In 1948, as the dust of World War II settled across Europe, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC), staged a coup, seized power in Prague, and transformed the country into a Communist state. With the strong backing (financial and political) of the USSR, Czechoslovakia remained behind the so-called Iron Curtain of Europe until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
During this three-hour tour across Prague, in the company of a historian, we'll trace the history of Communism through the 20th century, stopping at a number of key monuments and civic spaces that mark this tumultuous, traumatic period. We'll look at the rise of the KSC through the early part of the century and its rule. We'll discuss the role of the Soviets, particularly in the wake of Prague Spring of 1968 when Warsaw Pact troops invaded the country to staunch liberal reforms.
Our walk will begin at the Vitkov hill, a key monument in Prague where the gigantic equestrian statue of Jan Zizka, a heroic defender of Prague against Catholic forces in the 15th century and symbol of Czech independence, looks down over the city. Nearby, we'll visit the Mausoleum of Klement Gottwald, the first communist Czechoslovak president, and discuss its symbolic location here (and abundance of over-the-top decoration), meant to connect Communist Prague with Czech pride and identity. Several other Socialist Realist statues of key figures from mid-century Prague will also allow us to discuss the broader connections between the KSC and its Soviet backers.
We'll move on from here down into central Prague, taking a streetcar and using that time to look at some historic maps, archival images, and other supporting historical information to flesh out our portrait of Communist Prague. We'll spend some time in Wenceslas Square, a critical gathering place during the unsuccessful reform period of 1968, known at the Prague Spring, and the successful capitulation of Communism in 1989, known as the Velvet Revolution. Here we'll look at some key monuments, such as the Jalta Hotel, National Museum, and former Communist Parliament. We'll look closely at the events of 1968 and piece together the events that lead to the Soviet crackdown and subsequent period of Normalisation.
Our course may take us to Narodny Street nearby where student demonstrations in 1989 added fuel to revolutionary fires that eventually brought down Communism and restored Czech democracy. We'll look, here, at the role of the intelligensia and the figures of Kundera, Havel, and other artists and writers prominent to the revolution.
At the end of our time together we'll emerge with a fuller understanding of the Communist history of Czechoslovakia and its lasting impact on Prague. Through dialogue with our historian docent we'll have the opportunity ask lots of questions and get a firmer grip on how the Cold War played out in Prague and led, eventually, to today's liberal democracy.
Please note that our visit to the Vitkov does require uphill walking that may not be suitable for individuals with walking difficulties. If you feel that this may be an issue, please consult our office on how we can customize the walk to your needs.