We commemorate the 55th anniversary of unprecedented human and civic bravery

On 16th January 1969, Jan Palach, a student of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University, set himself on fire in protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops controlled by the then Soviet Union and concessions by the Czechoslovak government to the occupiers, who died three days later as a result of severe burns.

His effort was to stir up the nation so that it would not allow the freezing of the democratization process in Czechoslovakia, the so-called Prague Spring, and the gradual liquidation of most of its results. The government at the time tried to manipulate Jan Palach's actions and suppress the reasons for his desperate protest. It exerted pressure on Palach's family and, with the help of censorship, tried to ensure that the name of Jan Palach was forgotten. Although the brave act did not force the then-government dictatorship to resume democratization processes in society, a series of demonstrations against the communist government between 15th and 21st January 1989 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his death is considered a "prelude" to the Velvet Revolution. Then, in 1989, the communist regime ended after forty years. It also left behind twenty years of so-called "normalization," aiming to blunt political resistance with the help of threats, pressures, threats, and individual and social corruption, especially the devastation and devaluation of morals in society. "Manipulation of facts and values during normalization did not escape even the academic environment, where mostly changed leadership got rid of political opponents supporting the revival process of the Prague Spring and expressing disapproval of the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops. The wrongs committed by the twenty-year era of normalization of the communist regime could only be remedied after its fall, to which Jan Palach's act contributed. Jan Palach is a hero, an icon of courage and sacrifice in the name of freedom and democracy," reminds the rector of CZU, Prof. Petr Sklenička.

Karla Mráčková 

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