How the Velvet Revolution happened (timeline)

Day-by-day overview of the fall of totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia.

(Source: TASR)

June 29

Representatives of the informal civic initiative Charter 77, including Václav Havel, published a petition titled “Několik vět” (A Few Sentences), requesting that political prisoners be released, restrictions on freedom of gathering be lifted, persecution of independent initiatives be halted, demands of believers be respected, and free discussion be launched about the developments in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, 1968, and subsequent normalisation. More than 47,000 had signed the petition by late November 1989, including Slovak actor Milan Kňažko.

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August 30

31 prominent Slovak dissidents, including Alexander Dubček, Ján Chryzostom Korec and Jozef Jablonický, signed a protest letter to President Gustáv Husák, asking him to stop criminal prosecution against members of the so-called Bratislava Five (lawyer and Catholic dissident Ján Čarnogurský, political analyst and Charter 77 signatory Miroslav Kusý, prohibited writer Hana Ponická, reporter of Voice of America and activist Anton Selecký, and publicist Vladimír Maňák). Earlier that month, they wrote to the government, asking that the victims of the August 1968 invasion be honoured.

November 14

A trial against the Bratislava Five was held in Bratislava. The court released Ponická, Selecký, and Maňák, and issued an eight-month conditional sentence for Kusý. The proceeding against Čarnogurský continued. Hundreds of people came to the Judicial Palace to support the dissidents.

November 16

University students celebrated International Students’ Day in Bratislava by protesting the communist dictatorship. They marched through Hodžovo Square to the Education Ministry that resided on today’s Dobrovičova Street, demanding academic freedoms and real, not just declared, democracy.

November 17

Security forces brutally interfered with the student demonstration in Prague. After the end of the official student meeting held to mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of Czech universities by Nazis, thousands of students marched to Vyšehrad. When they started marching towards the city centre, the police surrounded them on Národní Třída and later closed the square. Students were brutally beaten and hundreds of people were injured. Foreign media reported that night that student Martin Šmíd died after being beaten by the police (later proven to be untrue).

November 18

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Following the Národní Třída incident, students of Prague-based universities started a week-long strike, joined by theatre actors.

Several meetings of anti-regime activists took place around Slovakia, during which news was spread about a murdered student in Prague.

The Hungarian Independent Initiative was created at the meeting of some 120 dissidents in Šaľa to support the demonstrating students. Among its founding members were László A. Nagy, László Öllös, László Szigeti, Lajos Grendel, Imre Molnár, Eleonóra Sándor, and Péter Hunčík.

November 19

Slovak artists launched a protest petition at a meeting initiated by Rudolf Sikora. He later called a meeting at Umelecká Beseda Slovenská (Umelka), where some 450 intellectuals created the Public Against Violence (VPN) movement as a civic platform opposing the official regime. At the meeting, the protest letters of artists and actors were read, and several participants signed them. At the same time, a coordination committee was created as the leading body of the platform.

Several Slovak actors condemned the Prague events. Actor Martin Huba announced that they were going on strike.

In Prague, the Civic Forum (OF), which called for a change of the regime, was created. It was led by Václav Havel and other dissidents from Charter 77.

November 20

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Opposition met at the Malá Scéna theatre in Bratislava and agreed to name their initiative VPN.

Students of Comenius University’s Faculty of Arts started boycotting classes in protest, established the first Slovak strike committee and called on people to participate in the general strike on November 27.

Some 450 people attended another evening discussion in Umelka. The first political statement on the creation of VPN was adopted, calling for open social dialogue and real democracy.

About 700 people met in Štúdio S theatre, where actors, led by Milan Kňažko and Milan Lasica, announced their decision to support students’ demands. About 1,000 people met in Hviezdoslavovo Square, calling for open dialogue, free elections and the government’s resignation. Kňažko read VPN’s statement to the crowd.

Several student demonstrations took place in Bratislava; they collected signatures to support a general strike on November 27. In Žilina, about 300 students met in front of the student dormitories to discuss the demonstrations.

Actors from the Zvolen and Martin theatres joined the calls from Prague and announced they would not play their scheduled performances for the entire week. Trnava theatre actors launched a strike, too.

