20 Years of Freedom

Czech flagToday’s post is in honour of my adopted home and the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism.

On the 17th of November 1989 life began to change dramatically for the citizens of Czechoslovakia. By the 29th of December, Alexander Dubček, instigator of the Prague Spring reforms in 1968 was speaker of the federal Czechoslovak parliament and Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and poet was elected President of Czechoslovakia.

Every 17th of November the Czech and Slovak Republics celebrate the ‘Struggle for Freedom and Democracy’. In some ways to think that a whole 20 years has passed, in other ways it’s an incredibly short time – recent enough for me to remember what it was like watching events unfold on TV as first East Germany then other Communist regimes crumbled under the will of the people.

There’s been an immense amount of change here since the Velvet Revolution . First the Velvet Divorce in 1993, and shortly thereafter Havel was (re-)elected as President of the Czech Republic (and as a new country his two term limit started anew).

I didn’t get here till 2001, and in just 8 years Prague has changed a tremendous amount. In May 2004 the Czech Republic (as well as Slovakia and a number of other former Eastern Bloc countries) joined the EU.

Since then, as a marketer I’ve watched with interest as businesses here come and go. The weak, inappropriate and poorly researched have folded, fairly predictably whilst the strong, well run and marketed ones have survived and excelled.

As a citizen I’ve enjoyed living here and can honestly say that apart from the overabundance of shopping malls and the effects of increased private car ownership every change that I’ve witnessed has made life more pleasant, cleaner, easier and safer. ‘Service with a snarl’ is becoming less commonplace as more Czechs who have lived abroad in their youth return and won’t stand for sullen wait staff and unfriendly shop clerks.

I don’t know if this is quite the ‘victory for Western ideology’ (that’d be capitalism, for those keeping score) that was envisaged as the Iron Curtain came tumbling down but I’d take Michelin starred restaurants over being bugged by the secret police and spied on by my neighbours any day.

Image credit: Tico, via Creative Commons on Flickr

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