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We Have Bare Hands | Honoring the Velvet Revolution’s 30th Anniversary

This exhibition offers a selection of images documenting crucial moments in Czech history at the end of 40 years of communist dictatorship: The 1988 demonstration honoring Jan Palach, the student who self-immolated in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the non-violent protests of November 17, 1989 and their aftermath, and photographs from 1990-1991 showing Soviet troops leaving Czechoslovakia and thus bringing the Velvet Revolution to an end.

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This exhibition offers a selection of images by leading Czech photographers documenting crucial moments in Czech history at the end of 40 years of communist dictatorship: The 1988 demonstration honoring Jan Palach, the student who self-immolated in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the non-violent protests of November 17, 1989 and their aftermath, and photographs from 1990-1991 showing Soviet troops leaving Czechoslovakia and thus bringing the Velvet Revolution to an end.
After 50 years of oppression, beginning with the Nazi occupation and continued through communist rule, public unrest spread through Czechoslovakia, emboldened by resistance to the communist governments in neighboring Poland and Hungary as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. A few days later, on November 17, violent suppression of a student protest in Prague led hundreds of thousands to protest and strike across Czechoslovakia.
“We have bare hands,” sang the protesters in November 1989. They kneeled, lit candles at the feet of policemen, offered them flowers and resisted unequivocally, quietly and as softly as velvet. Use of force against the protesters only encouraged others to take to the streets, culminating in massive protests numbering as many as 500,000 people on November 20.
Without any bloodshed, democracy and freedom returned to Czechoslovakia. On November 28, the Communist Party ended its rule and led the way for Václav Havel, a leader of the Velvet Revolution, to become the newly-elected president of Czechoslovakia a month later.
These photographs, which depict a decisive change brought upon by a popular struggle powered by the collective force of the people, remain a source of inspiration even after 30 years. A struggle which rejected violence and succeeded in undermining a longstanding state power offers hope for political and social change through just means that may, in the present or future, lead to morally ethical results.

Photographers: Radek Bajgar, Radovan Boček, Karel Cudlín, Přemysl Hněkovský, Lubomír Kotek, Jaroslav Kučera, Michal Krumphanzl (Czech Press Agency), Dana Kyndrová (Czech Press Agency), Jan Šilpoch ,Pavel Štecha, Jiří Všetečka.

In collaboration with the Czech Centre

 

Photographers:
Radek Bajgar, Radovan Boček, Karel Cudlín, Přemysl Hněkovský, Lubomír Kotek, Jaroslav Kučera, Michal Krumphanzl (Czech Press Agency), Dana Kyndrová (Czech Press Agency), Jan Šilpoch ,Pavel Štecha, Jiří Všetečka. In collaboration with the Czech Centre

Curator:
Michal Baharav Uzrad

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