The Czech Republic: Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (17 November)
Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day on 17 November is one of the most significant red-letter days in the Czech Republic. It belongs among the “symbolic centers” of Czech collective memory.
Commemorative statuette on National Street in Prague where police beat student demonstrators on 17 November 1989
Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day commemorates uprisings by Czech students against totalitarian regimes.
On 17 November 1939, after student demonstrations, the Nazis executed nine Czech students and professors and declared all Czech universities and institutes closed for three years. In 1941, 17 November was proclaimed International Students’ Day.
On 17 November 1989, a peaceful student demonstration was organized by independent and Communist student organizations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Nazi atrocities. The crowd of students, growing increasingly bold and critical of the regime, was suppressed by the police when it reached National Avenue.
This turned out to be the spark that ignited the Velvet Revolution, which led to the collapse of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
In 2000, 17 November was proclaimed a state holiday.
It is commemorated through public rituals and ceremonies, which usually include the president laying flowers at the commemorative plaque on National Avenue in Prague and delivering a speech.