Czechs honor student who wanted self-immolation to inspire

January 16, 2019
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Black flags commemorating late student Jan Palach with his name and silhouette hang on the building of National Museum as a statue of Saint Wenceslas is seen front in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Palach, a student of the Charles University's Faculty of Arts, set himself on fire in Prague on January 16, 1969 in protest against people's growing lethargy following the August 21, 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. He died of fatal burns three days later, aged 20. (Deml Ondrej/CTK via AP)

PRAGUE (AP) — Czechs are paying tribute to a university student who burned himself to death in Prague 50 years ago to inspire resistance against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Jan Palach’s self-immolation shocked the country but failed to produce an immediate impact. The hard-line communist regime established after the invasion harshly persecuted dissenters.

But Palach’s action on Jan. 16, 1969 did inspire weeklong protests two decades later and the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel later in 1989 that ended Czechoslovakia’s communist era.

The 20-year-old Palach set himself on fire five months after the Warsaw Pact countries crushed liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring. He died three days later.

Commemorative events are being held at Charles University, where Palach was a student, and elsewhere in the Czech Republic.

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