On the 10th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution
PRAGUE - Ten years ago today the Czechoslovak Communist power brutally intervened against a peaceful demonstration of students who had decided to pay tribute to the memory Jan Opletal, a student who was one of the first victims of Nazism. That intervention became the proverbial snowball that set off an avalanche. Shortly thereafter our squares filled with hundreds of thousands of people who made it clear that they had had enough of life without freedom. The regime that possessed every fathomable tool of power and controlled both the media and the entire economy began to crumble like a house of cards in the face of a peacefully, yet resolutely expressed will of the people.
Those excited days of nation-wide solidarity, courage to make sacrifices, enthusiasm and boundless joy accompanying the fall of the totalitarian regime are long gone; the ensuing years have found us grappling – sometimes more successfully, at times less so – with all the grievous consequences of the decades of Communism in our country. Myriad difficulties emerged as we reconstituted and developed political pluralism; engaged in the pursuit of a genuine rule of law; built up democratic institutions; and proceeded to transform a wholly nationalized economy into a free-market economy. Moreover – and this has proved to be the hardest part of all – we have had to deal with the pernicious legacy that the Communist period left behind in our souls and to confront all the bad things which had lain dormant in us, and which our newly acquired freedom brought to the surface of our lives.
All these day-to-day troubles, which often make us feel hopelessly vexed, are but a negligible trifle in comparison with the historic significance of the fall of Communism across the world, which was the background of the Czechoslovak November 1989. Our revolution, if I may call it that, did not fall from heaven. It was an organic component of a major process associated with the unstoppable disintegration of a system based on lies, hatred and coercion; a system that deprived people of their most fundamental rights, contravened the very essence of life and attempted to forcibly halt the progress of history under the banner of an appealing but false utopia.