2024 Palach Week to examine the role of students in society

The annual week, named after the student who killed himself in protest in 1969, was one of the catalysts of the Velvet Revolution when first held in 1989.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 14.01.2024 10:17:00 (updated on 15.01.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

This year's Palach Week in Prague, organized by the Student Council of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University from January 15-17, will center around the status of students in society and history as it marks the 55th anniversary of Jan Palach's passing. This year's events take on special significance following the tragic shooting at the Faculty of Arts in December.

Palach Week remembers the student who killed himself in self-immolation in January 1969 in protest to the response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. First held on the 20th anniversary of Jan Palach's death in January 1989, it is viewed as one of the catalysts to the Velvet Revolution later that year.

This year's event is a collaborative effort between various student associations and initiatives from Charles University. Events will include two debates and a traditional memorial service remembering Palach at the Faculty of Arts building on Jan Palach Square.

The first debate, scheduled for Monday at 6:00 p.m., will explore the dynamics between universities and society. Representatives of Charles University and the University of Warsaw will delve into changing relationships and conditions for the existence of universities. The debate can be attended in-person at Kampus Hybernská or watched online.

The commemoration on Tuesday includes a traditional memorial service at Jan Palach Square, featuring speeches from academic and political figures such as Charles University Rector Milena Králíčková and Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek. The event will conclude with a minute of silence and wreath-laying.

Prague's Karolinum will also open its doors on Tuesday, allowing access to its courtyard from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., where Palach's coffin was exhibited in January 1969. Representatives of the academic community will pay their respects by laying flowers.

The second debate on Thursday will focus on the role of students in significant Czech historical events from 1939 to 1989, with a spotlight on the pivotal year of 1968. Members of various university faculties will lead the discussion, accessible both in-person at Hybernská Street and online.

Jan Palach, a student of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University, set himself on fire on January 16, 1969, protesting societal resignation after the Warsaw Pact occupation. The commemoration of his death in January 1989 became a strong protest against the regime, foreshadowing its eventual fall.

Since 2013, January 16 has been observed as a culturally significant date in the Czech Republic, and held importance in symbolizing resilience and the spirit of collective resistance.

More information about this year's Palach Week can be found at the website of Charles University's Faculty of Arts.

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