Candle demonstration in Bratislava

Candle demonstration in Bratislava

The Candle Demonstration (sviečková demonštrácia) on 25 March 1988 in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was the first mass demonstration of the 1980s against the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

The Demonstration was organized by Roman Catholic dissent groups asking for religious freedom in Czechoslovakia. The peaceful Candle Demonstration of ten thousand believers was suppressed by the police.

Catholic activist František Mikloško initiated a request for a permit to demonstrate, but his proposal was rejected by the authorities. Information about the event was propagated through Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America by Anton Hlinka.

The demonstration was the first important step towards destroying the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. 3000 Slovaks protested on Hviezdoslav Square with candles in their hands, and further thousands in adjacent streets, while the main entrance to the square was blocked by secret police. Police first used water cannons against protesters while they ran their sirens and yelled at protesters to get away from the square, then began attacking the protesters with batons and sticks.

Interestingly, leading Communist functionaries (e.g. the Slovak prime minister, minister of the interior, minister of culture) were observing the whole "operation" from inside the Carlton Hotel on Hviezdoslav square.

25 March has become Struggle for Human Rights Day in Slovakia, commemorating the Candle demonstration.

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