Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Velvet Revolution: Czechs Celebrate the Fall of Communism 20 Years Ago

I almost forgot to mention that today is the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that overthrew the Communism in Czechoslovakia.

Tuesday was no normal day for the several thousand Czechs gathered to relive the hours that led to their nation's democratic triumph.

Nov. 17, 1989, began with fiery speeches at a university campus in Prague, inspiring thousands of students to march downtown toward Wenceslas Square. As darkness fell, police cracked down hard, beating demonstrators with truncheons and injuring hundreds in the melee.

Unbowed, the crowds mushroomed in the ensuing days, with demonstrators chanting: "You have lost already!"

They were right. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and communism in the region, by Dec. 10, Czechoslovakia had a new government. On Dec. 29, Vaclav Havel, a dissident playwright who had spent several years in prison, was elected the country's first democratic president in a half century by a parliament still dominated by communist hard-liners.

For many retracing the march, it was a joyful return to a time when repression proved no match for people power, which in a string of protests brought down the Iron Curtain across East Europe.

May the march of liberty continue to advance around the world.

Below is a picture of me in Prague in 2005 -- standing outside of Vaclav Havel's former prison cell, now turned into a youth hostel. Unfortunately, his room was booked, so I had to stay a couple cells rooms down.

Despite many serious problems that exist in the world today, remembering changes like this make it difficult for me to not maintain a strong degree of optimism about the overall progression of freedom in the world today.


1 comment:

thinking said...

Look at that beard! It's Grizzly Bri!