Are Slovaks ready for another revolution 16 years after the fall of Communism?
Political freedom, freedom of expression, religion and movement were the ideals of the protesters who gathered at the SNP square in Bratislava on November 17th in protest at the Communist regime. Now, 16 years later, many Slovaks claim they expected more from the Velvet Revolution.
Sociologist Olga Gyarfasova is from the Institute for Public Affairs:
"November 1989 was connected with many expectations, with huge enthusiasm and it was clear already at the time that not all of these expectations can be met and fulfilled."
Public opinion polls suggest that a large number of people are not satisfied with their post revolution lives. Pavel Haulik is a pollster with the MVK agency:
"Surveys show that around 40 percent of Slovaks feel the changes of 1989 did not go in the right direction. And only 20 percent are satisfied with what the Velvet Revolution brought them."
So why are so many unhappy with what's happened since November 1989? Olga Gyarfasova believes democracy and its freedoms are now taken for granted. And there's a very practical reason for dissatisfaction; for many people democracy means less social welfare:
"Many people say that they are dissatisfied but I think this is a standard situation in democracies. People want more but are not motivated enough to be mobilized into action."
For the protesters who led the Velvet Revolution in 1989 the most important thing was to change the domination of the Communist Party. Maria Filkova was the only woman in a 15 member team known as The Public Against Violence Movement, which organized the revolution.
So what's the mood on the streets of Bratislava where 16 years ago people were so desperate for change that they risked their lives? Would they protest again today?
Man 1: "I don't really think that the situation is so bad to force me to go outside and revolt. I think there are many ways to express dissatisfaction. When I won't like the situation I will leave the country."
Man 2: "If I wouldn't be the only one unhappy with the social policy of this government I would go out and protest."
Woman: "I wouldn't protest against something but for something - for example, to do more reasonable things than those we do now."
Man 3: "This is not the time for another revolution."
The opinion polls suggest Slovaks are unhappy with how privatization was realized, also with corruption, cronyism and the way health care and education systems are changing. Could it come to another revolution?
Pavel Haulik (MVK agency): "Although there are many unsatisfied people today that are verbalizing their discontent quite strongly, the situation is not so dramatic. There is no revolution on the horizon, I am sure."
"I think it's a completely different situation. Now, we have a democracy, people can participate in legal actions and it's not about the real core of the regime."
One could be excused for thinking that having pulled off such a successful revolution, Slovaks and Czechs are in their hearts real revolutionaries. Pavol Haulik disagrees saying that 1989 was unique because it was part of a domino effect of political changes in Europe:
Olga Gyarfasova: "Slovaks are not in their nature mass revolutionaries. They prefer individual solutions. They like to groan about their bad situation but not act on this. People are ready to show their discontent rather in other ways, as for example in the parliamentary elections."
In recent weeks there have been a few concerts and demonstrations to protest against racism and neo-Nazi movements, which are becoming ever more visible in Slovakia. Although not comparable to 1989 the fact that different generations and five thousand people went out to the streets proves that Slovaks still have something of that revolutionary spirit.