Foreign ministry highlights more than 100 global events to mark Velvet Revolution anniversary

November 1989, photo: Czech Television

As the 25th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution approaches, the Czech foreign ministry is putting its full weight behind a series of events taking place across the world to celebrate the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

November 1989, photo: Czech Television
On Monday, Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek gave a press conference highlighting the more than 100 events taking place at Czech embassies, Czech Centres and other locations to mark the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The foreign minister made an indirect reference to present-day violent struggles occurring in places such as Syria – a reason, he believes that makes the Czechoslovak example so worthy of attention:

“The reason I believe it is so important to remind ourselves of what happened 25 years ago is that it was, in essence, a peaceful change of regime. This gained us a relatively great level of respect from the outside world, and created a very strong entry point for the country’s subsequent foreign policy. Today, when you look at the world beyond, you can see that peaceful changes of regime are something very rare indeed...Because in a world of far more difficult, violent and often bloody revolutions, our example is worth highlighting.”

Among the events taking place to mark this auspicious anniversary are documentary film screenings in Czech Centres in London, Sofia and Bucharest. In Munich and Milan, public debates are planned to commemorate the events of 1989. In Budapest, an art exhibition by artist Kateřina Šedá is planned offering a reflection on the theme of past history. In the Czech Centre in New York, the late president Václav Havel will be remembered both through music and art. Havel is also set to have a bust of his likeness unveiled in Washington D.C. with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in attendance at an event in Capitol Hill. Indeed, the Czech embassy in the US has even set up a special website for the anniversary – 25yearsofdemocracy.org.

Václav Havel, photo: archive of Czech Radio
Speaking to the press, Lubomír Zaorálek, whose foreign ministry operates the Czech Centres, recalled his own memories of November 1989:

“I was still relatively young and inexperienced back then. But I recall how enthralled I was by the respect being afforded to the leading figures of the revolution such as Václav Havel and Jiří Dientsbier, and also the way that the country made use of the prestige it had gained in the early days following the regime change. Doors were open to us everywhere, and people around the world were very willing to listen to us...This has remained with me and is something I hope I will experience again.”

Vilma Anýžová, General Director of Czech Centres spoke to Radio Prague, and detailed how the celebrations will kick-off with events in the US, including a concert by the Czech Philharmonic featuring works from the composers Smetana and Dvořák:

“This huge event will start in New York, and this will be a kind of celebration ceremony. A manuscript of the New World Symphony will be going to the United States. This will be the first time this manuscript will ever be going abroad. And we are very proud that it is going to the US as this is the [thematic] origin of the piece.”

Lubomír Zaorálek, Vilma Anýžová, photo: Miroslav Krupička
Vilma Anýžová also noted a concert taking place in Wrocław, Poland from 10-18 November to mark a similar event held 25 years ago by the Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity movement in defiance of attempts by communist police to prevent Czechs travelling across the border.

“This is an event through which we want to thank our Polish partners because it was Poland in 1989 which helped to organise this concert. And this commemoration taking place at the start of this November is a way of saying thanks.”

More information about all these events can be found at the website Czechcentres.cz