Where Were You 21 Years Ago Today?

SNP Square, Bratislava, Slovakia, 1989


November 17, 1989

November 13, 2017

Allan Stevo

Twenty-one years ago today marked the start of the Velvet Revolution. It began on the International Day of Students, November 17, 1989.

In 1939, Jan Opletal, who was a Czech medical school student was killed by the Nazis during a protest against the Nazi occupation of what was then referred to as the “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” (present-day Czech Republic). Before the protests in 1939 came to an end, the Nazis had closed Czech universities and sent hundreds of students and professors to concentration camps. The anniversary of these events came to be remembered as the “International Day of Students.”

The name has a distinctively communist ring to it. Calling an event “international” lent credibility and disguised the fact that it was an event mainly celebrated within the Soviet sphere of influence. Two examples of this trend are, the International Day of Women – March 8, or the International Day of Workers – May 1. As World War II raged, communism was seen by some as the antithesis of Nazism. Later totalitarian government was seen more clearly as totalitarian government, no matter what the ideals. This did not stop the communists from pretending that they were very different from the Nazis.

Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian professor who fled from the Nazis very eloquently in his book The Road to Serfdom illustrates how the Nazis and communists were essentially the same – people who opposed individual freedom from government oppression. They both wanted government oppression. They both wanted greater state power in order to benefit themselves and oppress their opponents.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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