What was the Velvet Revolution and why is it called “velvet”?
Together with the splitting of Czechoslovakia the Velvet Revolution (Sametová revoluce in Czech) was one of the two most important events in the recent history of Czech Republic. This revolution put an end to the 40-year-long era of communism (correctly socialism although the Czech refer to it as communism because the party in power was the Communist party). The name “Velvet” is due to the fact that the transition happened non-violently, at least on the part of the people who were demonstrating. The same cannot be said about the riot police who suppressed the student demonstration.
The demonstrations started on November 17, 1989, the first one sparked a series of demonstrations all over the country leading to the resignation of the top leadership of the Communist Party on December 24. The first non-communist government was appointed on December 10, 1989 and the first democratic elections were held in June 1990.
Opinions differ on whether the transition was successful or not as the Communist party remains one of the Czech Parlament parties. Moreover, a part of its base “dissolved” into other parties who have adopted some of the principles of the communist party.
Of course, this is a short resumé of the events, if you want to go more into detail, you can start here.
Today, we commemorate the events of November 17 by celebrating the Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy (Den boje za svobodu a demokracii) that is a public holiday. Groups from the whole political spectrum organize marches, politics are usually seen placing flowers. Unlike some other public holidays, large shops are not obligated to close on this day.