In Prague, about 100,000 people met in Václavské Square at the first big anti-communist demonstration. Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Miloš Jakeš, invited the so-called People’s Militia to Prague. They received weapons and ammunition.

The federal government called on actors and students to end the strike and return to their respective work and schools.

November 21

Thousands of students met in front of Comenius University, where the strike continued.

At the meeting with actors, Gejza Šlapka from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia and Culture Minister Pavol Koyš tried to persuade them to end the strike, which the actors refused to do.

VPN activists met for the third time in Umelka. Fedor Gál read the statement calling for the release of political prisoners, a meeting with government representatives and free dialogue.

In the evening, a big gathering attended by thousands of people, including students, took place in today’s Námestie Slobody (Freedom Square) in Bratislava. They later moved to Hviezdoslavovo Square.

Meanwhile, the Communist party leadership met to discuss the situation in Slovakia. They wanted to prevent the spreading of anti-regime activities, limit the strikes at schools and isolate their representatives.

Speaker of Slovak parliament Viliam Šalgovič warned at the extraordinary session against the increasing activity of students and VPN.

Student demonstrations also took place in other towns, including Košice, Banská Bystrica, Trnava, Nitra, Žilina, Zvolen and Martin.

Jakeš addressed the nation on television, stressing that the communist way was the only way for the country and that it was the people's duty to protect socialist values.

In Prague, Havel met with VPN representative Peter Zajac, marking the very first meeting between the two opposition movements. PM Ladislav Adamec agreed to meet with the representatives of the opposition, but on the condition that Havel would not be present.

Some 200,000 people demonstrated in Václavské Square in Prague.

November 22

About 15,000 people protested in front of the Judicial Palace, asking for the release of Čarnogurský, the last member of the Bratislava Five still in prison.

Later that day, the first mass demonstration took place at SNP Square in Bratislava. Budaj and Kňažko addressed the crowd, Milka Vášaryová represented actors. They also read letters from Havel and Trnava Archbishop Ján Sokol.

The Association of Hungarian Students was established in Bratislava, joining the Hungarian Independent Initiative and the strike committees of Slovak students.

Students organised several events in Košice, Trnava, Banská Bystrica, and Zvolen.

November 23

Another demonstration took place in front of the Judicial Palace, attended by thousands.

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A second mass demonstration took place in SNP Square in the afternoon, demanding access to television. Alexander Dubček was among the speakers. Other demonstrations took place in Žilina, Martin, and Banská Bystrica.

Havel told the demonstration in Prague said that there was no way back to the totalitarian regime and that Czechoslovakia wanted to live freely and democratically.

Representatives of the federal parliament agreed on preventing “changes of February 1948 achievements”, while the leaders of the Czechoslovak army prepared for military intervention against the opposition and the public. About 7,500 soldiers in the Czech Republic and 2,000 soldiers in Slovakia were on alert.

November 24

Another demonstration was held in SNP Square. In the evening, the television broadcast for the first time the Studio Dialogue programme, with VPN representatives among its guests. They presented their demands and called on people to attend the general strike scheduled for November 27.

A mass demonstration took place in Košice. In Prešov, students marched through town. The Hungarian Independent Initiative issued a statement, defining its main political aims.

Meanwhile, the chief of the army general staff, Miroslav Vacek, summoned a meeting, attended by several representatives of the Interior Ministry. They discussed the situation and the possibility of solving it with force. ŠtB members were ordered to monitor activities of strike committees, revealing their structures and bonds with the opposition, and the planned protests. They were also ordered to use all forces and means available to prevent the strikes, particularly the one scheduled for November 27.

Leading Communist party representatives resigned from their posts. Jakeš was replaced by Karel Urbánek. It was the first opposition victory over the regime. The leadership of KSČ also abandoned its plans to suppress demonstrations by using force.

November 25

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Another demonstration in Bratislava was attended by about 100,000. VPN representatives called for absolute freedom of the press, freedom of gathering and doing business, the abolishment of the leading role of the Communist party, and a democratic federation between Czechs and Slovaks.

Another televised debate took place, without the Communist representatives.

VPN adopted a programme statement with 12 points.

Demonstrations also took place in Nitra, Trnava, Košice, Banská Bystrica, Žilina, Martin and Zvolen.

