Browse Exhibits (4 total)
The Prague Spring itself was a period of relative freedom during 1968, when Alexander Dubcek allowed more freedom in writing and living within Czechoslovakia. It went on for months, from January to August 20th 1968, when Soviet tanks invaded.
The Soviets invaded in response to Dubcek's "socialism with a human face" policy, which made it appear as though they were losing power. In order to reestablish it, they went in with their tanks. Following the Prague Spring, people were much too scared too act. This event is why citizens did not take any action for 20 years.
The years following are commonly referred to "The Era of Forgetting." People remembered it strongly however when the self-immolations of Jan Palach and Jan Zajic made an impact after 20 years in 1989.
Charter 77 was created in 1976 as a response to the Plastic People's of the Universe trial by the government. Vaclav Havel and Jiri Nemec participated in the trial, and were inspired by the bravery of the students.
The Charter itself was created in response to the governmnet oppression following the Prague Spring of 1968, and spoke out against he government. This was the first public effort since 1968 where people stood up again to fight.
Regardless of the message the Charter members were trying to get out, the initial movement was still very small. There were less than 20 original signatories, and people were even discouraged from signing due to the threat of arrest. Many citizens did sympathize with the movement, but they didn't feel as though it was worth the risk at that time.
Havel and the other members continued to fight through the Charter until 1989 when it was transformed into the Civic Forum. Over the years, this group served as an inspiration to others who were also finding their voice.
These exhibits detail the revolution occuring specifically in November, from November 17th to November 27th.
This was the main portion of the revolutionary action, when people deemed the reward for action to be greater than the risk. Despite how visual this portion of the revolution was however, the action of the revolution began much earlier than this. These months in November were the culmination of the earlier action of the Charter 77 and the inherent fear of 1968.
The General Strike occuring on November 27th is one of the most documented revolutions. Vaclav Havel especially is shown in these images, along with the efforts of thousands of people who finally come together in unity in order to retake their government and change the country.
Many of these images show the efforts of people as they try to overcome their fear and take action. The General Strike in Wenceslas Square occured for a total of two hours, yet it symbolically brought down the communist system.
It's important to note however that the government did not fall right away, and the Civic Forum that organized the strike was not trying to destroy them completely. They mainly wanted to rework the government with the help of the communists.
Workers who participated also made up the hours taken up by the strike by working two hours longer later on, hoping to avoid an economic collapse like in Poland.
Some people after the strike were unsure of what they were doing next, but the feeling of unity and strength was the epitome of what the Velvet Revolution was all about.