Velvet Revolution

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The Velvet Revolution took place in the fall of 1989 in Czechoslovakia. It was a non-violent transition of power. Consequently, it led to the fall of the communist regime.

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

On November 19th, the opposition led by Václav Havel formed the movement Civil Forum (Občanské forum). Furthermore, actors, students, and others planned a general strike. Two days later, two hundred thousand people demonstrated against the communist regime. Further, the largest demonstration took place 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)

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

Following the Velvet revolution

Following the Velvet Revolution, elections took place in June 1990. They were the first democratic elections in the country since 1946. Civil 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. Worldwide, people see him as one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. Moreover, Czechoslovakia transformed from a socialist centralized state-run economy to capitalism. November 17th became a major state holiday.

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. It was symbol to wave away the Communists.