At a demonstration in August 1989, young protesters meet with an older woman.
Demonstrations against the regime in Czechoslovakia did not begin in November 1989; smaller groups of people had already clashed violently with police in the preceding months. A prelude to the mass demonstrations were the protests on the anniversary of the Soviet occupation (1968 – Invasion) in August 1989. Our video does not capture the violent suppression of demonstrations, but instead the subtle moment when young, enthusiastic protesters meet with a woman who identifies herself simply as a “housekeeper”.
She experienced the important events of modern Czechoslovak history and shares her interpretations of the First Republic (the interwar, democratic Czechoslovak republic) as filtered by the Communist Party. She sees the interwar period sees as one of poverty, praises the communist coup in 1948, and characterises the attempt to reform socialism in 1968 (1968 – Prague Spring) as a “mess”. This is certainly not the only area where her evaluation of historical events disagrees with that of the young demonstrators, who on the contrary see the Warsaw Pact invasion that interrupted the democratisation process in 1968 (1968 – Invasion) as the “mess”. They came to express their opposing views at an anti-regime demonstration in August 1989, on the anniversary of the Soviet occupation. Although the debate with the housekeeper is waged in the spirit of respect, the communist regime and its security apparatus did not demonstrate this respect and the demonstration was dispersed. However, it was a harbinger of further protests and social discontent (We’re not children). Before autumn 1989, it seemed that most residents agreed with the communist regime, and later that everyone criticised it. Opinions on these issues were always ambiguous and the lines between them were often generational or regional (Revolution in the regions).