A survey of youth activity in the dissident movement, with comparisons to the 1968 Prague Spring, is offered as a conceptual and historical background to the Velvet Revolution. The student movement in 1989 and after was composed predominantly of “new” people, without dissident pasts. Their attitudes and actions are analysed as “Jacobin” in calling for a radical break with the old regime and a sharp criticism of the older generation that was regarded as too “soft” for not punishing communists or excluding them from political power and influence. Such conflicts contributed to the difficulties in establishing a civil society, that is, a layer of groups and institutions formed “from below” that might counterbalance the political state in a more democratic manner.

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