Sites of the Velvet Revolution

Things to Do, Travel Tips — By Jacy Meyer on November 17, 2010 at 4:42 am

Today is Freedom & Democracy Day, a public holiday in the Czech Republic. On November 17, 1989, the Velvet Revolution began, which eventually led to the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia. For the past two days, we reviewed a timeline of this historic event. Today, we introduce you to the important places of the Velvet Revolution. While on your travels through the Nové Město parts of Prague 1, be sure to watch the street signs and your maps for these buildings. Most aren’t well-known or particularly of interest when strolling by; but they were keeping a watchful eye over the historical occurrences of that fateful time.

Corner of Národní třída and Mikulandská: This is the place where the students met up with the riot police during their peaceful march on November 17th. More than 165 students were injured with nightsticks wielded by the officers. There is a bronze sculpture commemorating the action under the arches of the restaurant on the corner. This event came to be known as the “Masakr.”

Ve Smečkách 26, Činoherní Klub Theatre: Now popularly known as the “strip club street” this theatre is where Václav Havel and other dissidents formed the Civic Forum, a group of individuals who protested the current government and acted as a spokesgroup for other “like-minded citizens.” After the Masakr, theatres across Prague cancelled their performances and held public discussions instead. It was at one of these discussions, on November 19, that Civic Forum was founded.

Václavské náměstí: One of the most recognizable Velvet Revolution sites, mass demonstrations were held practically constantly here from November 18 onwards. For the people of Prague, the Wenceslas Monument is a typical meeting point. During the protests, the monument was adorned with posters, flags and political slogans. Here also is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. In November 1989, however there was no memorial here, but the spot has historical significance. In 1969 a student set himself on fire here in protest of the ongoing Soviet occupation. One month later, another student did the same. During the events of 1989, students set up a shrine to communist regime victims, and today you can see the permanent memorial.

Václavské náměstí 36: What is now a Marks and Spencer was originally the home of the Melantrich Publishing House and the Socialist Party newspaper. It was from the balconies here that Václav Havel and other dissidents addressed the crowds gathered on the Square below.

Adria Palác, Jungmannovo náměstí: Civic Forum headquarters in the two weeks it took for the Communist government to fall.

Letna Plain: Site of a massive demonstration that signalled the beginning of the end on November 25 & 26. Nearly 750,000 people gathered for the demonstrations held here.

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia

Tags: history, Prague