How the US embassy in Prague aided Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution

People attend a reenactment of the 1989 protest march to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Prague, Czech Republic, November 17, 2019. REUTERS/David W Cerny

In late 1989, popular protests against the communist government in Czechoslovakia brought an end to one-party rule in that country and heralded the coming of democracy. The Velvet Revolution was not met with violent suppression as had happened in Prague in 1968. A new book from the Brookings Institution Press documents the behind the scenes role that the U.S. Embassy in Prague, led by Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, played in meeting with students and dissidents, and helping to prevent a violent crackdown by the regime. Norm Eisen, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings and a former US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, is the editor of this new book, titled “Democracy’s Defenders: U.S. Embassy Prague, the Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, and Its Aftermath,” which is told through the lens of diplomatic cables between the embassy and Washington. He is interviewed on this episode by Brookings Press Director Bill Finan.

Also on this episode, Senior Fellow David Wessel explains the Paycheck Protection Program that was part of the multi-trillion dollar stimulus bill passed recently by Congress, and what lessons we can derive from its passage and implementation.

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