Download Greek Fonts & Instructions for your computer A)? GHT="50">
Compact version
Today's Suggestion
Read The "Macedonian Question" (by Maria Nystazopoulou-Pelekidou)
HomeAbout HR-NetNewsWeb SitesDocumentsOnline HelpUsage InformationContact us
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
 
News
  Latest News (All)
     From Greece
     From Cyprus
     From Europe
     From Balkans
     From Turkey
     From USA
  Announcements
  World Press
  News Archives
Web Sites
  Hosted
  Mirrored
  Interesting Nodes
Documents
  Special Topics
  Treaties, Conventions
  Constitutions
  U.S. Agencies
  Cyprus Problem
  Other
Services
  Personal NewsPaper
  Greek Fonts
  Tools
  F.A.Q.
 

RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 224, 99-11-17

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 224, 17 November 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PARLIAMENTARY KILLINGS A SETBACK TO
  • [02] NEW APPOINTMENT FOR FORMER ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY
  • [03] KAZAKH OPPOSITION CONDEMNS PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM OF OSCE
  • [04] KAZAKH PREMIER CALLS FOR TIGHTER BORDER SECURITY
  • [05] UIGHUR MINORITY STAGES SECOND PROTEST IN ALMATY
  • [06] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO DENMARK
  • [07] KYRGYZ PREMIER UPBEAT ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS
  • [08] TAJIK PRESIDENT PRAISES 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH RUSSIA
  • [09] TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DEMOLISH ADVENTIST CHURCH
  • [10] MILITANTS KILL SIX IN UZBEK SHOOTOUTS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] STATE MEDIA ATTACKS DRASKOVIC FOR GOING TO ISTANBUL...
  • [12] ...AS YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT PROTESTS EXCLUSION, CLINTON VISIT
  • [13] UN SAYS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MAINLY KOSOVAR SERB REFUGEES
  • [14] EU PLEDGES $500 MILLION FOR KOSOVA RECONSTRUCTION
  • [15] U.S. WELCOMES ELECTION OF TRAJKOVSKI
  • [16] TUDJMAN'S DOCTORS SAY PRESIDENT ON THE MEND
  • [17] CROATIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIALS MEET BOSNIAN
  • [18] GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS TROOPS STILL NEEDED IN BOSNIA
  • [19] MEDIA COMMISSION ORDERS BOSNIAN-CROAT TV STATION TO CLOSE
  • [20] ALBANIA HIT BY POWER SHORTAGE
  • [21] ROMANIAN MINISTERS CONSIDER SUING OPPOSITION LEADER
  • [22] ROMANIAN STUDENTS SAY THEIR PROTESTS ARE NOT POLITICAL
  • [23] MOLDOVAN COURT RULES ON REFERENDUM
  • [24] RUSSIANS START WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA
  • [25] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS MUNICIPAL FINANCES 'CRITICAL'
  • [26] BULGARIAN TRADE UNION TO LAUNCH POLITICAL FORMATION

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [27] THE VELVET REVOLUTION: A CHRONOLOGY

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PARLIAMENTARY KILLINGS A SETBACK TO

    KARABAKH TALKS

    In an interview aired on four Armenian

    television channels on 16 November, Robert Kocharian said the

    27 October murders of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and

    seven other officials have set back by several months the

    ongoing talks on a settlement of the Karabakh conflict,

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said that no

    formal document resolving the conflict will be signed at the

    upcoming OSCE summit, but he added that he may meet there

    with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, and with the

    presidents or foreign ministers of U.S., France, and Russia,

    which co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group. Kocharian dismissed as

    "baseless" suggestions that Russia is "jealous" of

    Washington's role in trying to broker a solution to the

    conflict, noting that his first direct talks with Aliev took

    place in Moscow, according to Interfax. He said political

    stability has now been restored after the 27 October

    shootings, which, he noted, damaged the country in the eyes

    of the international community. LF

    [02] NEW APPOINTMENT FOR FORMER ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY

