Czechoslovakia, November 1989 - December 1989

The wheels were set in motion for a revolution against the communist regime with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's declaration in the mid-1980s that the Soviet Union would no longer maintain the operation of communist governments outside of the Soviet Union. His words were not taken seriously by the Czechoslovak leadership, especially party leader Gustav Husak, who had been in power since the Soviet Invasion of 1968. Perestroika and glasnost did not exist in Czechoslovakia, as the hard line party leaders went so far as to censor Gorbachev's speeches and declare him a deviant from the truth of the Marxist-Leninist party line.

On November 17, 1989, students gathered in Prague to protest the oppressive communist regime in their country and its inability to change with the tide. Police stopped the students, who offered flowers to the police and did not resist. The police beat them with night sticks in an effort to force them to disperse. Over 160 students were injured in the confrontation, which brought the support of the general population to the students' corner.

For ten days, the people took over theatres and turned them into discussion centers, putting regular programming on hiatus. The Civic Forum, a group lead by Vaclav Havel, was formed, demanding the end of the communist government, as well as a release of political prisoners. For two weeks, the communists suppressed reports of what was happening in Prague, keeping the revolt from spreading throughout the country.

Although communist governments were crumbling in surrounding nations, the Czechoslovak government was unprepared and unrelenting in its efforts to keep control. As a workers' general strike took hold, and massive demonstrations broke out everywhere in Prague, the government changed faces, electing a new Communist Party leader, Karel Urbanek. The people were not interested in accepting this as a sign of reform.

The Civic Forum met with Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec on November 28, 1989. The Communist Party agreed to concessions in the form of three amendments to the Constitution. The amendments ended guarantees that the Czechoslovak Communist Party would have the leading role in government. It was not enough. The demonstrators increased their demands and formed a new government in defiance of the existing one. Adamec resigned his position shortly thereafter, following rounds of boos and catcalls everytime he appeared in public.

On December 3, 1989, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations issued statements condemning their own invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. A week later, Gustav Husak swore in the opposition government as the new government of Czechoslovakia and stepped down as president. Vaclav Havel became Czechoslovakia's new president. The Velvet Revolution had been successful in overturning the communist government without bloodshed.

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