On Wednesday evening, thousands of people attended a protest march in
Prague initiated by Million Moments for Democracy, the organization behind
the largest demonstration in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution
in 1989, which brought an estimated quarter of a million demonstrators to
Prague’s Letná plain in June. Organisers say the event was attended by
10,000 people and served as a reminder of the events of the Soviet invasion
in 1968, the brutal Communist crackdown on protesters in 1969 and as a
protest against the current prime minister and president.
Attendees met on Prague's Wenceslas Square in the evening hours before heading to Hradčany Square in front of Prague Castle.
The march was part of a wider string of demonstrations organized by the group this Wednesday. These were held in 93 sites across the country, including all of the Czech Republic’s major cities.
The Czech Radio building in Prague saw the most intense violence during the Soviet-led invasion of August 21, 1968 and, as every year, hundreds of people marked the anniversary at the station on Thursday. Among them were leading politicians – and one old lady who broadcast news of the occupation to the outside world.
Events are being held in the Czech Republic marking the anniversary of
August 21 in both 1968 and 1969. Czechoslovakia was invaded by Soviet-led
troops on that date in 1968, while the following year a number of
participants in demonstrations on the first anniversary were killed in
clashes with Czechoslovak security forces.
The main memorial event on Wednesday will take place in front of Czech Radio, which was a focal point of defiance and violence in August 1968. Senior elected representatives and people who lived through that time are expected to attend.
The events of August 1969 are to be marked by a march from Wenceslas Square to Prague Castle organised by the group Million Moments for Democracy.
Dozens of other memorial events are also being held around the Czech Republic.
Exactly a year after the Prague Spring was crushed by a Warsaw Pact invasion, many thousands of Czechoslovaks went into the streets once more to protest their country’s occupation. The subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators, this time by their own countrymen, resulted in hundreds of arrests and even five deaths. It crushed the last vestiges of hope and persuaded the public that “normalisation” was here to stay.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has launched an
interactive map showing where victims of the 1968 invasion met their
deaths. It details the victims’ names and where, when and how they died
in connection with the Soviet-led invasion between August 1968 and August
The map’s co-creator, historian Milan Bárta, said that while people initially died in big cities, later victims met their deaths on country roads as the result of traffic accidents as soldiers were barred from entering cities and withdrew to the regions.
Link to map (in Czech): https://obetiokupace.dejepis21.cz/
The anti-government protest movement A Million Moments for Democracy plans
a march through Prague on the 50th anniversary of a protest held a year
after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Organisers of the march on 21 August say they want both to commemorate past events and draw attention to current political issues that threaten the Czech democracy.
The group has accused Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) of undermining the rule of law while milking Brussels and Czech taxpayers to line his own pockets.
The Czech police have recommended that Mr Babiš be charged with fraud tied to the use of EU funds. He is also accused of having a conflict of interest because many decisions he makes benefit the Agrofert business empire he founded.
In late June, A Million Moments for Democracy organised the biggest public protest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism, calling for Mr Babiš to resign.
A travelling exhibition on the life and legacy of Jan Zajíc, who set
himself on fire to protest against growing public apathy to the Soviet
led-invasion in 1968, opened in his home town of Vítkov on Friday.
Zajíc set himself on fire in a passage off Wenceslas Square on February 25th 1969, close to the place where student Jan Palach made the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to rouse the nation a month earlier.
Zajíc, who felt that further protest actions were needed, set himself on fire on the 21st anniversary of the communist putsch in 1948.
The exhibition of texts and photographs reflecting his life and legacy will travel around the country in the coming months.
Among the recipients of the state awards handed out by President Miloš Zeman on October 28, was Karel Lánský – a legend of Czech Radio broadcasting. For eight dramatic days after the Soviet led-invasion of Czechoslovakia Lánský and his team kept independent Czechoslovak Radio on the airwaves, broadcasting from secret locations in Prague and running the operation from his flat close to the radio’s Vinohrady headquarters.
Thursday is the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most famous protest in the history of Czech sport, when gymnast Věra Čáslavská looked away while the Soviet anthem was played at the 1968 Olympics. The brave gesture came two months after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia – and cost the country’s greatest Olympian dear.