    MINISTER

    President Kocharian on 16 November named Serzh

    Sarkisian as head of the presidential administration,

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Aleksan Harutiunian, who

    previously occupied that post, was appointed presidential

    foreign policy adviser. Sarkisian had tendered his

    resignation two days after the 27 October Armenian parliament

    shootings, in response to a demand by senior Defense Ministry

    officials that he, the interior minister, and the prosecutor-

    general should resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and

    1 November 1999). Also on 16 November, Kocharian appointed

    Boris Nazarian, prosecutor in the southern province of

    Ararat, to succeed Aghvan Hovsepian as prosecutor-general. LF

    [03] KAZAKH OPPOSITION CONDEMNS PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM OF OSCE

    Leaders of the Democratic Forum, which unites the country's

    main opposition parties, have rejected what they termed

    President Nursultan Nazarbaev's "groundless" attack on the

    OSCE, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported

    on 16 November. Last week Nazarbaev questioned whether the

    OSCE served any useful purpose if it failed to address the

    conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    11 November 1999). The opposition leaders also rejected

    Nazarbaev's claim that the OSCE is guilty of double standards

    in criticizing the conduct of the presidential and

    parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan earlier this year. They

    expressed their support for the work of the OSCE in

    Kazakhstan. LF

    [04] KAZAKH PREMIER CALLS FOR TIGHTER BORDER SECURITY

    Addressing

    a cabinet meeting on 16 November, Qasymzhomart Toqaev called

    for intensified internal security to stem the influx of

    foreign nationals into Kazakhstan via neighboring states,

    Interfax reported. Toqaev said the failure of such persons to

    register with the Interior Ministry "creates social and

    political tensions." He instructed the Interior Ministry to

    round up and deport illegal immigrants within one week. A

    group of some 70 Pakistani men was refused entry into the

    country last month. Several thousand Chechens have also

    arrived in Kazakhstan to take refuge with relatives among the

    70,000 strong Chechen community there. LF

    [05] UIGHUR MINORITY STAGES SECOND PROTEST IN ALMATY

    Dozens of

    Uighur women staged a demonstration on 16 November outside

    the Chinese embassy in Almaty to protest the continued

    detention in Xinjiang of Rabia Qadir, RFE/RL's Almaty

    correspondent reported. Qadir was arrested earlier this year

    and charged with contacts with Uighur separatists. Uighurs in

    Almaty had also held a demonstration on her behalf on 4

    November. LF

    [06] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO DENMARK

    Visiting Copenhagen

    on 15-16 November, Askar Akaev met with Queen Margrethe II

    and discussed bilateral relations with Prime Minister Poul

    Nyrup Rasmussen, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Agreement

    was reached on strengthening relations and widening

    cooperation in agriculture, energy, tourism, and on support

    for small and medium-sized business. However, several

    documents prepared by the Kyrgyz side on cooperation between

    the two countries' Foreign Ministries and Chambers of Trade

    were not signed. LF

    [07] KYRGYZ PREMIER UPBEAT ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS

    Addressing the

    parliament on 15 November, Amangeldy Muraliev said that

    during the first 10 months of 1999, GDP grew by 4 percent and

    agricultural output by 9 percent, compared with 1998,

    Interfax reported. He said those figures demonstrate that

    favorable conditions have been created for economic growth.

    Muraliev also told deputies that the procedures for

    registering small private businesses will be simplified. LF

    [08] TAJIK PRESIDENT PRAISES 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH RUSSIA

    Vladimir Putin held talks with President Imomali Rakhmonov

    and Prime Minister Yahye Azimov in Dushanbe on 16 November

    following Rakhmonov's official inauguration. Putin's press

    spokesman Mikhail Korzhukov told journalist that the Russian

    premier's talks with Rakhmonov focused on bilateral

    relations, the status of Russian troops stationed in

    Tajikistan, cooperation within the CIS, the situation in

    Afghanistan, and the upcoming OSCE Istanbul summit. Rakhmonov

    assured Putin that Tajikistan will continue to regard Russia

    as a "strategic partner." Putin termed bilateral relations

    "constructive" and said that the countries' mutual debts can

    be resolved without difficulty. Putin and Azimov discussed

    two joint hydro-electric projects and the possibility of a

    textiles joint venture utilizing Tajik cotton. LF

    [09] TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DEMOLISH ADVENTIST CHURCH

