Is it worth wanting to steal the legacy of November 17, 1989? - The Case of Slovakian demonstrations

  • Viktória Klanicová
  • 1.12.2020 15:46

On November 17, 2020 thousands of people in Slovakia have exercised their right to freedom of protest and speech in protests against the government and its Covid-19 restrictions. While these demonstrations were enhanced by the political leaders of opposition parties, they missed the symbolism of the Velvet revolution that signified sincere struggle for freedom and democracy and not a presentation of hypocrisy and greed from leaders with low electoral preferences.

The date November 17  represents one of the most important milestones in the modern history of Czechoslovaks. It has become a symbol of the struggle for free and democratic society. On this day in 1989, the nation led by brave students, peacefully rebelled against the power of the communist regime. While the initial uprising was suppressed by the police, the willingness of people eager to live in free society eventually led to the Velvet Revolution and Czechoslovakia’s independence. Because of these nation-wide protests the gradual transformation of the fallen Communist regime into free and democratic society could start. 

In addition to the strong affiliation of this date in the Czech Republic and Slovakia where it is recognized as a public holiday of the day of “Struggle for Freedom and Democracy”, the day holds significance in other countries, as well. With its rather sad history on November 17, students all around the world commemorate International Student Day that was declared by the International Student’ Council in 1941 as a demonstration of solidarity with Czech students who protested against fascist terror in Czech universities in 1939. Based on this each year, student unions raise awareness for students’ rights and needs with the goal to improve higher education for students and for society on a wider scale. 

 

Protests during the state of emergency

It has been, therefore, 31 years since the processes leading to the fall of Communism  began in the former Czechoslovakia and every year it is not only political but also civic responsibility to honour those who endured the police pressure and stood in the squares demanding freedom for all of us. However, this year, the commemoration of this anniversary was supposed to be different as the state of emergency due to Covid-19 pandemic in Slovakia prohibited mass gatherings and, thus, the political coalition and authorities encouraged people to honor the memory of this date safely at home. 

However, with the help of social media, protests against the government of Igor Matovic and its implemented measures in response to this Covid-19 pandemic were announced and organized by ordinary citizens to take place on Tuesday November 17, 2020 in the capital Bratislava and other cities, as well.



“Among the most prominent figures participating were extremists from People's Party Our Slovakia, Communist Party and political party Smer-SD of former prime minister Robert Fico”

 

Despite the ban of mass gatherings, some politicians have also publicly announced their participation in the protests and consequently encouraged thousands who irresponsibly took to the streets. Among the most prominent figures participating were extremists from People's Party Our Slovakia, Communist Party and political party Smer-SD of former prime minister Robert Fico, who all called upon the current government as restricting and violating fundamental rights and freedoms of people. 

 

What was the situation like in Czechia?

The Czech Republic with its capital Prague as the hotspot of tragic historical events has always been a bit more grandiose in its commemoration of the Velvet revolution than Slovakia. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, most commemorative events have also moved to the online space this year, but some, despite restrictions, still took place in the streets where many politicians came to lay flowers and light candles as well. 

One prominent feature of this year's events were the dozens of people protesting against government anti-epidemic measures. What is, however, in contrast to Slovakian protests is the lack of endorsement from opposition parties, where protesters were organised under a singular platform of One Common Czech Heart for Freedom (Jedno společné české srdce za svobodu). 

‘Success’ of social media but failed attempt of the protests

For any protest organizers, social media provides an efficient vehicle for the rapid transmission of information about planned events and political developments, thereby facilitating the organization of protest activity. Nowadays, almost all political figures are very active on Facebook where they engage daily and project significant influence over thousands of their followers.

After the political leaders of opposition have posted videos on Facebook of them encouraging the electorate to participate in protests, it has gained much attention in traditional media as well - legitimizing the action to the general public. This resulted in thousands of people participating.

 

“Protesters aimed at provoking violent clashes with the police so that after they could declare how their opinion was oppressed”

 

The reality of protests in Slovakia, thus, might be rooted deeper than just a democratic act of protesting against the government. The people protesting were openly benefiting from the televised and social media attention gained by the momentum of the anniversary of the Velvet revolution and they were trying to provoke unrest, spread anti-system ideology and above all, they aimed at provoking violent clashes with the police so that after they could declare how their opinion was oppressed.

The police, however, with a very professional and patient attitude did not intervene until demonstrators were forcefully trying to get into the Parliament building. At this point, police officers used tear gas and detained necessary protesters. 

 

Struggle for Freedom and Democracy not Disregard and Hypocrisy

November 17 is a symbol of the struggle for freedom and democracy. It has become a symbol of sincere struggle, not a presentation of hypocrisy. That is why the message of the representatives of some political parties who took to the podium and talked about justice and decency is mistaken. 

Especially considering the fact that people close and previously protected by the former prime minister Fico, under the new government of Igor Matovic, have been accused of several offenses, including the crime of establishing, conspiring and supporting a criminal group, corruption offenses and the crime of abuse of power by a public official. The use of this symbolic date could then be considered as Fico’s way of trying to gain more preferences for his declining political party Smer-SD.



“It would be irresponsible to let aggressive demonstrators tarnish the memory of our ancestors, who lost their lives in the fight for our better future”

 

While it is very important to be aware of the difficult environment we currently live in due to the pandemic, it would be even more irresponsible to let aggressive demonstrators tarnish the memory of our ancestors, who lost their lives in the fight for our better future. They lost their lives in the fight against the fascists and communists, who now are able to freely take the stage without any shame and enjoy the fruits of this very symbolic day. In addition, it is they who have the audacity to play the victims and talk about injustice on this very day.

About author: Viktória Klanicová

Partners

Tento web používá k analýze návštěvnosti soubory cookie. Používáním tohoto webu s tím souhlasíte. Další informace