Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

24 Nov: Velvet Revolution


Czechoslovak dissidents celebrate as politburo resigns en masse


Communist rule in Czechoslovakia crumbled on 24 November. After just a week of mass protests that became known as the Velvet Revolution, the entire ruling politburo resigned en masse.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out in Prague's central Wenceslas Square as news reached the 200,000-strong crowd that had gathered as part of the now daily student-led protests.

Earlier, the massed ranks of protesters had listened to the former Czechoslovak communist boss, Alexander Dubcek, leader of the 1968 Prague spring, which was crushed by a Soviet-led invasion.

His address - delivered alongside Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and leader of the opposition Civic Forum - called for a return to "Socialism with human face".

Though a new politburo was elected, it took just a week for the new caretaker communist leadership to cave in to a raft of Civic Forum demands.

On 29 November, Czechoslovakia's Federal Assembly rescinded a law giving the Communist Party the leading role in the nation. By 10 December, President Gustav Husak had resigned.

A few weeks later, on 29 December, the same assembly - still dominated by communist deputies - elected Vaclav Havel as president of Czechoslovakia. A man formerly jailed as a dissident now held the keys to Prague castle.

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