ZLIN, Czech Republic – Calm, pleasant and modestly prosperous, the Czech city of Zlin seems the last place you’d expect to find violent extremists.
Women push baby strollers through the cobblestoned town square where, on weekends, wedding parties line up for photographs in front of the handsome town hall. On the outskirts, people tend elaborate gardens outside the tidy brick homes constructed by the early 20th century industrialist Thomas Bata, who built Zlin as a model city.
But earlier this summer the peace was broken when dozens of neo-Nazis clashed with about 100 anarchists, overwhelming police. Similar clashes occurred in the suburb of Otrokovice two years ago, forcing police to deploy armored vehicles and a helicopter to disperse them.
So far, the Czech far-right has had more of an impact on the streets than at the ballot box. Its support is limited to pockets here and in the north of the country. But lately their counterparts in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe have amassed more power than they have since the end of World War II. This became particularly apparent during June’s European Parliament elections, in which ultra-right parties ran neck-and-neck with established mainstream rivals, capturing numerous seats.
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