|The Velvet Revolution (Czech: sametová revoluce) or Gentle Revolution (Slovak: nežná revolúcia) (November 17 – December 29, 1989) was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the authoritarian government.
On November 17, 1989, a Friday, riot police suppressed a peaceful student demonstration in Prague. That event sparked a series of popular demonstrations from November 19 to late December. By November 20 the number of peaceful protesters assembled in Prague had swollen from 200,000 the previous day to an estimated half-million. A two-hour general strike, involving all citizens of Czechoslovakia, was held on November 27.
|With the collapse of other Warsaw Pact governments and increasing street protests, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announced on November 28 that it would relinquish power and dismantle the single-party state. Barbed wire and other obstructions were removed from the border with West Germany and Austria in early December. On December 10, President Gustáv Husák appointed the first largely non-communist government in Czechoslovakia since 1948, and resigned. Alexander Dubček was elected speaker of the federal parliament on December 28 and Václav Havel the President of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989.|
|In June 1990 Czechoslovakia held its first democratic elections since 1946.
The term Velvet Revolution was used internationally to describe the revolution, although the Czech side also used the term internally. After the dissolution of the nation in 1993, Slovakia used the term Gentle Revolution, the term that Slovaks used for the revolution from the beginning. The Czech Republic continues to refer to the event as the Velvet Revolution.
|The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia began its rule on February 25, 1948. No official opposition parties operated within the government during the party’s rule. Dissidents (notably Charter 77) published home-made periodicals (samizdat), but they faced persecution by the secret police. Thus, the general public was afraid to openly support the dissidents for fear of dismissal from work or school. A writer or film maker could have his/her books or films banned for a “negative attitude towards the socialist regime.” This blacklisting also included categories such as being a child of a former entrepreneur or non-Communist politician, having family members living in the West, having supported Alexander Dubček during the Prague Spring, opposing Soviet military occupation, promoting religion, boycotting rigged parliamentary elections or signing the Charter 77 or associating with those who did. These rules were easy to enforce, as all schools, media and businesses belonged to the state. They were under direct supervision and often were used as accusatory weapons against political and social rivals.|
|The nature of blacklisting changed gradually after the introduction of Mikhail Gorbachev‘s policies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring) in 1985. The Czechoslovak Communist leadership verbally supported Perestroika, but did little to institute real changes. Speaking about the Prague Spring of 1968 was still taboo. The first anti-government demonstrations occurred in 1988 (the Candle Demonstration, for example) and 1989, but these were dispersed and participants were repressed by the police.|
|By the late 1980s, discontent with living standards and economic inadequacy gave way to popular support for economic reform. Czech and Slovak citizens began to challenge the governmental system more openly. By 1989, citizens who had been complacent in their official or professional capacities were now willing to openly express their discontent with the regime. Numerous important figures as well as common workers signed petitions in support of Vaclav Havel during his 1989 imprisonment. Reform-minded attitudes were also reflected by the many individuals who signed a petition that circulated in the summer of 1989 calling for the end of censorship and the beginning of drastic political reform.
The actual impetus for the revolution came not only from the developments in neighboring countries but also in the Czechoslovakian capital. In the days following November 3, thousands of East Germans left their country by taking a train to Prague and then another train to West Germany. On November 9, the Berlin Wall fell, removing the need for the detour.
|By November 16, many of Czechoslovakia’s neighbours were beginning to shed authoritarian rule. The citizens of Czechoslovakia watched these events daily on TV through both foreign and domestic signals. The Soviet Union also supported a change in the ruling elite of Czechoslovakia, although it did not anticipate the overthrow of the Communist regime.|