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17-11-2004

Beginning of 1989 Velvet Revolution commemorated in Prague

A number of events have been held in Prague to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, which led to the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. President Vaclav Klaus, former president Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross laid flowers at the spot where riot police attacked a peaceful student demonstration on Narodni trida exactly 15 years ago.

Mr Havel, the former dissident who led the Velvet Revolution and was elected president shortly after the fall of communism, was greeted by cheers of "long live Havel, long live Havel".

Other politicians and many ordinary Czechs laid wreathes and lit candles at the memorial on Narodni Street throughout the day.

1989 student demonstration reenacted in protest at Communist Party

Meanwhile, the student demonstration which sparked the changes of 1989 was reenacted in the Czech capital, beginning at Albertov and continuing to Narodni and later to Wenceslas Square. The march was entitled "Podzim bez komunistu" ("Autumn without Communists"), in protest at the present-day Communist Party.

On Wednesday evening a huge free concert called "Narodni Jinak" ("Narodni Otherwise") was held on the city centre street.

Communist past should not be oversimplified, says President Klaus

President Vaclav Klaus, addressing a ceremonial meeting of the Chamber of Deputies, said the Czech Republic's communist past should not be oversimplified. He said communism was part of Czech history and was therefore part of the national identity. Mr Klaus said the best way to come to terms with the country's communist past was to be positive today, and in so doing build a society which would not allow the emergence of similar regimes.

Havel, MPs walk out of Chamber during speech by Communist leader

During a speech by the leader of the Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, several MPs walked out of the Chamber, as did former president Havel. President Klaus remained seated during Mr Grebenicek's address.

Before the Chamber of Deputies meeting police broke up a heated demonstration outside the headquarters of the Communist Party organized by the Young Conservatives.

Service honours student whose 1939 death inspired 1989 march

Wreathes were laid on Wednesday at a memorial to Jan Opletal, a medical student who died on November 17, 1939. A procession to his grave in 1989 on International Students Day turned into the first demonstration of the Velvet Revolution, when students broke away from the authorized route and marched into the centre of Prague.

"Speakers' Corner" opens in Prague

The 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution also saw the opening of a "Speakers' Corner" on Prague's Palackeho namesti square, inspired by the public discussion forum in London's Hyde Park.

Weather

Thursday should be cloudy with showers in places. Temperatures are expected to range from five to nine degrees Celsius.

17-11-2004