Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 17 Czech's Day of Freedom

Today freedom is being remembered in the Czech Republic.

  • November 17 This year, for the seventh time, the Czech Republic is marking November 17 -the "Day of Students' Struggle for Freedom and Democracy" - as a state holiday. Two events of great importance in Czech history have occurred on this date. In 1939 Czech students were brutally persecuted by German occupying forces; five decades later November 17 saw the state security forces in Prague intervene against a student protest, sparking a process of democratisation in Czechoslovakia that was later to become known as the Velvet Revolution.
  • November 17 1939
  • The funeral of Jan Opletal The funeral of Jan OpletalOn the anniversary of the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia on October 28 1939 Czech students took to the streets to protest against the Nazi occupation. The demonstration was violently broken up, when shots were fired into the crowd. One of the student leaders, Jan Opletal, was seriously hurt and later succumbed to his injuries. His funeral became a huge demonstration against the occupiers, with thousands of Czechs taking part. A violent reaction swiftly followed. On the night of November 16 the Nazis closed down Czech universities. Soon afterwards nine students were executed and 1,200 were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Before the war had ended November 17 had been named international day of students.

  • November 17 1989
  • Narodni street on November 17, 1989 Narodni street on November 17, 1989 Exactly fifty years later, on November 17 1989, around 15,000 students gathered in Prague to honour the memory of Jan Opletal. The Communists had granted permission for a procession that would end at the national cemetery at Vysehrad.
  • However, the march did not break up there, and despite instructions from the police the students continued on into the centre of Prague to voice their opposition to the anti-reform policies of the Communist leadership. As the march neared the centre more and more people joined it.
  • However, they did not reach Wenceslas Square. The unarmed students were hemmed in by the police on Narodni trida, before the police waded in, brutally attacking them. Around 600 of the demonstrators were injured. Many Czechs were shocked by the police's brutality. The following day students at universities in the capital declared a general strike, and were soon joined by actors from Prague's theatres. On November 19 Civic Forum was established, becoming the voice of the protesters and a partner in dialogue with the Communist regime. The road to democracy had begun. [source]

  • Range of demonstrations planned for anniversary of Velvet Revolution
  • [16-11-2007] By Rosie Johnston
  • ListenReal Audio 16kb/s ~ 32kb/s
  • November 17th is the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution and is a public holiday here in the Czech Republic. Hundreds are expected to take to the streets of Prague on Saturday, to mark the 18th anniversary of the beginning of one of the most important chapters in the country’s history. But others will be turning out in numbers for rather different reasons. Here is a round up of the activities we can expect around the capital on Saturday:
  • During the Velvet Revolution 18 years ago, the Melantrich building served as a sort of dissidents’ HQ. At the height of the revolution a certain Vaclav Havel stood on its balcony and addressed thousands of Czechs who were gathered on Wenceslas Square below. Today it is a Marks and Spencers, and on this particular Friday, it looks pretty much like business as usual. But tomorrow, on the 18th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution, Wenceslas Square is set once again to play host to a number of public gatherings and protests.
  • At the bottom of the square, a series of events are being organized to highlight what the organizers call ‘the insufficiencies of the Velvet Revolution’, that’s expected to last from 10am to 10pm. And then in mid-afternoon, those protesters are going to be joined by demonstrators of quite a different kind. Supporters of the former deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek, who resigned recently, are meeting at the lower end of Wenceslas Square at 4pm.
Read more here. Throughout history the Czechlands have gone through much turmoil, political and religious. There is much too history to post here. If you are interested in learning about the Velvet Revolution, click here. You can also learn about the tumultuous history of Bohemia here.

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