Vinohradská 1409/12: Czech Radio

Radio broadcasts in Czechoslovakia began on 18 May 1923, making the fledgling state only the second country in Europe after Britain to enjoy such a regular service. For the first two years, programmes were broadcast from a scout-tent in the north-eastern district of Kbely. But its increasing popularity saw the service move closer to the centre of Prague, where a permanent headquarters was established in 1933 on Fochova Street (today’s Vinohradská), not far from Wenceslas Square.

The constructivist headquarters of Czechoslovak Radio (Československý rozhlas) were built between 1927 and 1930 to a design by the architect Bohumil Sláma. Outside the building, two plaques record the part played by the radio station during times of great national strife:

5 May 1945, 12.33pm: Calling all Czechs – the signal of the uprising of the Czech people

The first concerns the events of 5 May 1945, the start of the Prague uprising against what remained of the German army. SS troops had stationed themselves inside the building, and in an act of extraordinary defiance, the broadcaster continued to call the people to arms against a backdrop of grenades and gunfire. Fighting was particularly intense in the area of the radio headquarters, and from 7 to 9 May a local church tower was pressed into service as an alternative station. In all, 89 radio personnel lost their lives in the battle for Czech Radio.

1968 memorial, Czech Radio
21 August 1968, 4.30 am: ‘We are with you; be with us!’ – the signal of the August broadcast of Czechoslovak Radio

The second memorial, with its stirring invitation ‘Jsme s Vámi, buďte s námi!’ – ‘We are with you, be with us!’, recalls the signal sent by the broadcaster during the early hours of 21 August 1968 as Prague awoke to the news that Warsaw pact troops had invaded the city to put an end to the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring. More than 100 citizens died on that day, 15 of them at the radio station.

Impressive in their simplicity, these plaques stand as a constant reminder of the importance of preserving those things often taken too much for granted: our democratic rule of law and the freedom of speech. For these brave journalists and radio operators, we have much to be thankful.