Prague Minos Guide

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20. století

Jan Palach

Young student who burned himself in protest against the Soviet occupation
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Jan Palach went to high-school in Melnik and in 1968 he started his studies at the Faculty of Arts in Prague. In August 1968, the troops of the Warsaw pact led by the Soviets invaded the country in order to prevent the liberalization of the government policies during the Prague Spring. The operation was met with the passive resistance of the population. In protest, Jan Palach burned himself in January 1969 on Wenceslas Square in front of passers-by. He was brought to the hospital with severe burns and died three days later. His funeral was turned

into a mass demonstration against the invaders, when the nation gathered to honor his death.
One month after his death, his friend Jan Zajic burned himself to death, and even later Evzen Plocek did the same in Jihlava.
The Czechoslovak State Security (StB - communist secret police) didn’t intend to let Palach’s grave become an altar of national pride so it kept a constant watch on it, until 1973 when his remains were exhumed and his body burned. Palach’s urn was officially brought back to Prague and placed in the Olsanske cemetery in 1990.


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