The Velvet Revolution: A Summary
Today, most people visit Prague in the Czech Republic for its beauty and architecture, and it is a shame that the people who take vacation to these cities don't see also in the streets the remnants of a fascinating and very important history. The Velvet Revolution occurred at around the same time as the others occurring Eastern Europe, 1989.
It began in late autumn, November 17, 1989. Revolution had been building since the '60's, but it was about to finally manifest itself. 15,000 students were given permission by the government to hold a ceremony to commemorate the death of a student, Jan Opletal, killed fifty years before by Nazis. The were allowed to gather on the grounds that they dispersed quietly afterwards. The students broke this condition when the students instead began to move toward Wenceslas Square. The police surrounded them and commanded that they go home. This was impossible, however, because the police blocked all exits. The mob grew. With nowhere to turn, the protesters sat on the ground and began to chant, sing, and hand white carnations to the police. They carried candles and flags. Someone began the trend of ringing key rings to show feeling. Hiwever, despite the peacefulness of the protest, the riot police were called, and students were halted completely.
The next weekend's demonstration featured 750,000 people and many speakers, all announcing that the purpose of the demonstration was for free elections, more freedom of speech, rights, and more. The next day, even more people returned. A million protesters are estimated to have attended the second rally. Many government officials could look out the windows and see most of the city's population, gathered in dissidence towards them. The communist government almost totally resigned that day. Within a few months, free elections had changed Czechoslovakia completely.
Mr. Peter Rafaeli
Mr.Peter Rafaeli is the former president of the American Friends of the Czech Republic. He has since become the Consul General in the Czech Consulate in Philadelphia, a volunteer position which he has held for almost two decades now. Mr. Rafaeli has translates and helped publish several books. He was born in Czechoslovakia and left the country through Israel at the end of World War II in an attempt to flee communism. His perspective is one of a Czechoslovak person watching his country's revolution from the outside, from America. This is what makes his view on the matter so pertinent. The interviews on this site are his.