To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Prague’s Petřín Tower – which was modeled after, and strongly resembles, the Eiffel Tower – will lit up in blue, white, and red.
November 17th is a very important day for Czechs for two reasons.
The original event that 17 November commemorated was the resistance of student demonstrators in 1939 to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Initially, a student named Jan Opletal was shot in a protest and died on 11 November.
His funeral, attended by thousands of students, turned into another anti-Nazi demonstration.
One witness to those events said that the Gestapo and German soldiers had swept into student dorms in Prague, Brno, and Příbram, and dragged students off to Ruzyně prison. Nine student leaders were murdered by the Nazis and more than 1,000 sent to concentration camps.
As a result of these tragedies, in 1941, the 17th of November was marked as International Students’ Day.
Fifty years after such oppression, in 1989, Czech students organized a demonstration to commemorate the student martyr Jan Opletal and the International Students Day. It started off as an officially-sanctioned march but turned quickly into demonstration demanding the resignation of the country’s communist government. Students were brutally beaten by riot police.
This demonstration, which took place on November 17, 1989, is believed to have sparked the Velvet Revolution which eventually led to the freedom of the Czech people.
The special lighting was not a first-time event. On public holidays and other important dates, the tower has also been lit up in red, white, and blue after the Czech Republic flag.
Petřín Tower was built as part of the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891 as a loose copy inspired by the Eiffel Tower (at a ratio of 1:5). It is 63.5 metres high, and 299 steps lead to its peak, which is at the same altitude as the real Eiffel Tower.