November 17th anniversary of small interest to Czechs

November 1989

November 17th is a state holiday in the Czech Republic - marking the brutal police crack-down on students which led to the fall of the communist regime in 1989. On the eve of the state holiday the CVVM agency conducted a poll to find out what people know about the anniversary, how they feel about it and whether they will mark it in any special way. The results were somewhat surprising.

November 1989
For some November 17th was a day they had waited all their lives for, and in some cases believed they would never live to see - the fall of the communist regime. Seventeen years ago the streets of Prague were filled with people, and around the country millions were glued to their TV sets watching events unfold which would radically change their lives.

Today a third of all Czechs, mainly young people between 15 and 29, do not know what happened on that day. Fifty eight percent of respondents polled said they knew about the anniversary but did not mark it in any way. Only 6 percent of Czechs said they would mark it in some way: light a candle on Wenceslas Square, lay flowers at Narodni Trida where the crack-down on students took place, or meet with friends to talk about the days when they attended the street protests in Prague.

Klara Prochazkova of the CVVM agency which conducted the poll says that what surprised her the most was that a full third of young Czechs have no idea what November 17th relates to.

"It is surprising that so many people do not know about it - as for celebrating it we don't really know if it is useful to celebrate it or not - but it is surprising that people do not know about this day."

Why do you think they do not know?

"I think it is about a lack of communication and dialogue. People don't talk about it much in general, but more to the point they don't talk about it with their children, tell them what it was like during the communist days and the Velvet Revolution."

Don't they learn about it at school?

Illustrative photo: archive of ČRo 7 - Radio Prague
"Well, they learn. But it's just a lesson. The Czech education system is only about memorizing -it is not about dialogue and the younger generations do not really know what life under communism entailed. Those who lived through it often do not want to speak about it with their children because many of them were in the Communist Party - they were "active" and so they prefer to put it behind them."

Seventeen years after the revolution most Czechs take things like the right to travel and freedom of speech for granted and with every passing year the anniversary becomes more and more distant. For the vast majority of Czechs it will be just another long weekend to be spent with family and friends. I asked Klara Prochazkova how she thought most Czechs would be spending the day.

"The weather will be really nice it seems so I think that people will go on outings but I think they will not celebrate it. Some of them will know about it and say "Oh, it's November 17th" but they will not celebrate it."