Exactly thirty years ago, Václav Havel was in Moscow meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, and the pact on the total withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia was signed. That very day, the first soldiers began pulling out, as a brass band struck up the “Internationale”, while outside the garrison gates locals bid them a less-than-fond farewell.
Thirty years ago Czechs took to the streets to demonstrate for freedom and democracy, for the chance to speak their mind without reprisals, to vote in free elections and shape their own future. Today they are taking stock of the country’s successes and failures, of how far they have come along the road to a liberal democracy and market economy and whether the ideals of 1989 are still alive in people’s hearts and minds.
The date is November 17, 1989, eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A cordon of Czechoslovak riot police blocks the path of thousands of university students staging a march through Prague, calling for democracy – and freedom. As police truncheons begin to rain down on their heads, they chant “We have bare hands” – we are unarmed. Hundreds are bruised and bloodied; one student reportedly dead. The Velvet Revolution, as it came to be known, had begun.
Thirty years ago the communist regime in Czechoslovakia started to fall apart. The main demonstrations and events were taking place in Prague. But the key question was whether the regions would join in and support the not so numerous college students and actors in the capital who were calling for a protest strike. Vít Pohanka witnessed how the Velvet Revolution started in the Moravian city of Olomouc:
The 30-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution culminates this Sunday, November 17. Aside from official state tributes, a wide range of commemorative events, including concerts, processions and debates, will be taking place in cities across the Czech Republic during the whole weekend. Meanwhile, opponents of the government are planning a massive demonstration in Prague.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. In the fifth and last episode of our mini-series, we’ll take you to Prague Castle where Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist president, Václav Havel, was sworn in, starting a new era in the country’s history.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. In the fourth episode of our mini-series, we visit the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly building, where some key political changes took place 30 years ago.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution draws near, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime 30 years ago. In the third episode of our mini-series, we visit Wenceslas Square and Letná plain, the scene of spontaneous demonstrations, which followed the brutal police crackdown on an unarmed student demonstration on November 17, 1989.
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 second episode of our mini-series, we visit the former Laterna Magika theatre in central Prague, which served as the headquarters of the Civic Forum.