About 70 years ago, Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk was found dead in a backyard in Prague, under a window in his apartment. The circumstances surrounding his death – which we find a current echo in the murder of Russian investigative journalist Maxim Borodin in April this year – have been a source of intrigue and controversy throughout posterity: Did he jump? Did he fall? Was he pushed?
The ice hockey player was forced into a uranium mine for 13 years. He died at the age of 9, as a broken man.
The original investigation, led by the Communist government (made up of a bunch of Masaryk's enemies), delivered, not unexpectedly, a verdict on suicide. 20 years later, during the short-lived Prague Year in 1968, a new investigation revealed that the incident was probably an accident (but did not rule out the possibility of murder). Early in the 1990 century, after the velvet revolution that led to the so-called velvet divorce between what became the Czechoslovak Republic and Slovakia, the conclusion after the investigation was changed to murder.
Masaryk's violent end turned out to be an important turning point in Czechoslovak history – the direction could have been very different if this charismatic figure, a convinced internationalist (his mother was an American), had survived. But the Soviet Union quickly took a staunch stalinist stance, with dire consequences for anyone who might be suspected of deviation – or of planning deviation – from the party line.
Perhaps the most spectacular and remarkable example of this came in 1950, when twelve players on Czechoslovakia's ice hockey team – who had won the World Cup in Sweden the year before – were arrested just before leaving for London, there. . .
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