Mailbox

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

Today's Mailbox includes: Topics: Who are the Moravians? Gas lights in Prague streets, Donations for Czech flood victims, The languages in which Radio Prague broadcasts Quotes from: Ian Morrison, Dustin Lopour, Alan Higgins, John Osborne, Will Steer, Barbara Wagner, Sirajuddin Nizamani, Hidemitsu Miyake, Anne Ruthsome. Radim Janicek

Welcome to this latest edition of Mailbox, and thank you for all the letters we have been receiving and the numerous questions you keep asking.

Keep asking, that's the right wording, I think. There is one basic aspect about the general set-up of our country that seems to be complicated and difficult to comprehend in spite of the fact that we keep coming back to it and trying to explain. This time the question comes from Ian Morrison of Kilwinning in the United Kingdom:

"Who are the Moravians? Does their language differ from Czech?"

Well, I guess that for a nation of 10 million there are just too many names. There's the Czech Republic, the Czechs, but also the Bohemians and Moravians, the Silesians, not to mention the local names for the inhabitants of various districts - Hanaks are the inhabitants of a certain part of Northern Moravia, just to mention one example.

I can understand it's complicated for people not acquainted not only with the geography, but also with the history of our country. With all the wars, the changes of borders, the states that developed and disappeared throughout the centuries, the inhabitants of different parts of what is now the Czech Republic came under different influences, and even though they are all Czechs, in the ethnic sense, as members of the same nationality, there are differences between people in various parts of the country.

So, to answer Ian's question - yes, Moravians are basically Czechs, they speak the same language, with some local dialects. I said basically Czech, because they do not, or many of them, do not like to be called Czechs and they stress the differences, especially in tradition. There used to be a very strong Moravian state in the 9th Century, called the Greater Moravian Empire, well before the Czech state, which, for various historic reasons became more dominant in later years.

The Moravians have always been closer to Slovaks, than the Czechs living further West, in Bohemia - their cultures are closer, in folk music, for example. They do live next to each other and parts of Slovakia used to be in the Moravian Empire - before the Hungarians took over.

I realize it must be rather complicated, and we do deal with the local ethnic situation whenever we can. Regular listeners may remember that in Mailbox on July 28th we answered a similar question from Dustin Lopour who was wondering whether Bohemians were also Czechs. So, if you'd like some more details, you can find the program on our web-site.

Or, alternatively, you can look up the whole, more general history of the Czechs, also on Radio Prague's web-site, that's www.radio.cz/english, like Alan Higgins did:

"I was attempting to locate a short history of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic when I found your site. I was enthralled! Thank you for your efforts toward putting such useful information out there for all to see."

And still on history - this seems to be turning into a history orientated Mailbox - even though this time it's on a more recent event. John Osborne:

"I have some old, historic pictures of Prague and on one of them a man is holding a long pole and pointing it to what is obviously a street lamp. Would you know what he's doing?"

Yes, I would, and I'm old enough to remember. He is lighting a gas lamp. I still remember that in the early 1980s, while practically all the streets were lit with electricity, in some parts of the historic center of Prague, there were still some gas lights. There was a tiny flame in each of them and every day, as dusk started falling a man, or sometimes a woman, would go from one lamp to the next. He had a hook at the end of that long pole and with it he'd pull a ring which opened up the flow of gas and the light would come on. They made the rounds once again at dawn, to turn the lights off. I think the last of those gas lamps were used in 1985.

And the first ones? When did they start?

Well, that I don't remember, but I've read somewhere that it's just 155 years ago, in 1847. The first gas lights were set up in the streets in the main streets in the center of Prague and it was quite an event. They were some 30 meters apart and everybody thought the city was ablaze with light. And the lamp posts were really lovely, real works of art.

A couple of them are still standing, even though they're not used any more. There is one on Hradcany Square, in front of the main entrance to Prague Castle, near the Archibishop's Palace. That's a very special one, created by a sculptor and set up by an architect. It has a symbolic statue representing Prague on the top and four female figures on the pedestal on which it stands. There are two former gas lamps in front of the Rudolfinum concert hall, too, but those look different. Each one of those lamp posts was a work of art in those days.

Now, enough about history, and on to the present. A number of listeners have written much along these same lines like Will Steer:

"I was in Prague and Olomouc in May and thought they were delightful places. I am therefore greatly saddened to see on TV the horrific floods and I have great sympathy for the Czech people who I enjoyed meeting. I am not a wealthy person but I would like to make a modest contribution to any disaster fund the Government sets up. Please send me details if you are able."

and Barbara Wagner writes:

"I just visited your beautiful city in June of this year and am heartbroken over your loss due to the floods. Is there some agency I could send some money to help in the relief effort??? I am an American citizen and would like the money to go directly to help in the clean-up."

We can't possibly name all the listeners who have written similar requests. Thank you, very much, for your offers to help. As to how to go about it, there are a number of organisations whom you can contact, the Czech Red Cross, for example. Their special account number is 10030-7334-011/0100, bank code 300. Or there is the People in Need Foundation, which we already mentioned in a previous Mailbox. They have a special account "SOS - floods". The account number is 334334334 and the bank code 0300. You will find all the information both on our website and on that of the foundation itself - www.pinf.cz Another account has been set up by the government and the number is 9025001 / 0710. And, once more, thank you for your interest.

Well, so much for today's Mailbox and some of the questions we've received. We can't possibly answer all, I'm afraid. And not only because of the lack of time. Sometimes we just don't have the information - like when a listener asks for the new address of an old friend who has moved and didn't let him know where. And then there are requests that we cannot possibly fulfil, like this one from Sirajuddin Nizamani of Badin, Pakistan:

"You should start an Urdu service on Czech Radio."

I'm sorry, but I'm afraid we won't be in a position to do that - not only because we lack the funds, but I don't think we could put together an Urdu speaking staff here in Prague. In fact, our command of languages is limited, which some listeners keep forgetting. We have one letter completely written in Japanese, which I'm afraid we could not decipher. And the same goes for the various magazines and pamphlets some Japanese listeners sometimes send. The latest comes from our regular listener Hidemitsu Miyake. Thank you, it's a nice gesture, but we really do not speak, nor read Japanese.

And in that connection I'll squeeze in just one more question from a new listener, Anne Ruthsome who lives in Manchester, Great Britain:

"In how many languages does Radio Prague broadcast and are all the various language programs the same? If so, I'd like to use them to improve my French, by comparing the two."

That's not A question, it's half a dozen. But to answer as fast as I can before our producer stops us: We broadcast in English, German, Spanish, French, Czech and Russian. Which also answers a question from Radim Janicek:

"I would like to ask whether you broadcast in Italian, too?"

Well, no we don't. But to come back to Anne Ruthsome's questions, no, our various language programs are not the same. We try to cater to the interests o our listeners in different countries and those tend to do differ. And so the only help we can give as far as language study is concerned is our weekly feature ABC of Czech - for those of you who want to learn about the Czech language, that is.

That's every Wednesday. But right now, this is the definite end of today's Mailbox presented by Olga Szantova And Dita Asiedu. Good bye, and since we talked about Moravia earlier today, here is a typical Moravian folk song.

Authors: Dita Asiedu , Olga Szantová
run audio