    The Ashgabat

    City authorities bulldozed a Seventh Day Adventist church in

    the city on 13 November, Compass Direct reported three days

    later. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov had

    granted permission for construction of the church in 1992. It

    was the only Adventist church in Turkmenistan. Turkmen

    security officials also raided an Evangelical Baptist

    community in Ashgabat on 14 November and confiscated Bibles

    and hymn books. LF

    [10] MILITANTS KILL SIX IN UZBEK SHOOTOUTS

    Some 12-15 men who

    Uzbek Interior Ministry officials said are "Islamic

    militants" shot dead three hunters who approached their camp

    near the eastern resort town of Yangiabad on 15 November,

    Interfax and Reuters reported. In a subsequent attack on a

    police post near Yangiabad, four militants and three

    policemen were shot dead. Police are still trying to locate

    the gunmen, who they say may belong to the band headed by

    Djuma Namangani. That group took hostages in southern

    Kyrgyzstan in August. According to Tajikistan's Minister for

    Emergency Situations Mirzo Ziyeev, the group left Tajikistan

    earlier this month for Afghanistan. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] STATE MEDIA ATTACKS DRASKOVIC FOR GOING TO ISTANBUL...

    Pro-

    government media criticized Serbian opposition leader Vuk

    Draskovic on 16 November for his decision to attend the OSCE

    summit in Istanbul on 18-19 November, Reuters reported. The

    "Politika Express" daily said "the everlasting political

    loser...has once again missed the right side." Media coverage

    of Draskovic has been relatively favorable recently because

    of his refusal to participate in anti-government rallies led

    by the Alliance for Change (SZP). Draskovic, SZP leader Zoran

    Djindjic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, and possibly

    Dragoslav Aramovic are to attend the OSCE summit, some of

    them as part of the Czech President Vaclav Havel's

    delegation. Draskovic spokesman Ivan Kovacevic said Draskovic

    will go to Istanbul to "fight for an end to sanctions and to

    get the country out of its crisis." PB

    [12] ...AS YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT PROTESTS EXCLUSION, CLINTON VISIT

    TO KOSOVA

    The Yugoslav government on 16 November protested

    the fact that it will not be represented at the OSCE summit

    in Istanbul, AP reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Miroslav

    Milosevic said the government has prepared a document for the

    summit participants detailing "NATO aggression" against

    Yugoslavia, which he said will promote collective security in

    Europe. Belgrade was suspended from the OSCE in 1992

    following international sanctions over its involvement in the

    Croatian and Bosnian wars. The daily "Politika Express" also

    criticized the planned visit next week of U.S. President Bill

    Clinton to Kosova. The newspaper said the visit violates

    Yugoslav sovereignty and encourages ethnic Albanian

    extremists. PB

    [13] UN SAYS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MAINLY KOSOVAR SERB REFUGEES

    IN YUGOSLAVIA

    The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)

    said on 16 November that up to 240,000 non-Albanian refugees

    have fled the Serbian province of Kosova, Reuters reported. A

    UNHCR spokeswoman said the chances are "very slim" that these

    people will return to Kosova because of the problems non-

    Albanians face in the province. Most of the refugees are

    staying with family and friends, while 10,000 are being

    housed in refugee centers, the agency said. The UNHCR is to

    provide aid packages and financial aid for 50,000 refugees in

    the coming weeks. Additionally, there are still some 500,000

    mostly Serbian refugees in Yugoslavia who fled earlier

    conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia. PB

    [14] EU PLEDGES $500 MILLION FOR KOSOVA RECONSTRUCTION

    The EU

    said on 17 November that it will give more than $500 million

    to a fund to support the long-term reconstruction of Kosova,

    Reuters reported. Chris Patten, the EU's foreign relations

    commissioner, made the pledge at the European Parliament in

    Strasbourg. The World Bank and the European Commission

    estimate that some $2.3 billion will be needed in the next

    five years. The World Bank is seeking $1.1 billion for 2000,

    half of which is to be provided by the EU. PB

    [15] U.S. WELCOMES ELECTION OF TRAJKOVSKI

    The U.S. State

    Department said on 16 November that it looks forward to a

    "positive, constructive" relationship with newly elected

    Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, an RFE/RL

    correspondent reported. The State Department said in a

    statement that the U.S. "worked closely" with Trajkovski

    throughout the Kosova crisis. It also congratulated the

    Macedonian people for "undertaking a peaceful, democratic

    change in leadership." The elections have been marred by

    complaints of fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November

    1999). PB

    [16] TUDJMAN'S DOCTORS SAY PRESIDENT ON THE MEND

    The medical team

    of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said on 16 November that

    "improvement...has been maintained" over the last 48 hours,

    Croatian Radio reported. A statement signed by a hospital

    doctor said that Tudjman's "postoperative period is

    proceeding well." Tudjman has been in hospital for 16 days.

