Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chasing Dragons with a Plastic Sword: (and winning!)

Over on, Renegade Evolution, she’s having an interesting discussion about history and the Roman Empire. Keeping with this theme, let’s discuss history, revolution, and Eastern Europe, shall we?

During my travels this summer, I’ll be heading to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Wasn’t it not so long ago that we were referring to the Czech Republic and Slovakia as Czechoslovakia? It would seem so. It wasn’t until 1993 that the country split into two. How Czechoslovakia first came into being is confusing enough, without adding the split.

In the good old days, (pre-1918) Czechoslovakia was part of Austria/Hungary. Then after WW I, the landscape changed. It was a democratic republic up until WWII, when things shifted again. Hitler took over, and the Slovak part of the country was an ally of the Nazi regime. However, a Czech government-in-exile continued to function in London even while Hitler was in power. In 1948, communism flourished and atheism was also promoted. The communists remained in power until 1989, when the Velvet Revolution occurred.

As my readers know, I love revolution, in general. It’s through these extreme profound events that change is produced. It’s radical, it’s unusual, and damn it, I like it.

The Velvet Revolution was six-week period in Czechoslovakia where citizens protested peacefully to overthrow the communist government. In Prague, 200,000 protesters took it to the streets in response to an earlier student demonstration in which the riot police stopped their peaceful insurgence through the use of force. During the students’ demonstration, 167 were injured by riot police and it was even rumored that one student was killed.

Conditions in communist Czechoslovakia, in relation to their Western neighbors, had been deteriorating for quite sometime. The people were unhappy with their single-party government. This unrest flourished largely after the fall of Berlin Wall, so the atmosphere was ripe for change. Massive demonstrations continued, as fellow Czechs joined together to give the communist leaders the boot.

A few weeks later the communist President resigned and a new democratic government was established. New standards for human rights, property ownership, business law, and freedom were recognized and legalized.

This is inspiring on many different levels. Czech students and citizens were able to alter the course of their destiny and the future destiny of others through their actions. AND it was peaceful. This happened only 17 years ago, so it’s not that far removed from our reality today. By golly, people can make a difference.

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