It was before the Velvet Revolution…

It was before the Velvet Revolution…

The Velvet Revolution was very important event in modern Czech history. Czechs often divide the new era into the parts before and after the revolution. The Velvet Revolution was lasting several days and became a symbol of the end of the communist regime. Do you know when it was and why we call it „Velvet“?

The communist Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia was a communist state from 1948. In February 1948 the communists staged a coup and they started to govern. Czechoslovakia was a part of the Eastern (= communist) sphera after the World War II (+ Poland, Hungary, Eastern Germany, Romania, Yugoslavia…). The Soviet Union became the main authority and dictated what Czech governement could or couldn´t do. Czechs couldn´t travel to abroad. Censorship existed in media and literature. Secret represive police (Státní bezpečnost) operated in Czechoslovakia. Who didn´t agree with the communist politics he/she was persecuted – wasn´t  allowed to do his/her profession, his/her children weren´t allowed to study, he/she could be arrested…

 

17th November 1989

Czechs protested against the regime more and more since the second half of the 80´s. They were not satisfied with the political and economical situation. On 17th November 1989 a legal manifestation of university students took place – they were walking through Prague to commemorate the 17th November as an international students day. Other people were joining the procession and it became a big demonstration (10 000 people) in a few hours. People wanted to go peacefully to the Wenceslas square. The communist government didn´t want to reach it because for Czechs the Wenceslas square was a symbol of demonstrations and protests. The government called the police to take action against people. In Národní street in Prague the police made a barrier in front and at the back so people could not leave. Officers started to beat people brutally, there were 568 injured people. Later, some of the students attended Prague theatres and told others what had happened. TV and radio also broadcasted news about the whole situation.

 

The Velvet Revolution

A lot of demonstrations took place in whole Czechoslovakia during the following days. People wanted the communists to leave the governement. Surprisingly, it was a fast proces. The communists really stopped governing and a new, democratic government started to work. Czechs and Slovaks achieved freedom, they can democraticly vote their parliament, make private business, travel …

Except the 17th November when the police attacked people the revolution was peaceful, without violence, nobody died. That´s why we call it the Velvet Revolution.

  • 17th November – student´s peaceful manifestation, the police attacked people
  • from 18th November – demonstrations in the whole Czechoslovakia, organized by official opposition party (Občanské fórum)
  • 27th November – general strike in Czechoslovakia, nobody was working
  • 28th November – the communists announced oficially they would leave the governement
  • 10th December – a new, non-communist government
  • 29th December – the first non-communist president Václav Havel

 

The international situation

Revolutions took place in the whole Eastern block of communist states. People were not satisfied with political and economical situation in their countries. During autumn 1989 the communist regime was over in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Baltic states.

 

Czechoslovak modern history

  • 28th October 1918 – democratic Czechoslovak republic was founded
  • 1938–1945 – Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany
  • 1945–1948 – democratic Czechoslovakia again
  • 1948–1989 – communist Czechoslovakia
  • 17th November 1989 – the Velvet Revolution
  • since December 1990 – democratic Czechoslovakia again
  • 1st January 1993 – Czechoslovakia divided into independent Czech Republic and Slovak Republic

 

Celebrate the 28th anniversary of our important day with us. Join the Festival of Freedom in Národní street or in Czech and Moravian regions. Become a member of street art festival, enjoy concerts and many other events.

 

 

Read also other articles about important days and moments in Czech history:

The First Republic and „Daddy“ Masaryk

Czech version of this article

16th November 2017

 

About the Author

Jitka Pourová administrator

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