Czech Students Look Back at What Their Forebears Started

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In Czechoslovakia, it all started with the students.

By late autumn of 1989, the Berlin Wall had already fallen, the border between Hungary and Austria had become porous and Poland had long since held largely free elections. But in Czechoslovakia, the communist government was still doing what it could to maintain a firm grip on the reins of power. It wasn't to last...

... 'Slave to Capitalism'

This week, the Czech Republic is marking the 20th anniversary of their Velvet Revolution. Many of the demonstrations are being recreated, thousands lit candles in downtown Prague in commemoration and Vaclav Havel, who emerged as the hero of the Revolution, is omnipresent. But how do the youth of that nation, whose forerunners were integral in bringing down the communist government, feel about the event today?

"Being a slave to capitalism is no different from being a slave to communism." That is what Jana Kajnarová's mother tells her. Kajnarová, who now lives in Berlin, says that nostalgia for the old communist system is particularly strong among the older generation.

"My mother -- who is sick and who is not sufficiently cared for by the state -- was happier 20 years ago," she told SPIEGEL ONLINE."And many of the pensioners from my hometown Varnsdorf agree with her. Under communism, people worked with the certainty that one day they wouldn't have to work anymore," the 25-year-old adds."Now, you just don't have that kind of security."

Kajnarová also admits to being disillusioned with the current government, saying that at the moment she believes the Czech Republic doesn't really have a real democracy."There is simply no real opposition party good enough to pose a threat to (current Czech President) Václav Klaus," she says. Kajnarová goes on to describe the current government as a"farce."

'I Can Travel as Much as I Want'

However as much as Kajnarová can understand that point of view of pensioners in her hometown, and as much as she is disappointed with the Czech government, she still believes that things are better than they were before the Velvet Revolution."I keep reminding (my mother) that we are free now, that I can travel as much as I want."

This attitude is one shared by many other Czech students this century, as a recent study by Czech polling agency CVVM, published in the Aktuálne newspaper, demonstrates. Czech youth view the fall of Communism as a wholly positive development, according to the survey. A study on attitudes toward the end of communism released by the Washington D.C.-based Pew Global Attitudes Project earlier this month indicates that almost 90 percent of Czechs aged between 18 and 29 approve of a system with multiple political parties. Eighty percent approve of the free market economy...

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