Czechs and Slovaks marked the 16th anniversary of the start of the 1989 Velvet Revolution on Thursday, a time when people remember the overthrow of Communist rule and reflect on the changes that have swept society since then. But discontent is growing with the current political situation, and that discontent was reflected in the mood on the streets of Prague. Radio Prague's Rob Cameron has this report.
Views expressed by politicians and participants of the gatherings in the streets of Prague on Thursday do not necessarily reflect the overall mood in Czech society. The Communist Party is the third strongest party in the Czech Republic, a cause for alarm for some. For his part, the Czech Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, has said the Communists are not a threat at all.
Sixteen years ago this week 40 years of communism in Czechoslovakia dramatically came to an end, rapidly dismantled by massive public protests in the city streets. Almost overnight, the old structures collapsed and with it the symbols of a decayed system: countless red stars, party banners, statues of revolutionaries, and 'eternal' monuments to the country's communist presidents - were carted off to unknown 'graveyards' - usually the dustbin.
"The greatest story of the Cold War" - that's how the story of the Masin brothers who shot their way out of Czechoslovakia in the 1950s is often described. The sons of a Czech WWII hero decided to fight the Communists the way their father fought the Nazis, and in 1953 they escaped from Czechoslovakia to West Berlin. Two of their friends did not make it and the group shot six people during and before their escape. More than fifty years on, the story still provokes controversy in the Czech Republic. The debate is no doubt going to be rekindled by
In many ways it could easily be dubbed the 'ultimate' NGO - the Club of Madrid founded as a non-governmental organisation making use of experience and know-how of former world leaders to promote democracy around the world, whether in the Middle East, North Korea, or the post-Milosevic Balkans. But, this year the organisation's annual assembly was also a look back, taking a look at countries since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Titled 'Democracy in a post communist world' - the meeting in Prague was the first held by the club outside of Spain. Jan
November 7th had a very special place in the calendar of communist Czechoslovakia. Preparations started well in advance to mark the Soviet National Holiday, which was the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and celebrations would go on for another thirty days, known as "The Month of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship". The young generation of Czechs are completely oblivious of the holiday but some older Czechs have fond memories of the 7th of November because unlike other communist era holidays, it was actually often fun.
It's just over two weeks until the 16th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution that brought down Communism in Czechoslovakia. But how much do the nation's schoolchildren know about what happened here between 1948 and 1989? Not much, says the leading human rights group People in Need. Throughout November they're visiting schools with documentary films detailing the excesses and cruelties of Communism. They're also bringing with them victims of the regime to share their experiences with pupils. One of them was Jan Wiener, now 85, who escaped
The fifty-year-old story of the Masin brothers still has the power to provoke passionate debate here in the Czech Republic. Should members of the group who shot their way out of Czechoslovakia in 1953 be recognised as heroes? A group of five Masin admirers clearly believe they should. This Friday they're setting out to recreate their journey to Berlin.
The upper house of Parliament on Thursday approved a bill that would ban propagation of Nazism and Communism in the Czech Republic. Anyone caught violating the ban could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison. Although the bill stands little chance of becoming law, it has evoked many questions: primarily why wasn't the issue confronted 16 years ago, immediately after the fall of Communism.
The chairman of the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has said his party will support a Senate-proposed amendment to the criminal code banning all promotion of the communist ideology. The amendment was initiated by a group of opposition Senators and a movement called "Let's Ban the Communists". Mr Topolanek said he didn't wish the Communists to return to power after next year's elections. He said however that the amendment would probably be refused by the lower house where the leftist parties, the Communists and the Social Democrats, have a majority of 11 seats. The Communist Party currently enjoys some 13.5 percent of voter support.
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