Fifty years since the Prague Spring

By Pamela Lyon

During a festival to commemorate 50 years since the beginning of the Prague Spring and the uprising against Communism, people were seen crying with joy and happiness and freedom.

The political developments up to 1968 showed a new attitude of the people in Prague, finally having hope towards a new-found freedom and the urge to take down the Communist government controlled by the Soviet Union who many had come to loathe.

This year, fifty years on, however, sees a bustling city full of tourists and luxuries and a new film dedicated to Jan Palach, who was declared a hero.

Palach was studying history and political economy at Charles University, Prague, before he became a symbol of heroism and freedom, by protesting and becoming the first self-declared human torch following the crushing of the Prague Spring.

On January 16th, 1969, Palach set himself on fire after sending a letter demanding the abolition of censorship and a range of other laws. He died three days later, suffering from fatal burns and is one of the tragic heroes of the Czech battle for freedom.

The death mask of Jan Palach, a copy of which is the Charles University Museum.

Fifty years on and the country is bright and beautiful but there are still those among the older generations who were not especially hostile towards communism, arguing that people still had jobs, even if that job was just waitressing when the employee had a medical degree.

With a Red Army-dedicated portion of the Olsany cemetery in Prague, and a communist museum, it is clear that era of the country’s history is being preserved. Now that it has put that in the past and becoming the democracy that is Czechia, Prague is a city in a country that is full of a new history that should be seen by everyone.


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