Velvet Revolution

Velvet Revolution
Part of the Revolutions of 1989
Praha 1989-11-25, Letná, dav (01).jpg
Demonstration of 25 November 1989 in Prague.
Date17 November 1989–29 December 1989
(1 month, 1 week and 5 days)
LocationCzechoslovakia
ParticipantsCzechs and Slovaks
Outcome
Part of a series on the
Czechoslovakia
Coat of arms of Czechoslovakia
Origins 1918
First Republic 1918–1938
Second Republic / Occupation 1938–1945
Third Republic 1945–1948
Velvet Revolution 1989
Post-revolution 1989–1992
Dissolution 1993
Václav Havel honouring the deaths of those who took part in the Prague protest.
Non-violent protesters face armed policemen, holding grenades and automatic weapons

The Velvet Revolution (Czech: sametová revoluce) or Gentle Revolution (Slovak: nežná revolúcia) was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurring from 17 November to 29 December 1989. Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia combined students and older dissidents. The result was the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent dismantling of the planned economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic.[1]

On 17 November 1989 (International Students' Day), riot police suppressed a student demonstration in Prague.[2] It marked the 50th Anniversary of a violently suppressed demonstration against Nazi occupation. The 17 Nov. 1989 event sparked a series of demonstrations from 19 November to late December. By 20 November, the number of protesters assembled in Prague grew from 200,000 the previous day to an estimated 500,000. A two-hour general strike involving all citizens of Czechoslovakia was held on 27 November. On 24 November, the entire top leadership of the Communist Party, including General Secretary Miloš Jakeš, resigned.

In response to the collapse of other Warsaw Pact governments and the increasing street protests, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announced on 28 November that it would relinquish power and dismantle the one-party state. Two days later, the legislature formally deleted the sections of the Constitution giving the Communists a monopoly of power. Barbed wire and other obstructions were removed from the border with West Germany and Austria in early December. On 10 December, President Gustáv Husák appointed the first largely non-communist government in Czechoslovakia since 1948, and resigned. Alexander Dubček was elected speaker of the federal parliament on 28 December and Václav Havel the President of Czechoslovakia on 29 December 1989.

In June 1990, Czechoslovakia held its first democratic elections[3] since 1946.

Prior to the revolution

The Communist Party seized power on 25 February 1948. No official opposition parties operated thereafter. Dissidents (notably Charter 66[citation needed], Charter 77 and Civic Forum) created Music Clubs (on a limited basis as only allowed NGO's) and published home-made periodicals (samizdat). Charter 66 was quashed by the government until US President Jimmy Carter's call for Human Rights[citation needed] re-energised the dissidents and they created Charter 77. However, it too was quashed. Later, with the advent of the Civic Forum, independence could truly be seen on the horizon. Until Independence Day on 17 November 1989, the populace faced persecution by the authorities from the secret police. Thus, the general public did not openly support the dissidents for fear of dismissal from work or school. Writers or filmmakers could have their books or films banned for a "negative attitude towards the socialist regime". This blacklisting included children of former entrepreneurs or non-Communist politicians, having family members living in the West, having supported Alexander Dubček during the Prague Spring, opposing Soviet military occupation, promoting religion, boycotting (rigged) parliamentary elections or signing Charter 77 or associating with those who did. These rules were easy to enforce, as all schools, media and businesses belonged to the state. They were under direct supervision and often were used as accusatory weapons against rivals.

The nature of blacklisting changed gradually after the introduction of Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring) in 1985. The Czechoslovak Communist leadership verbally supported Perestroika, but made few changes. Speaking about the Prague Spring of 1968 was taboo. The first anti-government demonstrations occurred in 1988 (the Candle Demonstration, for example) and 1989, but these were dispersed and participants were repressed by the police.

By the late 1980s, discontent with living standards and economic inadequacy gave way to popular support for economic reform. Citizens began to challenge the system more openly. By 1989, citizens who had been complacent were willing to openly express their discontent with the regime. Numerous important figures as well as ordinary workers signed petitions in support of Václav Havel during his imprisonment in 1989. Reform-minded attitudes were also reflected by the many individuals who signed a petition that circulated in the summer of 1989 calling for the end of censorship and the beginning of fundamental political reform.[4]

The immediate impetus for the revolution came from developments in neighbouring countries and in the Czechoslovak capital. From August, East German citizens had occupied the West German Embassy in Prague and demanded exile to West Germany. In the days following 3 November, thousands of East Germans left Prague by train to West Germany. On 9 November, the Berlin Wall fell, removing the need for the detour.

By 16 November, many of Czechoslovakia's neighbours were beginning to shed authoritarian rule. The citizens of Czechoslovakia watched these events on TV through both foreign and domestic channels. The Soviet Union also supported a change in the ruling elite of Czechoslovakia, although it did not anticipate the overthrow of the Communist regime.

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Samtene Revolution
azərbaycanca: Məxməri inqilab
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Аксамітная рэвалюцыя
български: Нежна революция
한국어: 벨벳 혁명
Bahasa Indonesia: Revolusi Beludru
íslenska: Flauelsbyltingin
Lëtzebuergesch: Samette Revolutioun
Simple English: Velvet Revolution
slovenčina: Nežná revolúcia
slovenščina: Žametna revolucija
српски / srpski: Plišana revolucija
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Baršunasta revolucija
Türkçe: Kadife Devrim
Tiếng Việt: Cách mạng Nhung