Czech Republic may get a new state holiday to mark 1968 Soviet-led invasion

The lower house of Czech Parliament is backing a day of remembrance for victims of the Warsaw Pact invasion

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 25.06.2019 09:19:58 (updated on 25.06.2019) Reading time: 2 minutes


The Czech Republic may get another summer holiday. A proposal to name
Aug. 21 as the Remembrance Day of the
Victims of the Invasion and Subsequent Occupation by Warsaw Pact
Troops has been put forward in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower
house of Czech Parliament.

The idea so far has broad support from most Czech political parties except the Communists (KSČM). Some 90 out of the 200 members of the lower house have backed the proposal.

The Czech Republic now has 13 public holidays, which is average worldwide. The most recent state holiday to be added is Good Friday, which took effect in 2016. The UK has eight, which is among the lowest, while India has 17 and Argentina has 18.

But there is a big gap in the Czech Republic in the summer between Jan Hus Day on July 6 and Czech Statehood Day on Sept. 28. The purpose of the additional holiday is not to simply add another day off in the summer, though.

The proposal for the
Aug. 21 holiday was put forward by Jiří Mihola, the deputy chairman
of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) club in the lower house. The
move is in response to Russia proposing a legal amendment to its law
for veterans that would claim the Warsaw Pact invasion of
Czechoslovakia was intended to stop a pending coup and stabilize the
country.

Members of the lower
house say the Russian proposal is an attempt to rewrite history and
legitimize the subsequent occupation, which lasted until the Velvet
Revolution of 1989.

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President Milos
Zeman, who in the past has been favorable toward Russia, also was
critical of the Russian proposal. He met with the Russian ambassador
and afterwards said that Russia still supports a Czech-Russian treaty
from the 1993 that condemned the “the unacceptable use of force in
1968” as well as the “unjustifiable persistence of Soviet troops
on Czechoslovak territory.”

The Czech holiday
proposal says “the unreasonable invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops
not only ended of democratization and humanist efforts to reform the
socialist system in Czechoslovakia, but also resulted in the loss of
lives of a significant number of innocent civilians.”

Some 137
Czechoslovak people were killed in the invasion and another 500 were
seriously wounded. Some 70,000 people emigrated just after the
invasion and an estimated 300,000 emigrated up through 1989.

The Soviet-led
invasion of Czechoslovakia took place on the night of Aug. 20–21,
and the authors of the proposal for a state holiday say the date is
the most tragic in modern Czechoslovak history.

Some 250,000 troops
from the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany and Hungary
invaded Czechoslovakia. Romania and Albania refused to participate.

The invasion brought
an end to Prague Spring, a series of political reforms meant to
create “socialism with a human face.” There had been an easing of
restrictions on free speech, promotion of democratic methods and an
increase of people’s civil rights.

After the invasion,
the Soviets instituted a policy called Normalization, which set back
all of the Prague Spring reforms and replaced then with hard-line
communist policies and strict centralized control.

The state holiday
proposal should next be taken up by the Czech government for
consideration.

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