The date is November 17, 1989, eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A cordon of Czechoslovak riot police blocks the path of thousands of university students staging a march through Prague, calling for democracy – and freedom. As police truncheons begin to rain down on their heads, they chant “We have bare hands” – we are unarmed. Hundreds are bruised and bloodied; one student reportedly dead. The Velvet Revolution, as it came to be known, had begun.
Thirty years ago the communist regime in Czechoslovakia started to fall apart. The main demonstrations and events were taking place in Prague. But the key question was whether the regions would join in and support the not so numerous college students and actors in the capital who were calling for a protest strike. Vít Pohanka witnessed how the Velvet Revolution started in the Moravian city of Olomouc:
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. In the fifth and last episode of our mini-series, we’ll take you to Prague Castle where Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist president, Václav Havel, was sworn in, starting a new era in the country’s history.
In the first episode of this two-part series we got to know Barbara Day, who first came from England to Prague in 1965 and whose life has been closely connected to this country ever since. She talked about her interest in Czechoslovak theatre, and her involvement with some notable Czech theatres over the last five decades. Azadeh Kangarani continues the story.
The undignified use of pieces of ancient Jewish tombstones as cobblestones in Prague’s pavements should soon come to an end. Under a memorandum to be signed between City Hall and the Jewish Community in Prague, any such stones discovered during repairs or other excavation work will be handed over to the latter.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution approaches, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. In the fourth episode of our mini-series, we visit the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly building, where some key political changes took place 30 years ago.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution draws near, we take you to places that are closely associated with the events that led to the collapse of the Communist regime 30 years ago. In the third episode of our mini-series, we visit Wenceslas Square and Letná plain, the scene of spontaneous demonstrations, which followed the brutal police crackdown on an unarmed student demonstration on November 17, 1989.
In a remarkable work of oral history, four students with the help of former dissident and award winning author Aleš Palán have produced a 270 page history of the events that took place in Prague on November 17, 1989. One of them is Alžběta Ambrožová, a 26 year old graduate of English and American Studies. She says that around 300 testimonies were collected through a mix of interviews and online questionnaires. I began by asking her about how people felt going into that watershed event in Czech history.
As the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution draws near, we take you to places that played a significant role in the events leading to the collapse of the Communist regime 30 years ago. In the second episode of our mini-series, we visit the former Laterna Magika theatre in central Prague, which served as the headquarters of the Civic Forum.