Thatcher feted in Prague as she rails against the `cosmic evil'

BRITAIN'S "IRON LADY" - who was not invited to last week's celebrations in Germany marking the fall of the Berlin Wall - enjoyed pride of place in Prague yesterday at the ceremony for the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Baroness Thatcher, taking up an invitation from President Vaclav Havel, stole much of the media limelight as she joined Mikhail Gorbachev, George Bush and Helmut Kohl - the elder statesmen who led the Berlin ceremonies. Other guests included the former Polish President Lech Walesa and Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of the former French President, Francois Mitterrand.

Dressed all in black, and with only a touch of flamboyance about the hat, Lady Thatcher railed against the "cosmic evil" of Communism, "Marxist vandals" and the persistence of socialist attitudes to an appreciative Czech crowd as she unveiled a bronze statue of Sir Winston Churchill. The statue is a replica of the one in Westminster.

"Cheer up!" she commanded as she completed her historical review.

Her beaming escort was Vaclav Klaus, the former Czech prime minister who is now the parliamentary chairman and leader of the main, right-wing opposition party, ODS. Mr Klaus, the architect of the Czech economic transformation many now criticise as slapdash, has never disguised his admiration for Lady Thatcher, and his desire to be her disciple in everything from privatisation to Euroscepticism.

As Lady Thatcher explained that the Czechs needed a man of vision, "whose feet are on the ground and whose eyes are raised to the stars", Mr Klaus maintained a grateful, modest grin. He returned the compliment in his speech, insisting that it was Lady Thatcher's policies that killed Communism - while omitting to mention such names as MrGorbachev, Ronald Reagan or George Bush.

"You British just don't appreciate her. She's so marvellous," said a Prague student, Zdenek Hovorka, as he watched Lady Thatcher remove the sheet from the 11-foot Churchill statue, which glares belligerently towards the headquarters of the Czech Trades Union Movement. President Havel did not attend the unveiling ceremony, preferring to watch the former US President George Bush collect an honorary doctorate at Charles University, Prague.

The ceremony over, Lady Thatcher retired for refreshments. Later in the evening, she was to join other guests for an anniversary conference at Prague Castle and a reception at which she and the elder statesmen were to meet "revolutionary heroes" and receive the Order of the White Lion from President Havel for their services to the overthrowing of Communism.

On 17 November 1989, protesters against the regime in Prague were scattered by Communist police, but came back in ever-growing numbers. Within 18 days of peaceful protests, the country's Marxist regime collapsed.

The anniversary comes as opinion polls show a growing nostalgia among Czechs for the Communist period. One poll shows the Communist Party in the lead, while another survey suggests 32 per cent of Czechs see no improvement in their standard of living. Rising unemployment, a political scene that many regard as cynically immobilised by agreement between the ruling Social Democratics and Mr Klaus's ODS, and fears that the Czech Republic is slipping down the European Union's list of candidates have sapped enthusiasm for the celebrations.

In such circumstances, the rock concerts and street events planned for the anniversary week are clearly designed torevive the hopeful atmosphere of the Velvet Revolution, and remind people of just how bad the bad old days were.

On Saturday, a retro Communist carnival on Wenceslas Square will allow Prague residents to relive the experience of queuing for bananas, applying for exit visas and being pestered and threatened by security men demanding their identification. For those who stay at home, Czech television is broadcasting a whole day of old-time Communist TV, including "Russian lectures" and a stirring movie about "abuses blocking the development of socialist economy in a washing machine company".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'