National Holiday – 8th of May – the day of the victory

As you have maybe already noticed, 8th of May is the day of national holiday in the Czech Republic. It is the free day, when most of the people do not have to work. This year it comes on Thursday, so a lot of people also take Friday off and go out of Prague for few days, to visit the country. But what else means 8th of May for Czechs beside its being a day off? And how was its history?

On 8th people are remembering the end of the World War II, it is the day of liberation from fascist, who ruled over this country for 6 years. As the over of the World War II is generally accepted the capitulation of German troops, which came into acceptance on 8th of May at 23:01 of Central European time. In Moscow, they are one hour ahead, so there it was already one minute after midnight. That is why in the majority of European countries is as the day of victory or liberation (dependent on the status they had during the war) regarded 8th of May, while in Russia and former USSR countries it is 9th of May. Well, but it should not be forgotten, that the capitulation of Nazi troops did not immediately mean the ends of all fights.

In the first years after the infernal war, there was no official holiday remembering its over. The government was not able to agreed on the day when it should be celebrated. Some ones wanted it to be on 8th of May, other ones on 9th of May, but the president Edvard Benes even wanted it to be celebrated already on 5th of May, the day when started the uprising in Prague.

The parliamentarians finally made it official only in 1951. But in these times, Czechoslovakia was already ruled by the communists, who did many “rewritings” of the history. So as the national holiday was announced the 9th of May, as the “Day of Czechoslovakia´s liberation by the Soviet Army”. Sadly, the liberators of Allies and partisans were to be forgotten, people were supposed to give honors only to the Red Army.

Very very soon after the fall of the communism, the holiday was renamed. Instead of “the Day of Czechoslvakia´s liberation by the Soviet Army”, it became “the Day of the liberation from fascism”, so it finally did not exclude other liberators. And already in May 1990 a parliamentarian Milos Zeman, later prime minister, came up with the idea that the holiday should be moved on 8th of May. First time his suggestion was not accepted, but he did not give it up and next year it was. But it was widely discussed in the country. Later some ones brought the idea that fascism was also in Italy while in Germany and occupied countries it actually was National Socialism. So in 2002 the name of the holiday was shortened to “the Day of the liberation”. But the changes were not finished yet. In 2004 the name was changed again, this time to “the Day of the victory”. Maybe, it is better to feel like the victor then the freed one, although Czechoslovakia actually was liberated. And in many calendars and diaries, they still write it as “the Day of liberation”.

Regardless how the holiday is called, most of the Czechs take it as a nice day off. But there are also costume parades, when people dressed as soldiers playing some events of that times remembering this way the over of the war. And usually there is broadcasted something related to the topic on the Czech television as well.

Jun 4, 15:44 (Filed under: Culture )

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