Friends, this edition of the podcast is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Prague Spring — on the night of August 20-21, the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact armies invaded Czechoslovakia and put an end to the hopes for reform of the Communist regime. It would take more than a generation for freedom, destroyed by invasion, to come back to Prague. On January 16, 1969, Jan Palach, a 20-year-old student, burned himself in Wenceslas Square in protest against the resurgent tyranny. Agnieszka Holland, the Oscar-nominated director of the Holocaust movie In Darkness (2011), also made Burning Bush (2013), a three-episode mini-series on Jan Palach’s self-immolation and its aftermath, one of the best works of art we have about late totalitarian government. Flagg Taylor and I talk about this movie and about the Prague Spring itself, the Charter 77 movement, and Jan Palach’s legacy up to the return of freedom to Czechoslovakia.
Flagg and I have recently talked about totalitarianism in our The Death of Stalin podcast, but also previously on the great Oscar-winning movie, The Lives of Others.
Finally, here’s one of Flagg’s essays I like to recommend — on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the remarkable novel about Stalinism.