Learning English - Words in the News
17 November, 2004 - Published 13:07 GMT
Czechs get ready for Velvet Anniversary
People in the Czech Republic are getting ready to mark the 15th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, when mass demonstrations forced the Communist Party to give up power. This report from Rob Cameron:
November 17th, 1989. Thousands of students chant slogans on Prague's Narodni street, after a legal gathering to remember students killed by the Nazis becomes a wider protest against the Communist regime. After a tense standoff with riot police, the authorities made the fateful decision to break up the peaceful protest with force. Within days the demonstrations had swelled to hundreds of thousands of people, within weeks the regime had collapsed.
The exact course of events is still shrouded in mystery; some historians say Czechs will never know the truth. But for many people the anniversary is an important reminder that the Communist Party still exerts considerable influence in Czech politics. The party, now in opposition, is the third biggest in parliament. Critics say it's never been held properly accountable for the excesses of the past. Worse still they say, former Communists are slowly creeping back into positions of power and influence, under the noses of an apathetic public. Wednesday's anniversary culminates in a recreation of the student march that started the Velvet Revolution. Organisers say this anniversary is more than just an exercise in nostalgia - for them, it's a wake-up call to society.
Rob Cameron, BBC, Prague
shrouded in mystery