Day of Students' Fight for Freedom and Democracy

Students' Fight for Freedom and Democracy, Day of (Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day, World Students' Day)

November 17
In 1939, Nazi troops invaded Czechoslovakia and took over the country, installing a dictatorship. Student-led demonstrations against the occupation in late October and early November 1939 led to the death of several students, most notably, Jan Opletal of Charles University in Prague. On November 17, the day Opletal was to be buried, more protests were held. Nazi troops subsequently executed nine student leaders, closed all universities, and sent many students to a concentration camp.
November 17 became a date of national recognition for Czechs after World War II. The date took on greater significance on November 17, 1989, when Czech students gathered 50 years after the original protest, this time to demonstrate against the communist regime. This marked the beginning of the so-called Velvet Revolution to reestablish a democratic government.
The Day of Students' Fight for Freedom and Democracy is a national holiday in the Czech Republic. People gather and light candles near a "V for Victory" memorial plaque on National Avenue in Prague. Ribbons in the national colors of red, blue, and white are often worn. Music associated with the 1989 protest is played, and the national flag is flown in all public places.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of the Czech Republic
3900 Spring of Freedom St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 02008
202-274-9100; fax: 202-966-8540
www.mzv.cz