Czechs mark 34th anniversary of Velvet Revolution

Národní Street, November 17, 2023

Friday, November 17, marks the 34th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that triggered the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989. Public gatherings, concerts, and cultural events have been taking place around the country in memory of the brutal crack-down on a student demonstration on Prague’s Národní Street. 

The event sparked massive public protests against the communist regime and led to the return of democracy in the country after nearly five decades of communist rule.

November 17 also marks the 84th anniversary of brutal Nazi repressions on academic ground in 1939, after students organised a march to commemorate the death of Jan Opletal, a young man killed by the Nazi occupiers.

Petr Pavel | Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

Politicians and members of the public have been coming to the November 17, 1989 memorial on Národní Street in the centre of Prague since the early morning hours to lay flowers and light candles.

President Petr Pavel, as well as the speakers and Chamber of Deputies, paid their respects on the site. Prime Minister Prime Minister Petr Fiala has not attended this year’s commemorations due to an illness.

Dozens of people, including university representatives, commemorated the student protests of November 1939 and 1989 at Prague's Albertov, where a peaceful march began 34 years ago on November 17, 1989, marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Jan Opletal.

November 17,  2023 in the streets of Prague | Photo: Igor Budykin,  Radio Prague International

Dozens of students took part in protest marches through Prague and Brno, which were the culmination of a three-day climate strike organised by Universities for Climate movement.

A wide range of outdoor events have been taking place in the centre of Prague, including concert, debates, public readings and theatre performances organized by the Festival of Freedom initiative.

Photo: X of Jan Lipavský

An all-day student happening, including street exhibitions, lighting installations and debates, is traditionally organized by the Thanks That We Can association on the Národní Street, while the annual Concert for the Future takes place on Wenceslas Square.

Events commemorating the Velvet Revolution anniversary have also been taking place in dozens of other cities, including Brno, Ostrava and Olomouc.

Photo: X of Jan Lipavský

On the occasion of the Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský awarded 15 people and two organisations for their contributions to diplomacy at a ceremony at the Czernin Palace.

On Friday night, the non-profit organisation Post Bellum will hand out its annual Memory of the Nation Awards.

Photo: X of Jan Lipavský