The years 1988 and 1989 brought a new wave of
demonstrations. Although everyone felt that something would happen (another 20 years
passed, right?), the situation looked pretty bad. The gerontocracy of Czechoslovak
communists had not caught at all the reform breeze from Gorbachevs USSR and still
ruled with a wrinkled, but still firm hand. The nation was apathetic, not believing in any
possible change. The few dissidents were either arrested or had almost no impact on the
Therefore, the students were a potential force that could
bring the change in. It was quite surprising to find out long after the revolution that
the communists were not too afraid of us and that the dissidents did not believe us too
much. Anyway, the students were the most frequent participators in demonstrations and
these who felt the most intense need for truth. Just none in our age believed in
communism. Yes, many of us -- including me -- were organized in the communist youth
organization and did almost everything what we were required to do by the regime. But
there was none whod like it, including even those opportunists who made a career in
the communist youth organizations and were collecting functions and benefits.
The November 17 was always celebrated as the
"International Student Day" in Czechoslovakia, commemorating the Palachs
shooting in 1939 and subsequent terror on students. But in 1989, something weird happened.
Various independent student groups planned an anti-regime demonstration, and the Communist
Youth Organization had scheduled a commemorating meeting, too! The fact that the
demonstration was therefore almost legal, attracted a lot of students. So it happened that
the people who planned to participate in the anti-regime demonstration came in fact to an
The main organizators of the demonstration was a relatively unknown student group
STUHA. The "more known" dissidents did not even have too much an interest in
this event, partially because it was partially co-organized with the official places. That
was why almost none of the dissident tops came to the demonstration.
The official part ended and the crowd did not dissolve,
but the opposite became the reality: even more people joined the demonstration. It
eventually ended up in a wide and long avenue (Narodni Trida [Avenue of the Nation])
sieged by the police not allowing anyone to leave. In the night, the heavily armed riot
police attacked the students in the blocked area with an unprecedented brutality,
intentionally using previously unseen force and methods (dogs, armed cars, elite riot
troops). They did not exclude anyone and especially brutal were to girls. The horror that
was at Narodni trida is simply not possible to describe in words. Hundreds of people were
seriously injured and suffered from the terror. Some of my friends are even today marked
physically after the police brutality or they are mentally impaired after they went
through the horrible experience.
This event, which started to be called the Massacre soon,
ended the nations apathy. There were even rumors that a person was killed by the
police. What a bitter analogy it was for all of us -- we realized that like the gestapo
brutally massacred us just 50 years ago, the communist forces were all the same that days.
Well, and the rest is history. The students together with
actors started an unlimited strike, which was almost immediately joined by formerly
waiting dissidents. They were met by most of the Czechoslovak citizens in a general strike
a week later. The communists tried to create a new, quasi-centrist central party commitee
after another week of rebellions, but almost 1-million people demonstration said
"No" to this policy just a day after. Loosing support from Moscow and suffering
from internal fights among the secret police, reform communists and the hard-liners, the
regime fell down as if it was made out of sand. At the end of December 1989, the first
democratic government was formed and a former dissident Vaclav Havel was elected a
The relative ease and peacefullness of the revolution
started to confuse a lot of people soon after the victory. The revolution was already
called "Velvet Revolution" by the Western journalists, but a lot of Czechs and
Slovaks did not know whether to like or hate this name. Many people felt that the
hard-liners deserve the same fate that they prepared for so many members of our families,
instead of quiet and "velvet" retirement days.
Other people werent sure whether they hadnt
participated in a high political game instead of a spontaneous popular uprising. Some
notices indicated they might be right.
For example, the rumor about the dead student was most
probably spread by the secret police themselves. One of its agents even played a
"dead man" on the site of the demonstration, lying without any signs of life on
the ground! The demonstration of the 11/17 was full of another police agents who
infiltered the student movement, as well those who played demonstrators and were
provocators allowing the police use a power on the demonstrators. Some of there were
actually among the leaders who brought us intentionally to the terror place on the Narodni
trida, where their armed colleagues were already waiting for us ready to give us a lesson
that we won't forget until our deaths.
It was also obvious that ANY police action on 11/17
against the students, especially on the 50th anniversary of the 1939 events, will upset
everyone and its hard to believe that the police top officers wouldnt know it.
Its also difficult to understand why the communists hadnt used more power or
hadnt called up for the army when the situation started looking bad for them later.
Finally, there are some signs that the reform communists or possibly certain groups in the
secret police wanted to put the hard-liners out of the running with the "help"
of small street riots they planned to start with the Friday Massacre.
There are some signs that even various wings in the secret
police had various intentions and informations concerning the demonstration. Even though
it was called on just a medium-size state of readiness among the police forces on
11/17/89, another forces were preparing for the most brutal action ever.
Whatever is the truth, it still remains undiscovered. But
we may be sure that the nation indeed shook the regime off with its own power, regardless
all the political games. None can deny that the atmosphere of unity and love among the
citizens of Czechoslovakia that we perceived during these revolutionary days will never
come again, as it was unimaginable to come before; that the excitment of being suddenly
free cannot be surpassed by almost anything; that the feeling of holding ones own
fate in ones own hands is a reward of the highest possible rewards...