The 30-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution culminates this Sunday, November 17. Aside from official state tributes, a wide range of commemorative events, including concerts, processions and debates, will be taking place in cities across the Czech Republic during the whole weekend. Meanwhile, opponents of the government are planning a massive demonstration in Prague.
While Sunday, November 17, will see most of the action, at least 50,000 people are expected to attend a demonstration on Prague’s Letná plain on Saturday.
The event is organised by Million Moments for Democracy, whose last protest in June was attended by hundreds of thousands of people and attracted wide coverage in the foreign press.
Aside from demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Justice Minister Marie Benešová, the demonstrators will also call on the opposition to become united and the organisers promise to present a long-term vision for their movement. The group also plans country-wide demonstrations on Sunday.
When it comes to commemorating the Velvet Revolution, specific events will start already on Saturday evening.
Prague’s Lucerna will host the Sametová 30tka (Velvet 30) concert with the symbol of anti-communist resistance Marta Kubišová among those performing.
Meanwhile in the regions, Hradec Králové will be officially naming one of its squares after Václav Havel and the City Theater in Zlín’s new anniversary-themed political satire Jednou budem dál (One day we’ll move on) premieres at 7pm.
Saturday will also see the country’s head of state Miloš Zeman honouring the revolution - in Slovakia.
Together with his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová, he is expected to attend a commemorative ceremony by the memorial plaque at the Comenius University in Bratislava, where student anti-regime demonstrations took place on November 16, 1989.
As for November 17, his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček said that the president will be honouring the anniversary at home with “a silent memory”.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, whose commemorations of the day in previous years were accompanied by public expressions of anger due to the fact that he was listed as an agent in the Slovak communist secret police files, will be honouring the events by attending the opening of a new exhibition covering Czech and Slovak history, including the Velvet Revolution.
He will be accompanied at the event by the prime ministers of the other Visegrad Four states, as well as the President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble.
Aside from the National Museum, most of the major cultural institutions in Prague have prepared their own special programmes for the anniversary. The National Theatre, for example, will be hosting Post Bellum’s annual Memory of the Nation awards.
At 10am, Prague’s Národní třída, which bore witness to the brutal crackdown by police on students in 1989, will host the second edition of “Korzo Národní” in which visitors will see Národní street transformed into a cultural hub featuring live music, discussion panels, and lectures to the public, all part of the day- long Festival of Freedom.
Organisers of the festival have also prepared a Concert for the Future, which will kick-off on Wenceslas Square during the afternoon. Apart from featuring some of the country’s most popular musicians, the stage will also see speeches by individuals such as theologian Tomáš Halík, Slovak political activist Juraj Šeliga and Lex Paulson, the campaign strategist behind Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign in France.
Shortly after mid-day a satirical carnival procession, parodying the main themes of our age, will start its march from Prague’s Kampa through Národní třída towards Campus Hybernská.
This will not be the only mass of people marching through the Czech capital. A recreation of the route taken by demonstrators in 1989, organised by students of Charles University, will start at 2.30pm at Albertov.
Of course Prague is not the only city which will offer a wide ranging programme commemorating the country’s return to democracy. Worth noting is that the Brno City Municipality will be handing out some six thousand specially made sets of keys symbolising the revolution.
In Ostrava, a special commemorative event programme called SametOVÁ!!! already began on Friday on Masarykovo Square and will go on until Monday evening.
Whether staying in the capital or the smallest of villages, Czechs will also be able to hear the famous song Modlitba pro Martu, which is seen by many as the anthem of the revolution, at exactly 5.11pm (17.11) on most public and private radio channels across the country.