Freedom Festival 2023: Prague to honor Velvet Revolution with full lineup of events

The capital's Národní Street and Wenceslas Square come alive on Nov. 17 with concerts, memorials, and more, marking 34 years of the uprising.


Written by ČTK Published on 09.11.2023 16:31:00 (updated on 10.11.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Festival of Freedom will fill Prague's Národní Street and Wenceslas Square with performances and the awarding of the Memory of the Nation Prize on Nov. 17 to mark the anniversary of the anti-communist revolution of 1989. Events will also be held in other towns, the organizers announced Thursday.

Nov. 17 is a national holiday in Czechia. Apart from the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Nov. 17 is also the anniversary of the Nazi crackdown on and closure of Czech universities in the wartime Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939.

The celebrations of 34 years after the fall of communism have been prepared by several civic groups forming the Festival of Freedom organization. Their culmination will be preceded by Freedom Week, within which various events will take place, including discussions in schools, from Monday, Nov. 13.

President Petr Pavel will also join in and speak from the National Theater during the awarding of the Memory of the Nation Prize, Kristýna Bardová of the Post Bellum non-governmental organization told reporters during the presentation of the program today.

Schedule of key events on Nov. 17

  • Performances and events on Národní Street and Wenceslas Square from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Velvet Brunch on Národní Street at 10 a.m.
  • Playing of the national anthem from the Metro Palace balcony at 1 p.m.
  • Prayer for Marta at 5:11p.m., accompanied by video mapping.
  • Václav Havel Living Room event remembering former First Lady Olga Havlová from 12:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
  • Concerts, debates, and interviews throughout the afternoon in Theater X10 and DRN Palace.
  • Stage performances and speakers on Wenceslas Square from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Concert by singer Lenka Filipová (Lenny) will take place on Národní třída at 5:45 p.m.

The Korzo Národní annual series of events in the street where the revolution was triggered by a brutal crackdown on a peaceful student demonstration by the communist police, will offer concerts, theater performances, author readings, educational exhibitions, and a program for children.

In total, it will offer 100 events with a total of 400 performers. This year's motto "Times are Changing," aims to offer a glimpse into history as well as insights into current issues and future challenges.

The national anthem will be played from the balcony of the Metro Palace at Národní Street at 1 p.m. and the anthem Prayer for Marta at 5:11 p.m. (17:11) accompanied by video mapping.

This year, the Václav Havel Living Room event will remember the late Olga Havlová on the occasion of her 90th birthday. From 12:30 p.m., live podcasts, debates, and interviews will take place throughout the afternoon in the Theater X10 and DRN Palace. A concert by singer Lenny will take place on Národní třída at 5:45 p.m.

Dozens of artists and representatives of civil society will take the stage on Wenceslas Square beginning at 4:30 p.m. The central theme of this year's event, which 17 speakers will address, is the relationship between nature, humanity, and machines.

The Memory of the Nation Award is traditionally given by the non-profit organization Post Bellum to people who have participated in the Memory of the Nation documentary film project.

The award will be presented to Marie Klangová, who during World War II provided Allied powers with secret information about German weaponry and was tortured by the Gestapo because of it, and to Eva Karvašová and Jan Litomiský, who helped political prisoners.

Among the honorees will be Marie Šídová, whose family helped hide a Catholic priest during his escape from a communist prison in the 1950s, and Vasyl Vyrozub, who volunteered to search for the bodies of Ukrainian border guards from Snake Island after the last February Russian invasion of Ukraine. Along with the rest of the crew, he was captured and tortured.

Academics and students will traditionally give speeches in the Albertov neighborhood in Prague, from where the aforementioned student demonstration set out for the center of the city on Nov. 17, 1989.

The Freedom Festival has been holding events to mark the Velvet Revolution anniversary since 2016.

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