    Ljerka Mintas-Hodak, the deputy chairwoman of Tudjman's

    ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said the chief of

    the presidential staff, Ivica Kostovic, has briefed HDZ

    officials on the president's condition. She said the HDZ has

    not discussed what will happen if Tudjman is unable to

    formally call elections because there is "no need for this

    since the president is recovering." PB

    [17] CROATIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIALS MEET BOSNIAN

    COUNTERPARTS

    A delegation of Bosnian Interior Ministry

    officials arrived in Zagreb on 16 November for talks on

    bilateral relations and cooperation in fighting terrorism and

    drug trafficking, Hina reported. Croatian Interior Minister

    Ivan Penic said the two groups are to work on three annexes

    within an agreement on special relations. In other news, the

    president of the soccer club Croatia Zagreb announced that a

    vote will be held among club members on whether to rename the

    team Dinamo Zagreb. President Tudjman changed the name from

    Dinamo after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia because it

    sounded "too communist." Most fans resented the name change

    and some have boycotted games until the name "Dinamo" is

    restored. PB

    [18] GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS TROOPS STILL NEEDED IN BOSNIA

    Rudolf Scharping said in Sarajevo on 16 November that the

    international military presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina is

    still necessary, dpa reported. Scharping, on a one-day visit

    to Bosnia, said he does not support the setting of a

    timetable for a gradual withdrawal of the Stabilization Force

    (SFOR) troops. As part of a scheduled reduction in the size

    of SFOR, Scharping said some 300 German soldiers will leave

    Bosnia over the next few months, as a result of which 2,000

    German soldiers will remain there. SFOR troops will be

    reduced from the current 31,000 to some 20,000 by April.

    Scharping also met with the defense ministers of the two

    autonomous entities in Bosnia and said he hopes the country's

    separate armed forces will become more multiethnic. PB

    [19] MEDIA COMMISSION ORDERS BOSNIAN-CROAT TV STATION TO CLOSE

    The Independent Media Commission (IMC) for Bosnia-Herzegovina

    said on 16 November that it has ordered the private Erotel TV

    to stop broadcasting, AP reported. The IMC is an

    international body that regulates broadcast media in Bosnia

    and is authorized to grant and revoke licenses. Erotel TV is

    based in the Croat-run part of Mostar and serves the Croat

    community in the Muslim-Croat Federation. It has been

    operating without a license for two years and retransmits

    programs from state-run Croatian Television. PB

    [20] ALBANIA HIT BY POWER SHORTAGE

    The government has reduced

    taxes on gas imports in an effort to overcome a power

    shortage in the country, ATA reported on 16 November. A

    severe drought has lowered the water levels of rivers and led

    to reduced output at hydroelectric power plants, which

    produce some 95 percent of the country's electricity.

    Blackouts have been reported in the north, and government

    officials are trying to persuade industries to run at night

    to ensure an even distribution of power. The government

    proposed reducing customs taxes on heating gas from 20

    percent to 10 percent and approved two draft bills aimed at

    liberalizing gas imports. PB

    [21] ROMANIAN MINISTERS CONSIDER SUING OPPOSITION LEADER

    Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 15 November told

    members of his cabinet that they are free to launch law

    suits against Party of Social Democracy in Romania leader

    Ion Iliescu if they so desire, Mediafax reported on 16

    November. Government spokeswoman Adriana Saftoiu said

    Vasile's decision was a response to a statement by Iliescu

    last week in which the opposition leader said "there is no

    minister or parliamentary deputy belonging to the ruling

    parties who is not involved in business and who did not get

    spectacularly rich during all this period." Various top

    members of the governing coalition have called on Iliescu

    to produce proof of his allegation, and senators are

    considering lifting his immunity from prosecution. Iliescu

    responded that his statement has been misinterpreted,

    saying he had not accused all legislators of being involved

    in business. He said he had simply wanted to know how many

    current government deputies are not involved in business.

