Velvet revolution

The Velvet Revolution occurred in the fall of 1989 in Czechoslovakia. It was a non-violent transition of power. Consequently, it led to the resignation of the communist party and restoring democracy in the country.

The revolution started on November 17th, 1989. University students paid tribute to Jan Opletal, a student killed by Nazis on this day in 1939. In the evening hours, the students headed to Prague’s city center, calling for democracy. As a result of this unplanned action, the students were surrounded on Národní (National) street by a communist police cordon. Following the brutal intervention against the students, mass demonstrations occurred in the following days.

On November 19th, the opposition led by Václav Havel formed the movement Občanské forum (Civil Forum). Additionally, actors, students, and others planned a general strike. Two days later, 200 thousand people demonstrated against the communist regime. The largest demonstration occurred on November 25th, 1989. In fact, over half a million people participated.

The Velvet Revolution
Man Waving Czech Flag Above Crowd (Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

By December 4th, 1989, the communist leaders opened borders to the west. A week later, the president of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Gustav Husák, resigned. Furthermore, Václav Havel was elected president on December 29th. This day marks the end of the revolution. Political oppression of the leading party broke down. Additionally, the country became a parliamentary republic.

Following the Velvet revolution

Following the Velvet Revolution, the first democratic elections in the country since 1946 took place in June 1990. Občanské forum won the vote. However, the movement dissolved a year later. President Václav Havel advocated for the withdrawal of the Soviet army from the state. Moreover, Czechoslovakia transformed from a centralized state-run economy to capitalism. 

Did you know?

  • In 1993 Czechoslovakia broke into two countries – the Czech Republic and the Slovakian Republic.
  • The symbol of the Velvet Revolution was jingling keys to wave the Communist’ goodbye.