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This Thursday marks 22 years since the start of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia that brought down the country’s Communist regime. On November 17, 1989, the communist police cracked down on a student demonstration on Prague’s Národní třída (National street) setting in motion a series of countrywide protests that eventually led to the fall of the totalitarian regime. The 17th of November is also the important anniversary of a student march against the Nazi occupation in 1939, which was brutally suppressed. As a result the Nazis raided university campuses and executing nine students without trial. The protest also served as a pretext for further reprisals against Czech intellectuals. Some 1,200 people were sent to concentration camps and all Czech universities were closed.

Early on Thursday, President Klaus, Prime Minister Nečas, the defence minister and other politicians marked the anniversary with a wreath laid at the Hlavka student residence hall while the Hussite hymn was sung. President Klaus outlined key differences, in his view, between the protests in 1939 and 1989, chief among them – he said – that the Communist system had been ready to fall, while the Nazis in 1939 were at the height of their power. November 17 has also seen other commemorative events in the capital: chief among them has been the lighting of candles and laying of flowers and wreaths at the 1989 memorial at Národní třída. Visiting there a little later on Thursday, Mr Klaus wished Václav Havel – conspicuously absent this year because of continuing health problems – early recovery.