was smooth, professional and inventive. It's worth seeing one of the three remaining performances over the weekend," wrote Reinthaler.
Czech Events around the USA
Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, NYC; phone: 212-288 0830
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 16 th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.(319) 362-8500
June 3: Nebraska Czech Festival in Hastings, Hwy. 6 & Wabash, 2 - 10 pm. For information, call (410) 435-6914.
June 8: A showcase of animated films by the Academy Award nominated Czech filmmaker Michaela Pavlatova. Delancey Street Theatre, 600 Embarcadero (opposite Pier 36), San Francisco, CA, at 7:30 pm. The reception with filmmaker after the show. Admission 4 $ at the door.
June 10: The quarterly meeting of the Czech & Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois (CSAGSI) will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, 2000 at the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, Riverside, IL 60546. Non-members interested in genealogical information about Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Silesia or Ruthenia are invited to attend. For more information visit www.csagsi.org, or call 708/484-5118.
June 11: Nebraska Czech Festival at David City, Butler County Fairgrounds, 11 am - 4 pm. For information, call (410) 435-6914.
Czech rock band UZ JSME DOMA Anniversary Tour
6-15: Vancouver, BC, The Brickyard, 315 Carroll St., Ph: 604-685-3978
6-16: Calgary, AB, Night Gallery, 1209B 1st St.Ph: 403-264-4484
6-17: Edmonton, AB, Ground Zero, 15231 87th Ave., Ph: 780-486-5650
6-18, Saskatoon, SK, Lydia's, 650 Broadway Ave., Ph: 306-652-8595
6-19: Winnipeg, MB, Royal Albert, 48 Albert St.Ph: 204-493-8750
6-21: Minneapolis, MN, 7th St. Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Ph:612-338-8388
6-22: Iowa City, IA, Gabe's Oasis, 330 E. Washington, Ph: 319-354-4788
6-23: Milwaukee, WI, Cactus Club, 2946 S. Wentworth, Ph: 773-525-2508
6-24: Chicago, IL, Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport Ave. Ph: 773-525-2508
6-25: Bloomington, IN, John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut Ph: 812-334-3100
6-26: Cleveland, OH, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd. Ph: 216-383-1124
6-27: Pittsburgh, PA, Millvale Industrial Theater, Rte. 28 Ph: 412-321-6477
6-28: Toronto, ON, El Mocambo, 464 Spadina Ave.Ph: 416-969-2001
6-29: Montreal, PQ, Jailhouse Rock, 30 Mt. Royal St. W. , Ph: 514-844-9696
6-30, Washington, DC, Black Cat, 1831 14th St., N.W., Ph: 202-667-4490
7-1, Cambridge, MA, Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave. Ph: 617-354-8238
For tour dates, contact Carl Hanni at Mod Media, 520-432-4493, email@example.com. For copies of Ears, please contact Patrick O'Donnell at Skoda Records, 202-547-8006, firstname.lastname@example.org.