The Czech Republic may get another summer holiday. A proposal to name Aug. 21 as the Remembrance Day of the Victims of the Invasion and Subsequent Occupation by Warsaw Pact Troops has been put forward in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech Parliament.
The idea so far has broad support from most Czech political parties except the Communists (KSČM). Some 90 out of the 200 members of the lower house have backed the proposal.
The Czech Republic now has 13 public holidays, which is average worldwide. The most recent state holiday to be added is Good Friday, which took effect in 2016. The UK has eight, which is among the lowest, while India has 17 and Argentina has 18.
But there is a big gap in the Czech Republic in the summer between Jan Hus Day on July 6 and Czech Statehood Day on Sept. 28. The purpose of the additional holiday is not to simply add another day off in the summer, though.
The proposal for the Aug. 21 holiday was put forward by Jiří Mihola, the deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) club in the lower house. The move is in response to Russia proposing a legal amendment to its law for veterans that would claim the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia was intended to stop a pending coup and stabilize the country.
Members of the lower house say the Russian proposal is an attempt to rewrite history and legitimize the subsequent occupation, which lasted until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
President Milos Zeman, who in the past has been favorable toward Russia, also was critical of the Russian proposal. He met with the Russian ambassador and afterwards said that Russia still supports a Czech-Russian treaty from the 1993 that condemned the “the unacceptable use of force in 1968” as well as the “unjustifiable persistence of Soviet troops on Czechoslovak territory.”
The Czech holiday proposal says “the unreasonable invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops not only ended of democratization and humanist efforts to reform the socialist system in Czechoslovakia, but also resulted in the loss of lives of a significant number of innocent civilians.”
Some 137 Czechoslovak people were killed in the invasion and another 500 were seriously wounded. Some 70,000 people emigrated just after the invasion and an estimated 300,000 emigrated up through 1989.
The Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia took place on the night of Aug. 20–21, and the authors of the proposal for a state holiday say the date is the most tragic in modern Czechoslovak history.
Some 250,000 troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany and Hungary invaded Czechoslovakia. Romania and Albania refused to participate.
The invasion brought an end to Prague Spring, a series of political reforms meant to create “socialism with a human face.” There had been an easing of restrictions on free speech, promotion of democratic methods and an increase of people’s civil rights.
After the invasion, the Soviets instituted a policy called Normalization, which set back all of the Prague Spring reforms and replaced then with hard-line communist policies and strict centralized control.
The state holiday proposal should next be taken up by the Czech government for consideration.