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Jan Palach

From Academic Kids

Jan Palach (August 11, 1948 - January 19, 1969) was a Czech student who committed suicide in political protest by self-immolation.

The Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 was designed to crush the liberalising reforms of Alexander Dubček's government during the Prague Spring. Palach died after setting himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czechoslovakia on 16 January 1969 in protest.

The funeral of Palach turned into a major protest against the occupation, and a month later (on 25 February 1969) another student, Jan Zajíc, burned himself to death in the same place, and in April of the same year Evžen Plocek did the same in the city Jihlava. Apart of immediate shock these suicides didn't have lasting impact on political situation in Czechoslovakia.

A couple of months earlier, on 8 September 1968, a Pole, Ryszard Siwiec had self-immolated himself in Warsaw during public events on the stadium in protest against Warsaw Pact aggression in Czechoslovakia and Polish participation in it. Siwiec died four days later, 12 September, in hospital. However, it is unlikely that Palach would have known about this act of protest, as it was completely concealed by the Polish communist authorities. The first news about it appeared in Radio Free Europe two months after Palach's death.

After the fall of socialism Palach was commemorated in Prague by a bronze cross embedded at the spot where he fell outside the National Museum, as well as a square named in his honour. The Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek, who left Czechoslovakia the following year, named an asteroid which had been discovered on August 22, 1969, after Jan Palach (1834 Palach).

Several later incidences of self-burning have or may have been influenced by the example and unfortunate popularity of Palach in the media. In the spring of 2003, a total of six young Czechs burned themselves to death, notably the secondary school student Zdeněk Adamec who burned himself on 6 March 2003 on almost the same spot in front of the National Museum, leaving a suicide note on a webpage explicitly referring to Palach and the others who had committed suicide in 1969. Reason for such a wave of suicides is unclear and it didn't repeat later.

External link

he:יאן פאלאך fr:Jan Palach it:Jan Palach nl:Jan Palach pl:Jan Palach sv:Jan Palach

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