28 October, the Czech Republic: Day of Independence of Czechoslovakia

Somewhat puzzling, the Czechoslovakian day of independence is still celebrated in the Czech Republic – unlike in Slovakia – some 16 years after the demise of Czechoslovakia.

Photo: Charles Sarolea (1921, Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the survival of this celebration has something to do with the fact that it has been transformed and given new significance with every turn in history, making it a resilient conveyor of different meanings.

28 October was originally intended as the celebration of the proclamation of Masaryk’s Czechoslovakia in 1918, which represented the fulfilment of the long-time dream of Czech and Slovak nationhood.

However, 21 years later, this day was to be transformed to a venue for bloody protests against the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia by Nazi Germany in 1939. In the subsequent era of the tumultuous history of Central-Europe, the communists tailor made 28 October to fit their ideological wants and it thus received the name Nationalization Day.

Yet by the end of the eighties, the Day of Independence had once more become medium for public dissent, this time directed at a weakened communist regime during the Velvet Revolution.

Today, 28 October is celebrated in a much less dramatic setting. Yet the events of the past are remembered through ceremony and public ritual, making it an important political red-letter day even today.

Published Aug. 24, 2010 11:04 AM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2010 2:45 PM