ISBN 10: 1848325169 / ISBN 13: 9781848325166
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Inhaltsangabe: Jan Zizka (1370-1424) was a formidable figure whose life and military career was set amidst the whirlwind of monumental revolutions - military, religious, political and social - that engulfed medieval Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. The leader of Bohemia's Hussite Revolution - the first of the religious wars during the Protestant Reformation - he was a forward-thinking military genius whose record is virtually unmatched. He fielded a peasant militia, initially untrained and unequipped, and faced down the Holy Roman Empire's huge professional army of armoured knights known as 'The Men of Iron'. Among his numerous innovations was the armoured wagon fitted with small cannons and muskets, presaging the modern tank. All this, despite the fact that for much of his later career he went completely blind.Yet remarkably, beyond central Europe, very little is known about him. In this original and engrossing study, historian Victor Verney combines an authoritative analysis with colourful anecdotes to reveal the incredible exploits of this forgotten military genius and the fascinating cast of characters who surrounded him.The author would like to acknowledge Matt Haywood and his website www. for his assistance on military aspects of the book.

From the Author: The remarkable story of Jan Zizka, his incredible achievements against overwhelming odds, his brilliance as a general (which includes numerous innovations in military tactics, strategy, organization and discipline), and his enduring place as a legendary icon in the history and culture of the Czech Republic has more than enough intrinsic value to merit study by anyone interested in military history, the medieval era, or Eastern Europe.

But his story, and its continuing relevance today is underlined by two developments -- one cultural and the other military -- unfolding in 2008.
Zizka is commemorated by a massive equestrian statue (said to be the world's largest) atop Vitkov Hill overlooking Prague, the site of his first great victory over Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund and a massive army of Crusaders determined to crush the budding Hussite movement of the early fifteenth century. Erected in 1950 after the communists came to power in that country, it has since languished, literally and figuratively, in the shadow of Soviet domination. Its proximity to the macabre mausoleum that housed the mummified remains of Clement Gottwald, Czechoslovakia's first communist ruler, and the lingering aftertaste of totalitarianism since 1989 have combined to make it, paradoxically, one of the most prominent and least-visited attractions in the Czech capital. Few residents, and virtually no tourists, bother to make the somewhat inconvenient trip to the gritty Karlin/Zizkov neighborhood in which it's located, or make the steep climb up the hill where it stands.

Now, after nearly twenty years of discussion and debate, the Czechs are renovating the statue and the adjoining national monument building (originally intended to honor the Czechoslovak Legionnaires of WWI). Following a century of imperial domination by the Austrians, the Nazis, and the Sovets -- each of whom took it upon themselves to impose their version of Czech history on the Bohemian Lands -- the Czech people are now free, at last, to write their own history, name their own bridges, streets and landmarks, and come to terms with their own internal contradictions.

A significant part of this drive to reclaim their own history and define it for themselves in their own terms is a massive renovation project currently underway on Vitkov Hill. The sixty-eight-year-old statue is being dismantled and restored, and the former mausoleum is being converted into a museum, café and cultural events center. It is hoped that by those leading the restoration effort that when it complete, Zizka and his legacy, as symbolized by a statue freed from the socialist artwork with which the Soviets festooned it, will re-emerge to claim the attention it deserves from both the Czechs and their numerous foreign visitors.

The re-furbished statue and the renovated National Monument, are slated for a grand opening ceremony on Oct. 28, 2009 -- the 91st anniversary of Czechoslovakia's independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The second development taking place today is the growing controversy swirling around a proposal by the USA to emplace a missile radar tracking system in the Czech Republic. Although the American government claims it is intended to deter long-range missile attack against Europe by Iran, Russia has expressed anger over the plan, which it believes is directed at its military operational capabilities. As these two giants argue over the heads of the Czech people, who overwhelmingly object to the proposal, the Czech Lands, usually more-or-less ignored by USA, have taken on a new importance and prominence.

Several historical memories are being evoked in both the Czech Republic and the USA, as Soviet threats to target the Czech Republic and establish re-fueling stations for long-range nuclear bombers in Cuba have evoked historical memories of the Warsaw Pact invasion of '68 and the Cuban missile crisis of '62, respectively. Further, the sense on the part of the Czechs that, once again, they are being used as pawns in a high-stakes game of global geo-political has also revived bitter memories of the Munich Accord of '38.

As this drama unfolds, it remains to be seen how well the US and the Czech governments, who endorse the plan, will succeed in convincing the Czech people to assume risks ranging from a cut-off of energy supplies to military strikes. To date, the Americans, who have proposed to station US troops to run the site and Russian observers to monitor it, and have not shown much sensitivity to the understandable revulsion Czechs feel towards anything that smacks of high-handed foreign occupation or cynical political exploitation at their expense.

There is no single more vivid expression of this revulsion in the Czech popular mind than Jan Zizka and what he stands for in their historical consciousness. If the West, as led by the notoriously ahistorical USA, wants to enlist Czech participation in this strategic partnership -- to say nothing of NATO and the EU -- it will simply have to do a better job of learning and understanding their collective mindset. Jan Zizka is a pretty good place to start.

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