Pictures of the week: 31st Anniversary of Velvet Revolution, 20. November 2020

On 17th of November Czechs and Slovaks partook in events to celebrate the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. It is a national holiday in both republics that marks the beginning of the events in 1989.

The Velvet Revolution was a large-scale, non-violent revolution that led to the collapse of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic at the end of 1989. It lasted from November 17 – December 29, 1989, when Václav Havel was elected President and the country began to democratize.

On November 17 in 1989, the riot police suppressed a peaceful and non-violent student demonstration in Prague. The demonstration was originally focused on International Students’ Day and commemorating Jan Opletal, a student who was shot by Nazi forces, but quickly transformed into a protest against communism. 

When the students attempted to convene peacefully at Wenceslas Square in the center of Prague, they were violently accosted by police and blocked from escaping. This event caused an uproar amongst the Czechoslovak population and led thousands of people to partake in general strikes and further political protests. Those involved in the Velvet Revolution pushed for the resignation of the communist government after forty-one years of repressive rule. 

The dissolution of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic set the country on the path towards democracy and signified the end of Soviet-backed, totalitarian policies. 

17th of November is Celebrated as Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day in Czech Republic and Slovakia. This year Czechs and Slovaks partook in events to celebrate the anniversary both virtually and in person.

People light candles at the Velvet Revolution memorial in Prague, Czech Republic to pay tribute to those who partook in the 1989 Velvet Revolution, 31 years ago. Photo: Reuters.

Due to the current global Coronavirus situation, the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution looked a bit different this year.  While November 17th is usually a day that allows thousands of people to come together to celebrate the collapse of Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, this year’s celebrations took a different shape, as events were primarily streamed online.

A man dresses up as the Coronavirus in protest against lockdown measures while attending commemoration events for the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo: Reuters.


Meanwhile, floral creations of the number 89 appeared in several places across Slovakia as an initiative of the non-governmental organisation "Not in Our City" to remind people of the power of peaceful protests and democracy. Source: Slovak Spectator.


President of the Slovak Republic Zuzana Čaputová laid wreaths at the memorial near the Gate of Freedom in Devín to pay tribute to the victims of the communist regime. Source: Slovak Spectator. 


How the Velvet Revolution Happened (timeline)