President Husák released the best-known political prisoners, including Čarnogurský. PM Adamec resigned from his posts in the party.

November 26

Čarnogurský addressed protestors in Bratislava, thanking them for their support and solidarity. For the first time, the unofficial anthem of the revolution, Sľúbili sme si lásku (We Promised Us Love) by Ivan Hoffman was played.

Resignations in the party continued. The committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia admitted that they needed to cancel the article in the Constitution on the leading role of the party. Slovak communists thus made the promise earlier than the federal parliament.

November 27

A two-hour general strike to support the demands of the opposition started at 12:00. Estimates suggest that about half of Czechoslovakia’s inhabitants took part in various ways.

The leadership of the Communist Party of Slovakia adopted proposed action measures in an attempt to keep power. The Culture Ministry enabled the public access to prohibited films and books.

Havel and Dubček met in Prague. The latter criticised the former and did not approve of the opposition proposal to make Valt Komárek the prime minister, as it had not been discussed with Slovakia.

November 28

Representatives of OF, VPN, the federal parliament and PM Adamec met in Prague. Havel expressed trust in Adamec, who was charged with forming a new government in December to which neither OF nor VPN were to contribute. Adamec promised to introduce the government by December 3. They discussed the release of political prisoners and the abolishment of articles about the leading role of the party and the Marxism-Leninism doctrine.

After the successful general strike, VPN branches were created across Slovakia en masse.

November 29

Representatives of VPN strike committees across Slovakia met in the Slovak National Building in Bratislava. Havel came and informed them about the meetings with the government and the demands they presented.

MPs of the Czechoslovak parliament approved an amendment to the constitution.

November 30

The first personnel change in the Slovak parliament took place. Its speaker Šalgovič was replaced by the Communist party’s Rudolf Schuster.

KSS and VPN representatives met at the first debate.

The federal government ordered the removal of wired fences from the borders with Austria, which formed part of the Iron Curtain.

December 1

Deputy interior minister Alojz Lorenc ordered the mass disposal of ŠtB materials.

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December 2

VPN demanded a change in the cadre politics and the system of nomenclatures, gaining independence of the courts while depoliticising the army and security forces. It also called for political pluralism and free elections.

December 3

Husák appointed the new federal government led by Adamec, composed mostly of communist ministers. The cabinet also published a statement that called August 1968 a violation of the norms of the relations between sovereign countries and proposed to start talks about the departure of Soviet troops.

Mass protests took place in response to the new government appointment. OF and VPN rejected the government in a joint statement and called on Adamec to adopt fundamental changes by December 10.

The Education Ministry abolished the compulsory education of Marxism-Leninism ideology at Slovak universities.

December 4

The representatives of various organisations, led by students, decided to continue in their protests against the new government until December 11, the day when another general strike was to take place if OF and VPN demands were not met. Protests took place in Bratislava, Martin, and Liptovský Mikuláš.

December 5

Round-table discussions took place in Prague, attended by Adamec and the representatives of the newly-created movements and political parties, but they failed to agree. Adamec threatened his resignation.

VPN and Schuster started talks about the reconstruction of the Slovak government.

December 6

A train with 1,000 activists was dispatched from Bratislava to Košice, where the meeting of university students and VPN took place, attended by thousands of people. They supported the demands of VPN for the government to resign and announced the general strike scheduled for December 11.

Round-table discussions continued in Prague.

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December 7

Adamec submitted his resignation. Marián Čalfa was assigned to form a new government.

December 8

Talks about the new government continued in Prague. OF and VPN representatives made a deal with Čalfa. In Slovakia, they assigned Milan Čič the task of forming the new cabinet.

Lorenc ordered that the shredding of ŠtB documents stop.

December 9

Another gathering took place at the SPN Square in Bratislava. Emigrants like the secretary general of the World Congress of Slovaks, Dušan Tóth, Czech singer Karel Kryl and mime Milan Sládek attended.

OF and VPN representatives met with Čalfa, who accepted their proposals for new ministers.

December 10

Husák appointed the new government and subsequently resigned from his post.

About 50,000 attended the march from Bratislava to Hainburg in Austria, a symbolic end of the Iron Curtain.

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