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THE "VICTORIOUS FEBRUARY"

Tereza

This week we remember another sad event. On 25th February 1948, the Communist party completed its putsch and the country fell under totalitarian rule for long 41 years. Since the end of the WWII the Communist party was preparing for the putsch. It won a lot of votes in the first post-war elections and was slowly taking power over the most important ministries. It started massive propaganda among the factory workers and farmers, all of this closely watched and guided by the Stalin’s Soviet Union. They took advantage of an instability in the government which escalated on 25th of February. They imprisoned the political rivals, occupied the seats of other parties and stopped all newspapers other than pro-Communist ones.

On the 25th February, 5-10,000 students and teachers marched to Prague Castle to support the president Edvard Beneš, against the Communist party. The quiet and peaceful march came to the Castle from different directions. However, fear was already omnipresent, and not many people joined the students; meanwhile, the militia were barricading and guarding the streets. When the main group of students reached Nerudova Street, the armed militia was already waiting for them. One shot wounded one student, and many thought that he was killed. Students started running away, many were beaten, arrested, and/or later expelled from school. President Beneš did not even see them, and he gave up power, under the enormous pressure and the threat of Soviet Union occupation. He accepted the dismissal of government and resigned a few weeks later. Klement Gottwald, the Communist Prime Minister, in a legendary speech at the Old Town Square, told thousands of workers awaiting his return from the Castle, the new that the president had accepted all his proposals. The Communist transition was complete.

If you are in Prague now and would like to go see places that are connected to these events, then do not miss the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at Ujezd. The other place is a memorial plaque at the end of Neruda Street, where the students where violently stopped on the way to the Castle. At both places you will find wreaths, flowers and candles. There was also a big event at the Old Town Square. Communism is a dark part of history for the Czech Republic, but it is a history that still impacts us. It is a history of fear, suffering, violence and lack of freedom. A history, which cannot be forgotten.

 


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