    VG

    [22] ROMANIAN STUDENTS SAY THEIR PROTESTS ARE NOT POLITICAL

    Students' League president Daniel Onisor on 16 November

    rejected politicians' assertions that the student protests

    could be politically influenced by extremists, Mediafax

    reported. Democratic Party Senator Nicolae Alexandru recently

    said the student street protests risk coming under the sway

    of "rightist extremists or communists." Several student

    leaders have rejected Alexandru's claim, saying their

    movement is peaceful and not political. Meanwhile, one person

    was injured on 16 November after about 1,500 students clashed

    with police in the northeastern city of Iasi, Mediafax

    reported. VG

    [23] MOLDOVAN COURT RULES ON REFERENDUM

    The Moldovan

    Constitutional Court on 16 November rejected a

    parliamentary decision that three-fifths of the population

    must participate in a referendum for the vote to be

    considered valid, BASA-Press reported. The court also

    approved a draft constitutional proposal by 38

    parliamentary deputies on the transformation of Moldova

    into a parliamentary democracy. The proposal by the

    deputies would restrict the president's powers. VG

    [24] RUSSIANS START WITHDRAWAL FROM MOLDOVA

    The Russian army on

    16 November dispatched the first trainload of military

    hardware from Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region. The

    previous day, it destroyed 13 tanks, armored vehicles, and

    self-propelled guns in the presence of OSCE delegates.

    However, the Moldovan government charged that the Russian

    military is not conducting a "real withdrawal" but is

    simply destroying obsolete equipment. VG

    [25] BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS MUNICIPAL FINANCES 'CRITICAL'

    Ivan

    Kostov said on 16 November that the financial situation of

    municipalities is in a "critical" state, BTA reported.

    Kostov made the statement after meeting in Sofia with

    representatives of the National Association of

    Municipalities. He said municipalities lack heating fuel

    for schools, hospitals, and social institutions. Supplying

    local governments with heating fuel will cost some 30

    million leva ($15.9 million). Finance Minister Murayev

    Radev said the government will supply municipalities with

    heating fuel by the end of the year, rather than give them

    the money to purchase it. Kostov noted that municipal

    deficits will total 221 million leva this year, which he

    said is the result of a lack of financial discipline in

    local government. He added that mayors should make staff

    cuts to save money. VG

    [26] BULGARIAN TRADE UNION TO LAUNCH POLITICAL FORMATION

    The

    Podkrepa Labor Confederation announced on 16 November that

    it plans to put together a new political formation to

    compete in the next parliamentary elections, according to a

    Bulgarian Radio report cited by the BBC. Confederation

    President Konstantin Trenchev said the new formation will

    be made up of various "democratic organizations" and will

    offer an "alternative model" of democratic governing in the

    country. VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [27] THE VELVET REVOLUTION: A CHRONOLOGY

    by Jolyon Naegele

    Eight months after Alexander Dubcek took office as

    Communist Party first secretary and launched the "Prague

    Spring" reforms, the five armies of the Soviet-led Warsaw

    Pact occupied Czechoslovakia. That move strangled reform not

    only in Czechoslovakia but throughout the Soviet bloc for

    years to come.

    The post-1968 ferment in Czechoslovakia's socialist

    neighbors started with the brutally suppressed Gdansk riots

    in Poland in 1970 that toppled communist leader Wladyslaw

    Gomulka. Unrest resumed in Poland in summer 1976 with

    worker's protests in Radom against price rises. The

    Communists once again responded with force.

    The Vatican's election of a Pole, Karol Wojtyla, as pope

    in 1978 did much to encourage Poles as well as devout members

    of neighboring nations, including the Slovaks. The papal

    visit to Poland the following year inspired the birth of the

    Solidarity free trade union movement in summer 1980. All

    these events also encouraged Czechoslovakia's modest, largely

    intellectual opposition.

    But while Poles rarely took the communist system in

    which they lived completely seriously, Czechs and Slovaks

    did. The legacy of 1968 and the Munich pact of 1939 as well

    as the awareness that they were a small country hardly gave

    them cause for self-confidence.

    On 13 December 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski

    declared martial law in Poland rather than risk a Soviet

    invasion. That came as a relief to Czechoslovakia's communist

    rulers and a disappointment to those who hoped that the

    flames of Solidarity would spread south..

    The Radio Moscow announcement of the death of Soviet

    Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev came amid economic,

    political, and social stagnation throughout the Soviet bloc.

