Prague witnesses first major military parade in 23 years
Prague witnessed its first major military parade since 1985 on Tuesday, to mark the 90th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Czechoslovakia weathered many storms before finally splitting into two countries in 1993, but the anniversary is still celebrated here in the Czech Republic, although not in Slovakia. The idea to hold a large-scale military parade attracted criticism in some quarters, but seems to have been positively received by the public.
The parade showcased all the major elements of the Czech armed forces, from mobile anti-aircraft units tanks to special forces in desert camouflage. Only the heavy cloud spoilt the flypast by a team of Gripen fighters, the pride of the Czech air force. They were heard, but not seen by the crowds.
“The older generation will certainly remember the annual military parades on Letná Plain, which were an expression of the military ambitions of our communist regime and a show of strength, both to enemies abroad and opponents at home. We do not adhere to this tradition. We’re not a country of formal ceremonies and ostentatious displays. This is not a manifestation of military might.”
Onlookers told Radio Prague they thought the parade was a good idea, primarily because it showed how tax-payers’ money was used for the armed forces, but also because it demonstrated that the Czech army was trained and equipped to a high standard.
But it was only those well-equipped, well-trained units who paraded down Evropská street on Tuesday, and some critics have claimed that the reality of the Czech Army is rather different. They say the 15 million crowns spent on the parade could have been put to better use.