Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution was sparked by a student demonstration on November 17, 1989 that was brutally quelled by riot police. Among those on the front line of those clashes was writer Magdaléna Platzová. The daughter of dissident Eda Kriseová, at 17 years old she had already taken part in a number of demonstrations. But, she says, nothing prepared her for the violence that surrounded her on Prague’s Národní St. on that now famous day.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution draws near, we take you to places that played a significant role in the events leading to the collapse of the Communist regime 30 years ago. In the first episode of our mini-series, we visit Národní třída, the scene of a brutal police crackdown on an unarmed student demonstration on November 17. It was this event that marked the beginning of the revolution.
Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, an eclectic group of musicians based in the United States has recorded a special album of songs written by Czech songwriters Karel Kryl and Jaromír Nohavica. Called ‘Steel Strings and Iron Curtains – Songs that Ignited the Downfall of Communism’, it features a number of subversive tunes never before recorded in English.
Czechoslovakia’s new-found freedom was underlined in August 1990 by a concert at Prague’s Strahov Stadium by the Rolling Stones, who became the first major Western band to perform in the country. In a now famous video message broadcast before the gig, Mick Jagger told fans – in Czech – “the Stones are rolling to Prague”. The man who taught the rock star the phrase was Jan Rubeš. A Czechoslovak TV employee in those years, he later brought shows such as Dallas and The Simpsons to the country’s TV screens. When I spoke to Rubeš, who now works in film
Celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution are taking place not only in the Czech Republic but also among Czech and Slovak communities abroad. The Czech consulate in Chicago has prepared several events highlighting the 30 years of freedom, including a showcase of photos by the award-winning photographer Karel Cudlín.
Czech President Miloš Zeman is not planning to take part in events
commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which marked
the end of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
In an interview for the website Blesk, the Czech head of state said he would remember the events of November 1989 alone at home. He also said most people who would attend the events had not taken part in them 30 years ago.
Last year, angry protestors at Národní Street threw away the flowers laid to the monument at Prague’s Národní Street by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the populist politician Tomio Okamura, as well as the wreath sent by the president.
On the occasion of the 30-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which
led to the fall of communism in November 1989, the Czech Senate will hold
three conferences, the speaker of the upper house Jaroslav Kubera told
journalists on Wednesday.
These will not only focus on the Velvet Revolution, but two further events that took place during the last two months of 1989 – the canonisation of St. Agnes of Bohemia and the reestablishment of the Czech Scouts movement. According to Senate Speaker Kubera the reason behind organising the three conferences is the current relativizing of the values and heritage of November 17, 1989 and the Senate’s role as a guarantor of the constitutional order.
An exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution has just got underway at Prague’s Municipal House. Called Nezlomní, or The Steadfast, it showcases the work, but also personal diaries and correspondence, of 30 artists, active between the years 1919 and 1989, including Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen and Karel Nepraš. It also highlights their joint inspiration by the writings of Franz Kafka.
John Lennon’s wall in Prague, which features a wide array of thematic street art, is a popular destination for tourists and a symbolic site of Czech opposition to the communist regime. Now its surface features a whole array of new pieces. Thanks to a special event organised on the occasion of the 30 Years of Freedom, 20 artists from a multitude of countries added their artwork carrying messages of peace.