Picture behind the story #19 The protest of Jan Palach

In August 1968, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms of Alexander Dubcek’s government during what was known as the Prague Spring. Jan Palach, a 22 year old student, decided to sacrifice himself in protest of the invasion and set himself on fire, in Wenceslas Square on 16 January 1969.

From a personal viewpoint this was a political awakening. I was just a few months away from going to university in Glasgow to begin my PhD research in Chemistry and had still not been old enough to vote in the previous UK election. I had never thought much about politics but this horrible event was global headline news for weeks and weeks. It brought into stark relief the totalitarian behaviour of one state/empire, the USSR, over another, Czechoslovakia, subjugating them in terms of their economy, their laws, their industry, their education system, their politics ….

The Jan Palach memorial Wenceslas Square Czech Republic Prague

We visited this simple memorial to Jan’s sacrifice in Wenceslas Square, Prague on our recent trip and stood there for a few minutes as I told my daughter and her husband of the events of 1969. The younger generation have mostly no real idea of the brutality and destructive rule of the USSR from the end of WWII up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that during this time countries such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia were not “free” in the sense that we understand freedom, sovereignty and democracy today.

We will all do well to remember this, even today, almost 50 years on, when freedom of speech is buried in the guise of political correctness, when even “thinking” something is labelled as a crime, when many education, media and civil institutions have been annexed by left wing Marxists, and when any “superstate” interferes in the politics, laws, economy etc of another.

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6 replies

  1. The last two paragraphs of this piece need to be read by anyone under the age of 35. Well written piece. I usually think of self immolation in regards to Vietnam War protests but I didn’t know that this happened in eastern Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very supportive comment, now I reread my final couple of paragraphs they are clearly a very personal,view as opposed to a piece of writing about significant history. There is no doubt we are sleepwalking collectively into a leftist totalitarian world where those under 35 or so have been seduced by political correctness, safe spaces, no platforming, and the incessant media led propaganda that globalism and multiculturalism is good for us all. This may well be the case, but shutting down debate about these things or taking offence about an innocent tweet or two is a recipe for setting the planet alight far more than a nuclear war would!


  2. I visited this place in Prague several years ago when I went there to sing in a concert. It was a “must” to go there, remember the events of 1968/69, which we followed, and spend some time in silent reflection on the sacrifice made by Jan Palach in the name of freedom. A very moving experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the Prague Spring and how we all lived in fear of the Soviet Union at the time.

    The Russians of course argued that the occupation of Eastern Europe was for self defence to provide a buffer against western aggression, understandable perhaps after the experience of being invaded twice in 1812 and 1941 and suffering badly at the hands of the French and the Germans.

    USSR wanted to include part of partitioned Austria to also come under their control but at that point the West said no!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, fear of USSR and of a nuclear war specifically. Buffers are irrelevant today in terms of modern warfare with technological advances and cyber attacks being developed. Makes the call from Mutti and Micron for a European army irrelevant too, unless it’s to be used to control the internal population?


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