Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

28 Oct: Czech crackdown


Czechoslovak authorities crack down on protesters in Prague


On 28 October, pro-democracy protesters marking the 71st anniversary of Czechoslovakia's independence, gathered in Prague's central Wenceslas Square.

Chanting "Freedom!'' and "We want another government!'', it was the first major act of defiance since January when similar protests had been broken up and prominent dissidents jailed.

Riot police moved in after protesters ignored warnings to leave. Many were beaten and taken away in ambulances.

It was the first of many such confrontations that would succeed in overthrowing the Czechoslovak authorities a month later.

But for now, they were steadfast in their opposition to the changes that had already seen East Germany's hardline leader Erich Honecker step down and Hungary quietly cast off the last vestiges of its communist past.

Five days earlier, on 23 October, the People's Republic of Hungary had officially become the Republic of Hungary. This followed the Hungarian Communist Party's last congress, where it had renamed itself the Hungarian Socialist Party.

In the month that followed, as the protests in Prague gathered pace, the opposition coalesced into a formidable movement, the Civic Forum.

One of the key figures was Vaclav Havel, the playwright and leading dissident who ultimately went on to become Czechoslovakia's president.

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