International Students' Day and Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy

The Czech University of Life Sciences commemorates International Students' Day and the 34th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. These two key events are connected by their historical relevance and commitment to the values of freedom, education, and a society based on democratic principles.

The students were a symbol of courage, heroism, and the fight for freedom and an independent state in society at the beginning of the dictatorship in the then democratic Czechoslovakia in 1939, i.e., with the rise of Nazism. They were also a symbol of courage and determination even after fifty years when the dictatorship in the form of more or less a follow-up communist regime was collapsing.

November 1939 is an essential day in Czech history, symbolizing the resistance of the Czech nation against the Nazi occupation. It was then that German occupiers brutally suppressed student demonstrations at Prague universities. On 28th October, student Jan Opletal was seriously injured by a German police officer during an anti-Nazi demonstration, and he succumbed to his injuries on 11th November. His funeral, which took place on 15th November, became another anti-Hitler demonstration. The consequence was the arrest of many students. Several of them were executed. On 17th November, Czech universities were closed in retaliation. This tragic event showed the courage of the young generation that stood up against the occupation, the dictatorship, the resulting injustice and remains a reminder of the heroism of the resistance against Nazism.


The date 17th November 1989 symbolizes the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia. On this day, a series of mass protests began that brought about the fall of the communist regime. Originally, it was a peaceful commemoration of the events of 1939, a memorial service to honour the memory of Jan Opletal. Groups of students gathered in Prague's Albertov and then went along the embankment, past the National Theatre, then along Národní Street to the centre of the city, where a cordon of the emergency regiment of the Ministry of the Interior stopped the procession. Students were blocked from escaping through neighbouring streets. Armed police officers attacked the participants of the parade, beat many of them mercilessly, and dragged them to prepared buses or Security offices. After the police brutally suppressed the student march on Národní Street, the public responded with a wave of support, mass demonstrations, and strikes in theatres and schools, including a general strike on 27th November. People all over the country stood up for freedom and democracy, which led to the resignation of the communist regime and the onset of democratic reforms.

The celebrations on 17th November symbolize the courage and determination of citizens to defend their fundamental freedoms and rights. This day, a national holiday in the Czech Republic, reminds us of the period when students and citizens joined forces in the name of freedom and democracy. We transfer courage, determination, and the desire for a better society to today's world, where education and active participation in social events play a crucial role. We are glad that CZU students realize that democracy and freedom are not a matter of course, even though the totalitarian regime fell more than ten years before they were born. We thank them for their comments on the events that helped stop the unlimited power of the then-ruling dictatorship.

Tereza Otcová, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources

"17th November is a reminder to me that going to college hasn't always been a matter of course for everyone, and we should cherish the opportunity. The students united and showed their strength, and we should not forget that."

Jakub Mlejnek, Faculty of Environmental Sciences  

"17th November 1989 " means freedom and courage for me. Therefore, I thank our parents for the courage to stand up to the regime, even though it was not easy. Thank you for that."   

Barbora Fišerová, Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences

"17th November means the opportunity to travel to tropical countries during my studies at the Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences."

Kristýna Andršová, Faculty of Economics and Management

"17th November, for me as a student, is not only a celebration of studenthood but mainly a celebration of freedom. It is a reminder that young people matter, and it is they who often move society and history." 

Martin Císler, Faculty of Engineering

"These days, we remember the events of 17th November 1939 and 1989, when the power of students secured free education for us. We should not forget these deeds."

Benjamin Petržela, Faculty of Forest and Wood Sciences

"I was born in 1999, which means that I only know the year 1989 from the stories of my parents and the year 1939 from the pages of history books. That is why this holiday is so important to me. It reminds me what a unique time I can live in. In times of peace, democracy, and freedom. This holiday is all the more important because it reminds us that these values must be nurtured in everyday life. Because history has shown us several times how ephemeral they can be."

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