Ernest Gellner, photo: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science

Today in Mailbox: response to RP's programmes, new QSL cards for 2016, monthly listeners' quiz. Listeners/readers quoted: Mark Palmer, Shahzad Shabbir, Dahmani Rachid, Hans Verner Lollike, Mary Lou Krenek, Radhakrishna pillai, Urve Timm.

Rotunda of St. George and St. Adalbert - Mount Říp,  photo:  CzechTourism
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s monthly listeners’ feedback programme. Thank you very much for your questions, views and comments, as well as your reception reports – we are always interested to know how you listen to our broadcasts. Thank you also for the enclosed photographs of your clubs’ activities. Please keep them coming. We have a brand new set of QSL cards featuring church buildings in Bohemia and Moravia to send you as verification of your reception reports. You can look them up on our website:

Thank you also for following our posts on social media. In response to a recent story about the history of Czechoslovak exile government’s wartime BBC broadcasts, Mark Palmer commented:

“Somewhere, we have a handkerchief signed by Jan Masaryk. My grandmother went to a talk he gave when he was in exile in London during WW2 – he autographed her handkerchief and she embroidered his signature. If / when I find it, I'll post a photo.”

Now let’s move onto our monthly quiz. We have received many answers, all of them correct if most of them very brief.

Shahzad Shabbir from Pakistan wrote:

“Ernest André Gellner was a British-Czech philosopher and social anthropologist, described by The Daily Telegraph when he died as one of the world's most vigorous intellectuals and by The Independent as a ‘one-man crusade for critical rationalism’.”

Dahmani Rachid from Algeria listed some of Ernest Gellner’s books:

“Thought and Change, 1964; Saint of the Atlas, 1969; The Devil in Modern Philosophy, 1979; Muslim Society, 1981; Nationalism, 1997; and Reason and Culture, 1992.”

Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark writes:

“After the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, strong nationalism arose on the ruins of the communist internationalism. To study this phenomenon the American Jew and multi-billionaire, George Soros, founded a research institute in Prague. Ernest Gellner returned for the third time in his life permanently to Prague, where he grew up, to lead the new institute. He sadly died in Prague, the town he loved, before he could finish his work as leader of the institute.

Ernest Gellner,  photo: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science
“His family was one of those with cultural roots with many sources German speaking, Bohemian based and internationally oriented Jews. Ernest Gellner was born in France, but received his primary schooling in Prague. The family fled to London upon the outbreak of Nazism, and Gellner started his carrier in England, his main subjects of study being sociology and philosophy. He returned to Prague for some years after the war until the communist takeover was on its way. He was considered one of the most outstanding experts on nationalism.”

Mary Lou Krenek from the United States wrote:

“Ernest Andre Gellner was a British-Czech philosopher and social anthropologist known when he died as one of the world's most vigorous intellectuals. Gellner fought all of his life – in his writings, teaching, and political activism – against what he saw as closed systems of thought, primarily communism, psychoanalysis, relativism and the dictatorship of the free market. Two other issues in social thought, modernization theory and nationalism were his central themes. His multicultural perspective allowed him to work within the subject matter of three separate civilizations – Western, Islamic, and Russian.”

“Born in Paris in 1925 to an intellectual German speaking Jewish couple from Bohemia, he was brought up in Prague attending a Czech language primary school before entering the English language grammar school. Prague began to have a strong hold over him. When he was 13, he moved to St Albans, north of London and attended St. Alban's School. At 17, he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. At Balliol, he studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and specialized in philosophy. He interrupted his studies for one year to serve with the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade which took part in the Siege of Dunkirk (1944–45) and then returned to Prague to attend university there for half a term.

“Due to the Communist takeover, Prague lost its hold over him and he decided to return to England to Balliol College in 1945. He began his academic career at the University of Edinburgh and moved to the London School of Economics. He obtained his PhD in 1961 with a thesis on ‘Organization and the Role of a Berber Zawiya.’ He was elected to the British Academy in 1974 and moved to Cambridge in 1984 to head the Department of Anthropology, becoming a fellow of Kings College Cambridge. In 1993, he returned to Prague, now rid of Communism, to the new Central European University where he became head of the Center for the Study of Nationalism, a program funded by George Soros, the American billionaire, to study the rise of nationalism in the post communist countries of eastern and central Europe. On November 5, 1995, after returning from a conference in Budapest, he had a heart attack and died at his flat in Prague. He was 69.”

Radhakrishna pillai .N from India sent us this:

Ernest Gellner,  photo: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science
“Ernest Gellner was one of the outstanding intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century. He made major contributions in very diverse fields, notably philosophy and the social anthropology. Dr. Gellner was born in Paris, the son of Rudolf Gellner, a Jewish lawyer from Czechoslovakia and Anna née Fantl. Dr. Gellner was Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics from 1962 to 1984 and of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University from 1984 to 1993. Later that year he became a Professor at the Central European University in Prague as well as Director of that University’s Centre for the Study of Nationalism. In 1983 Gellner published Nations and Nationalism. For Gellner, nationalism is primarily a political principle that holds that the political and national unit should be congruent. Gellner argues that nationalism appeared and became a sociological necessity only in the Modern World.”

Thank you so much for your answers and this time the lucky winner is Urve Timm from Estonia. Congratulations and your prize is in the post. Those of you who haven’t been lucky this time, can give it another shot:

This month we are looking for the name of the Austrian composer, teacher, and pianist of Czech descent, born in 1791 in Vienna. He was considered the father of modern piano technique for generations of pianists. He died in the Austrian capital in 1857 at the age of 66.

Please send us your answers by February 24 to the usual address [email protected] which is also the address for your questions, comments and reception reports. Mailbox will be back in four weeks’ time. Until then happy listening.