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.
In related news, November 17th saw a number of demonstrations – including an anti-government protest happening – in and around Prague. Protestors against the current centre-right government and its reform plans met at Old Town Square while around 2,000 gathered at the biggest such event on Wenceslas Square. The day also saw demonstrations by ultra-right-wing extremists from the so-called Workers Party for Social Justice at several locations, including Jungmann Square, where around 300 supporters turned out. Not far off, opponents against Neo-Nazism gathered at their own meeting. Several hundred police monitored the situation; no incidents were reported.
The country’s national anti-drug agency has issued a statement warning drug users or addicts not to use an illegal new drug known as krokodil (crocodile), a home-made synthetic opiate and heroin substitute whose ingredients are said to turn areas of the skin scaly or into open rotting sores, hence the name. The effects, the anti-drug headquarters’ spokesman Michal Hammer suggested, could go as deep as the bone, requiring the medical amputation of limbs where the drug was routinely injected. Mr Hammer warned that although no cases of krokodil use have been registered in the Czech Republic, the eventual arrival of the drug, made from painkillers and other ingredients, could not be ruled out. Neighboring Germany, is believed to have registered a number of krokodil-related deaths.
But some experts have questioned the authenticity of reports: health specialist Jiří Presl from Prague’s Drop-In centre for addicts, for example, discounted the story, saying there were similar reports of new such drugs every three or four years, one of them called modrý sníh or blue snow. Krokodil is believed to have originated in Russia.
A number of customers camped out at parking lots at Prague’s IKEA chain furniture stores in order to be among the first 500 to receive coupons on November 17th worth 2,000 crowns. The first lines reportedly began to form at around 10 pm on Wednesday, shortly after closing, with customers ready to weather cold conditions with blankets, mattresses and sleeping bags. The promise of advantageous coupons attracted thousands of visitors in the morning, wrote Mladá fronta Dnes. Police even monitored the store events in case visitors got out of hand but there were no incidents, a policewoman confirmed.
The last of 38 mummies has been returned to a famous crypt in the town of Klatovy, more than half-a-year since renovation of the premises, located beneath a former Jesuit church, began. The well-preserved remains are a major historical attraction and the site is due to reopen in several days. The bodies of individuals from the 17th century were preserved through natural ventilation in the catacombs; they can now be viewed in glass caskets. In all, the famous site was closed to locals and visitors for a year-and-a-half.
Czech football goalie Petr Čech has indicated in an interview for the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes that playing with a broken nose in the recent Euro 2012 playoff against Montenegro was painful and that he had felt it, adding he was grateful to have been able to play. He also stressed that the less said about his injury the better. The star goalie played both matches with a carbon-fibre facemask, after breaking his nose in the Premier League.
Many, including the coach of Montenegro’s national football team, Branko Brnovič, cited Čech as one of the key reasons the squad succeeded in both games and qualified for next year’s tournament. Mr Brnovič admitted that Čech had prevented at least four chances by his side to score, and called Čech one of the three best goalkeepers in Europe.
The Czech Republic is in the fourth pot in the draw for the 2012 championship, alongside Denmark, France and the Republic of Ireland. The draw will take place on December 2.
Miroslav Pelta has been named the new head of the Czech Football Association, following a 3rd round decision by delegates in Nymburk, East Bohemia on Thursday. Mr Pelta is taking up the post several months after his predecessor Ivan Hašek stepped down. Pelta is the director of the Jablonec football club; he beat out candidates Jindřich Rajchl and Tomáš Paclík for the job.
The current spell of cold and wet weather will continue for days to come, with overcast skies, fog and daytime highs of around 5 degrees Celsius.