November 28

This Day in History

Cold War

Nov 28, 1989:

Czechoslovakian Communist Party gives up monopoly on political power

Confronted by the collapse of communist regimes in neighboring countries and growing protests in the streets, officials of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party announce that they will give up their monopoly on political power. Elections held the following month brought the first noncommunist government to office in over 40 years.
Czechoslovakia, led by the communist hard-liner Gustav Husak, tried to ignore the signs that the political winds were shifting in east Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev was in power in the Soviet Union, calling for political and economic reforms. Old-line communist officials, such as Erich Honecker in East Germany, were falling from power. Husak and his supporters tried to retain their base of power in Czechoslovakia by bringing new communist faces into the government, but these cosmetic changes did not quell the growing demands from the nation's people for dramatic political restructuring. In November 1989, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Prague and other Czech cities calling for the removal of the Husak regime. Though police responded with vicious beatings, this violence only hardened the resolve of the protesters. Husak, with no hope of receiving assistance from the Soviet Union, announced on November 28 that the Communist Party would agree to eliminate the nation's one-party political system. A few days later, Husak resigned. A coalition government was established, with the communists a distinct minority. On December 29, Vaclav Havel was elected president, becoming the first noncommunist leader of Czechoslovakia in more than 40 years.
The success of the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia (so-called because of its relatively peaceful nature) was another sign of the ebbing fortunes of communism in eastern Europe. The fact that the Soviet Union refrained from action (unlike 1968, when Soviet tanks crushed protesters in Prague) signaled the waning power of the communist giant, as well as Gorbachev's commitment to economic and political reform in the eastern bloc.

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