The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia which led to the overthrow of the Communist government which had ruled in that nation for over 40 years. It is often commemorated along with other protests, demonstrations, and marches held in former Soviet nations in the late 1980s. The history of this revolution is actually in dispute, as it has historically been presented as a series of spontaneous national protests, but it may have been supported or at least allowed by the Communist government.
The spark which started the Velvet Revolution happened on 17 November 1989, when riot police shut down a peaceful student demonstration in Prague. The suppression of the demonstration led to a flowering of similar demonstrations all over the country. At the same time, other Eastern Bloc countries were starting to experience political instability, as the Communist governments of these nations began to collapse one by one. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in Germany on 9 November 1989 is a particularly iconic example of the changing political mood in Eastern Europe during this period.
The demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution appeared to take the government by surprise. Students and other workers began to strike across Czechoslovakia, and they started to meet with members of the government in an attempt to reach an agreement which would satisfy all parties. On 24 November 1989, the government experienced a shakeup when the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was replaced, but this was not enough to shore up the failing government.
On 29 November, the Parliament began to dismantle the political framework which had supported the Communist Party as primary political power in Czechoslovakia. By 10 December, the President had resigned after appointing a new cabinet, paving the way to democratically held elections in January 1990. On 29 December, it became readily apparent that the Velvet Revolution had succeeded in effecting a bloodless change of government in Czechoslovakia, and the populace ended their strikes and demonstrations. Three years later, the country was peaceably split into two nations, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Some historians call the Velvet Revolution the Gentle Revolution, especially within Slovakia. The revolution demonstrated that it was in fact possible to change a government without violence. The social disruption caused by the strikes and demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution led the government to recognize a need for change, especially when it was viewed in the context of the collapse of Communism throughout the Eastern Bloc.