MARTINA BEDNAR

Nowadays there is a growing difference between the history facts and the perception of what actually happened on the 17. November and actually more, why it happened.

The 17.11.1989 just not happened, it was the growing frustration with the central led economy, with the power of the central party, the imprisoning of the nation.

After the Second World War, the socialist movement gained even more on influence. Led by Russian model the eastern European Countries which were under influence of Russia, started to form a super state – the USSR. The central power of the Communist Party was established and slowly the expropriation begun. Parallel to that the national states were stripped of their national identity. Everything should be uniform, so basically, besides the language, and the historical monuments which already existed, you would probably not spot a difference between a Czech Socialist City and a one which was build in Bulgaria or China. The central dictatorship went even further and stripped people of their Religion, dictated their life paths, closed them into factories and dictated their leisure and family time. Only those, who obeyed and collaborated with the regime could study or had a slight chance to be promoted. Those who did not cooperate, where imprisoned or banned to work on the last socially valued jobs, or where they could not spread their influence (like coal or uranium mines).

At the end there was nothing much left. Uniformity, dictatorship, persecution, ruined economy. Though for many people who grow up in this, they did not feel about this in that way. I would like to describe it that way. Imagine a 3 year old child with cancer, cancer is painful, all your life is pain, you are closed in the hospital and can not go out, but you do now know any better. How should you? You have no experience. But everybody cares for you. You get what your basic needs are. So when you finally get out, you may want to come back, because of all the good things which happened in the hospital, you did not have to care. Some of this is true also for woman who are abused by their partner. Many are coming back to such households, because we forget the bad things, or because life outside this bubble is difficult.

On the other hand, people had social stability, which was though always reminded by the possibility of war just to keep the pressure up. The state provided for you. You got basic education a job, a place to live.

Therefore, many are longing to the ideals of socialism. It is easy to fall for a trap that everybody gets everything. Thou in a world with limited resources it is just a hypothetical idea.

For Slovakia and Czech republic, people realised the wrong direction in the 60’ and tried to steer to a more open society but then in 68’ so called Normalization happened, where Russians invaded Czechoslovakia and staid until 89’

In the 1987 the situation started to change again with the removal of Husak from the leadership, parallel to that Mikhail Gorbachev was introduced to the leadership of Russia and a reform in Russia started as well. Czechoslovakia was now sure how to address this and started some small changes as more freedom for churches. On 9. November the Berlin Wall in Eastern Germany felt. This sudden change lead to a protest on the international day of students on 16. November in Bratislava which then started the riots in Prague on 17.11.89’ know also as “Velvet Revolution”.

Velvet revolution was a peaceful protest of students which demanded political restructuralization, but it was forcefully suppressed by the regime and 9 were killed. This lead to series of strikes and protests across Czechoslovakia. The most famous one was on 27.11.1989 a 2 hour general country wide strike, where 75% of the nation participated.

On 29.11.1989 the Federal Assembly deleted the provision in the constitution referring to the “leading role” of the Communist Party, officially ending Communist rule in Czechoslovakia.
Opposition was again allowed to rule.

On 29.12.1989 Vaclav Havel was elected, and this was the definitive end of communists in Czechoslovakia and free elections in June 1990 took place.

I was 5 when all this happened, but I remember clearly what happened in the 90ies and how my parents and grandparents say and feel about this era. My grandparents where shepherds and as the golden standard for a worker had a good life, but as religious people they felt deeply out of synch with the central rules and still had the notion, how it was prior to the WW2 and had connections to USA with their relatives. This gave us still a glimpse that it is possible.

Current world wide restrictions due to covid pandemic may feel similar to the deep era of socialism, of fascism where everything was dictated from the top and human rights where stripped down or only privileged or only like minded could live them fully. But the opposite is true, because of the situation ‘45, ‘68, ‘89 we are able to express our opinions. Freedom, Democracy and responsibility for other are difficult, but the reward is the endless universe. We must not forget how many paid with their life only to be able to express their opinions.

Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution 1989
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The opinions on this blog are of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of ELfR.


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