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Student movements, Czechoslovakia, 1980s

Miroslav Vaněk


Dissatisfaction with the communist regime in socialist Czechoslovakia was on the rise throughout the 1980s. Toward the end of the decade, at a time when the international situation was beginning to improve (due to perestroika and glasnost), opposition from members of the educated public, especially artists, scientists, and scholars, journalists and university students, grew more pronounced. By the end of 1988 the students had once again emerged to play a major role in the political process, as they had done in every generation since the communist takeover. These students were too young to have experienced the Prague Spring and the student movement of the 1960s, and thus did not suffer from “1968 syndrome.” They were more open to the political ideas and cultural trends in Western Europe than the previous generation. As students came together to share both their interests and dissatisfaction with the communist regime, they developed “islands of freedom” where they discussed such topics as their country's environmental problems and the independent peace movement, as well as rock, punk, and new wave music. These young people were not only critical of the regime itself, but skeptical of the ideological and moral principles on which it was based. Their efforts to achieve freedom of expression and discretion over their own free time were fledgling steps toward establishing a civil society. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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