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Generation89: Witnessing the Velvet Revolution 30 years on

12 November 2019

History makers recall the Czechoslovak revolution and the end of the Communist regime at special event.

One generation since one-party Communist rule was overthrown in Czechoslovakia leading figures will assemble in Cardiff to bear witness to the events that unfolded over ten historic days in November 1989.

Marking this important anniversary with key makers of history, Generation’89 aims to deepen understanding of the complexity of the 1989 European revolutions.

Generation'89 brings together key players from 1989.

Bearing witness are modern Czech and Slovak politicians, diplomats and journalists who were at the centre of the revolution, whether as students, actors, dissidents, founding members of revolutionary organisations, Communist Party members or negotiators of regime change negotiators. Video and written testimony will bear witness in place of those unable to attend in person.

Sharing their inside-knowledge of the remarkable events in Czechoslovakia in 1989 are a mix of Czechs and Slovaks who made history, including a leading member of the revolutionary student strike committee, a representative of the defeated Communist Party and the first post-1989 Czechoslovak and Slovak ambassador.

Chairing the sessions are Cardiff academics Professor Mary Heimann, author of Czechoslovakia: The State that Failed (Yale University Press) and Professor of Law Jiří Přibáň, author of The Defence of Constitutionalism: The Czech Question in Post-National Europe (Karolinum).

Probing witnesses are Lecturer in Politics David Green [Glasgow International College] and Associate Professor in Modern Social History, of Charles University Prague Michal Pullmann.

Without loss of life, the Velvet or Gentle Revolution took place in ten fast-paced days, from a state-approved student demonstration one Friday to a government of national understanding resulting in regime change just over a week later.

Following public outrage and protests at the kettling and beating of students on 17 November (International Students Day), revolutionary organisations Civic Forum and Public Against Violence formed within days. Amid growing protests, the ruling Czechoslovak Communist Party resigned en masse on 24 November before a government of national understanding was formed resulting in peaceful transition from communist rule to republic.

Author of Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed Professor of Modern History Mary Heimann has convened this remarkable meeting of history-makers.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Professor Heimann said:

“In the present atmosphere of political recklessness across the United Kingdom, the USA and much of Central Europe, there is all the more reason to remind ourselves of the power of ordinary people peacefully to stand up to leaders who falsely claim to speak in their name”.

This public event is made possible by funding from the Centre of Law and Society, School of Law and Politics, the School of History, Archaeology and Religion and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in London.

Generation’89 takes place at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff on Friday 22 November 2019, one generation after the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The free event is open to all, with advance booking via Eventbrite. For latest information, follow #Generation89.

The University is marking a range of historic anniversaries this autumn, including #BerlinWallFalls2019, marking the end of the East/West divide in East Germany and the demise of the Iron Curtain thirty years ago.

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