Welcome to Classroom Europe!

Rick Steves Classroom Europe™ is a free resource allowing teachers to share the best of European art, history, and culture with their students and fellow educators.

A Message from Rick  |  Frequently Asked Questions

 close
Playlist Under Construction: None. Add a video to get started!
Playlist Under Construction: None. Add a video to get started!
Add to Playlist

Prague Defeating Communism in 1989

Prague, Czech Republic

The Czech Republic, which has been ruled by the Habsburgs, the Nazis, and the communists in turn, brought an end to 40 years of communist rule peaceably, through a series of protests in 1989. We learn from a local who lived through this exciting time.

Complete Video Script

Wenceslas Square is the main square of the country and the natural assembly point when the Czech people need to raise their collective voice for change. In the 19th century, the age of divine kings and ruling families was coming to an end. Here, as in much of Europe, nationalism was on the rise.

By the end of World War I, the Habsburgs were history, and the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia was celebrated on this square. But independence lasted barely 20 years. In 1939, the Nazis marched in. While Prague escaped the bombs of World War II, it couldn’t avoid the communists who came next…and stayed for 40 years. But, with this square as the stage, people power ultimately prevailed.

Honza: In the 20th century, my family lived history in this square. In 1918, my grandma watched the Habsburg eagles being pulled down from the buildings. In 1939, my aunt saw the Nazis pulling in. In 1968, my dad stood here with his bare hands against the Soviet tanks. In 1989, it was my generation’s turn.
Rick: So you were here. Tell me what happened.
Honza: In November ’89, a student march headed for this square, kicked off two weeks of demonstrations. For 40 nights, this square filled with 300,000 people.
Rick: Each night, 300,000 people here.
Honza: And on the last night, Václav Havel, the playwright, who would become our next president, announced from that balcony the resignation of the Communist government.
Rick: Wow.
Honza: Suddenly, we were free.

And without a shot, the communist era had ended for the Czech people.