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20. století

Self-Burning of Jan Palach to Death

Suicide in protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia
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Info text

On January 19, 1969, a student of philosophy named Jan Palach burnt himself to death on Wenceslas Square. Through this exceptional act, he wanted to protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops.
His funeral on January 25th turned into a massive expression of the people´s resistance against occupation. The communist leaders became seriously uncertain but nonetheless respected the funeral quietly. There were more protest suicides. Already prior to Palach, on September 8th 1968, a Polish civil servant named Ryszard Siwiec had burnt himself to death and therefore became

the first live torch in the Soviet Block. Later, further suicides happened following Palach's death (Jan Zajíc, Josef Hlavatý, Evžen Plocek, Sandor Bauer, Etc.), but the regime managed to block information about them.
Palach's death shook public opinion and became a strong symbol of the resistance against totality, but the strength of the regime and its repressive means were of such magnitude that his sacrifice didn´t change the reality of the situation significantly. Still, his death was definitely not a useless act as the nation found even more reasons to remain strong facing adversity.


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