November 17 marks a national holiday in the Czech Republic, International Students Day. Join the celebration to see theater and musical performances, sing hymns, and parade through the city of Brno with historical commentary and festivities.
The event called in Czech Brněnský sedmnáctý will begin Friday afternoon at 15:30 at Svoboda Square where the JAMU satirical theater and bands will perform and witnesses will remember historical events and their legacy. Afterwards, you can join the procession organized by students of Masaryk University throughout the city to remember the events and figures of 1939 and 1989.
The event is hosted on behalf of students of Brno to remember the important events of 1939 and 1989 that led to the independence and collapse of Communist rule in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has fought many years to get to where it is today. Since it was declared an independent state in 1918, the Czech Republic began a long battle punctuated by the Communist rule and the Velvet Revolution.
When Communist took power in 1948, the Czech Republic faced hard times under the Iron Curtain. During this time, there was no freedom of speech and the government controlled media, businesses, and schools. After over 40 years of this, liberal-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985. This brought increased freedoms which spurred hope for those under the Communist government.
The fall of the Berlin Wall combined with the strikes in Czechoslovakia and Prague led to what is known today as the Velvet Revolution. A nonviolent movement that saw the overthrow of the Communist Regime and brought back democracy after 50 years of suppressed freedoms.
What is so important about the specific years of 1939 and 1989? Two remarkable events took place 50 years apart.
In 1939 there was a student demonstration against the Nazi occupation. After this demonstration, on November 17 the Nazis closed all Czech universities and colleges, sent over 1200 Czech students to concentration camps, and executed 9 of them. In memory of this, November 17 is marked as International Students Day.
50 years later in 1989 students organized a demonstration to commemorate International Students Day, but the demonstration turned into one against the Communist government. November 1989 marked the beginning of the Velvet Revolution.
Together these two events created a significant movement in the fight for freedom and democracy for the Czech people.