    The brief rule of Brezhnev's two ailing successors, Yuri

    Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, ensured that even the word

    "reform" continued to be defined by the Czechoslovak

    communist party as a "temporary, tactical step backward--

    favored by right-wing revisionists."

    The 1985 election of the dynamic Mikhail Gorbachev and

    the gradual introduction of his policies of perestroika and

    glasnost yet again raised hopes across Czechoslovakia that

    change might finally be on the horizon.

    At least as important for the Soviet satellites was

    Gorbachev's oft-repeated warning to his fellow Communist

    party chiefs at closed door Warsaw Pact summits that the

    Soviet Union would no longer run their affairs. Few of the

    aging leaders took Gorbachev's words seriously. And some,

    particularly Czechoslovakia's leadership, assumed Gorbachev

    and his policies were a temporary deviation from the true

    Marxist-Leninist line.

    Gorbachev's visit to Czechoslovakia in April 1987 only

    reinforced this view as he failed to urge reform or a re-

    evaluation of 1968. Perestroika and glasnost remained merely

    empty phrases in Czechoslovakia. Prague authorities began

    curtailing the distribution of the Soviet press in a bid to

    prevent the dissemination of openly critical articles.

    Gorbachev's speeches were censored in the Czechoslovak

    Communist Party daily "Rude pravo."

    The round-table talks in Poland in early 1989 between

    Solidarity and the communist authorities and the Hungarian

    parliament's move to re-evaluate its 1956 revolution and

    transform itself into a parliamentary democracy contributed

    to a sense of change in Czechoslovakia. Elements of a civil

    society began to develop in response to the jailing of

    dissident playwright Vaclav Havel and others.

    The mass demonstrations in East Germany and the exodus

    of East Germans through Czechoslovakia to the West in

    September and October 1989 served as an example for

    Czechoslovaks. They saw how massive, peaceful civil

    disobedience could force a Soviet bloc satellite to rein in

    its forces.

    But Czechs were also witness to clashes between their

    own police and East German asylum seekers trying to reach the

    West German Embassy in Prague. East German police had ceased

    beating demonstrators by mid October.

    On 28 October, the 71st anniversary of the founding of

    Czechoslovakia, the streets of central Prague once again

    echoed with chanting and whistling as police battled peaceful

    protesters.

    The crowd numbered some 20,000--hardly enough to

    persuade a government to resign. In marked contrast to

    neighboring East Germany, the Prague police resorted to

    clubs, water cannon and armored personnel carriers to

    disperse the gathering.

    On 9 November, East German authorities opened the Berlin

    Wall. Eight days later, on 17 November, a record 50,000

    Czechoslovaks turned out for a student demonstration in

    Prague which, though officially sanctioned, turned violent as

    police surrounded and beat demonstrators. Secret police

    disinformation that a student had been killed backfired: in

    the following days, the number of protesters soared into the

    hundreds of thousands. Opposition activists and intellectuals

    founded the Civic Forum two days after what came to be known

    as the "massacre."

    The secret police, riot police, Interior Ministry troops

    and the army all waited in vain for orders to act. But the

    orders never came. As with the Berlin Wall, Moscow monitored

    the situation in Prague closely but refrained from any

    interference. Within a week, Jakes and the rest of

    Czechoslovak Politburo resigned. But equally incompetent

    bureaucrats were appointed as replacements.

    Some 700,000 people demonstrated on 25-26 November to

    express their outrage and demand an end to communist rule.

    The crowd whistled and booed Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec,

    who soon resigned.

    On 3 December, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact

    issued separate statements condemning their invasion of

    Czechoslovakia in 1968. And on 10 December, after he swore in

    a new government of opposition activists and moderate

    Communists under Communist Prime Minister Marian Calfa, Husak

    finally stepped down as president.

    By the end of the month, Dubcek was speaker of the

    federal parliament, and the most articulate and outspoken

    critic of the communist regime, Vaclav Havel, was president

    of Czechoslovakia.

    The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.

    17-11-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
    Back to Top
    Copyright 1995-2016 HR-Net (Hellenic Resources Network). An HRI Project.
    All Rights Reserved.

    HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.
    rferl2html v1.01 run on Wednesday, 17 November 1999 - 16:33:17 UTC