The late Czech president, dissident and playwright Václav Havel was honoured by members of the US Congress on Wednesday. A bust of Mr Havel was unveiled at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol in the presence of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Havel’s widow, Dagmar. The ceremony concluded a series of events marking the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, which toppled the Communist regime.
The Czech Republic is marking 25 years since the start of the Velvet Revolution which toppled the communist regime. The country has since undergone a dramatic transformation from totalitarianism to a free-market democracy, affecting virtually all areas of life. The changes have been especially marked in Prague and other big cities but in the regions, the transformation has been less smooth and often more painful. In our special programme today, we look at how two historic Czech towns, Mikulov and Stříbro, have changed over the last 25 years.
Michael Žantovský is the author of a newly published book on the former Czech president simply entitled [:i:]Havel[:/i:] available in both Czech and English. He is one of a few members of the former Civic Forum movement still active in public life, currently serving as the Czech Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Back in 1990, he became a press spokesperson for the new president Václav Havel. From 1992-97, he served as ambassador to the United States. He has also served as Czech Ambassador to Israel, been elected to the Czech Senate, and worked as
Gary Keith Griffin is currently in Prague presenting his new Czech-language movie Listopad (November), which explores the Velvet Revolution from the perspective of young participants in the street demonstrations of that time. Griffin also had personal experience to draw on, having himself been in the city as those historic events were unfolding at the end of 1989. When we met on Národní St., where the revolution began on November 17 that year, I asked the Oscar-winning cameraman what he had found when he arrived in Prague on an NBC news
Countless events across the Czech Republic – and indeed across the globe – are taking place over the next four days to mark the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. These are scheduled in key places associated with the Revolution, such as Wenceslas Square or Národní třída in Prague, as well as in locations such as Washington D.C. and London.
A new public perceptions survey by the Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM), conducted on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, has revealed that around a sixth of Czechs still long for a return to communism, while they are equally split on whether their country’s current politics is moving the country forward.
The Velvet Revolution which toppled the communist regime in then Czechoslovakia began on November 17, 1989 with a student protest at Prague’s Národní třída. But a full week earlier, unrest was brewing in the northern Czech city of Teplice over poor air quality. Finally, one young student decided enough was enough.
In this week's Panorama, I am joined by Vilém Prečan, the chairman and founder of the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre. Along with photographer Karel Cudlín, he is the co-author of a new Czech-German book called Německý podzim v Praze 1989, or The German Autumn in Prague, 1989. This book chronicles a very particular set of events, namely the 1989 exodus of East Germans via the West German embassy in Prague, which ultimately led to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.