From History to Debate

In search of young people’s perception of the Velvet revolution

Bratislava. 17th December - one month after the 25th anniversary of the Velvet revolution a project called From History to Debate concluded. This project provided an opportunity for high-school students to discuss topics about November '89. The project was organised by the Slovak Debate Association, and its main goal was to examine the controversies and consequences of the anti-communist revolution. This was achieved through public debates and discussions with notable guests.

“From History to Debate is a result of multiple factors. In our work in debate clubs we daily meet bright and dedicated students who are enthusiastic and full of ideas. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Velvet revolution and as one of the main aims of our organization is to facilitate public discussions about important topics, we decided to help these young leaders organise discussions about the revolution at their schools,” said project coordinator Michal Adam. “The added value of the discussions was that instead of sentiment they would bring a real critical reflection, and as such answer the questions what could have been done differently, what do we still need to overcome and how to do it.”

Students organised two types of events: 1) Debates, in which one team represents a proposition and the other team an opposition to a given motion; and 2) public discussions with speakers from relevant fields - people who participated in the revolution, social scientists, historians and other people with authentic experience.

The events covered a variety of motions and topics. We questioned the very fundamentals of the revolution, such as to what extent was the revolution a geopolitical necessity or people's own achievement, whether nationalists exploited the period after revolution or whether the post-revolutionary settlement with communists was too benevolent.

“It was very nice to see classmates participating in the discussions and how they did not fear to question and challenge the authorities. I believe that such an approach is essential for society in general. Likewise it shows that young people are not that apathetic and when they are given an opportunity to express themselves they will happily do so,” thinks Jakub Lebeda, who organised two discussions at Gymnázium Jura Hronca in Bratislava.

This project was financially supported by the Intenda Foundation. The Slovak Debate Association plans to hold further such projects in the upcoming years under its public discussion program. You can see pictures of the event here.