Got a hammer and sickle? Join the parade!


February 25th of 1948 - the day of the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia- is a day that those who lived through prefer to forget and the young generation usually has no idea what the date is linked to. But Czechs wouldn't be Czechs if they couldn't poke fun at everything - even the dark chapters of their history.

Every year on February 25th practical jokers in the town of Novy Jicin mark the anniversary with a mock parade, poking fun of communist times and communist symbols. Preparations for it have been underway for weeks and - as every year - the organizers are keeping their plans top secret. But it is clear that there will be plenty of Lenin and Stalin costumes and masks, models of nuclear weapons, hammers and sickles as well as uniforms of the communist era worn by the dreaded secret police, border guards and members of the communist youth movement. Real communist "parade" artefacts are not hard to obtain - they are still lying around in many Czech attics - little Soviet and Czechoslovak "friendship flags" to wave during parades, red banners reading "friendship with the Soviet Union forever" to which someone had added "and not a day longer!" and huge pictures of communist leaders. Many of those who join this parade of communist absurdity every year have taken part in the "real thing" over and over again for fear of reprisals should they refuse and they say that in a way it is huge relief to be able to make fun of it all now. As for the communist party - it claims that February 25th is a day like any other. Although they have scheduled two balls on Friday evening - one in Prague and one in Ostrava - the party spokeswoman has denied any connection to the ill-fated anniversary. Only a small group of hardline communists now turn up to mark the anniversary at the grave of the first communist president Klement Gottwald. Their number dwindles every year - this year only around seventy elderly people turned up, laid flowers, sung the International and quietly dispersed.