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Czech and Slovak velvet look back

Czech and Slovak velvet look back
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The non-violent power transition 25 years ago in Czechoslovakia was dubbed ‘the Gentle Revolution’ and ‘the Velvet Revolution.’

The Communist government’s days were numbered when thousands of university students gathered peacefully in Bratislava on November 16th and on the 17th in Prague to commemorate International Students’ Day.

It ended with brutality, when riot police in Prague blocked off exits and beat students in the demonstration.

That would bring more civic opposition. On November 19, the movement Civic Forum was formed, joined by dissidents, Church representatives, well-known cultural figures and more students. The playwright Vaclav Havel became its informal leader.

Amid rumours that people had been killed — false, fortunately — actors went on strike and theatres opened for public discussions.

As the anti-violence restructuring demands built up national pressure, on November 24th, the entire Communist Party Presidium resigned.

One of Eastern Europe’s most repressive regimes had been overthrown.

On December 29th, opposition leader Havel was elected president.

The fall of communism ushered in growing nationalist tensions in the government, however, so that in 1992 Czechoslovakia as a single entity was peacefully dissolved by parliament. On 1st January, 1993 it formally separated into two independent countries: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Twenty-five years on, given social uncertainty and the quality of their democracy, views on the post-Communist developments are mixed. According to Czech research institute CVVM and Slovakia’s IVO, only 61 percent of Czechs and 51 percent of Slovaks view that Velvet Revolution autumn in a positive light.