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After the Velvet Revolution, comes the next generation

Their parents overthrew a communist government, but some young Czechs aren't happy with the outcome.

Today's young Czechs take issue with the political culture their parents' generation helped bring about after the fall of communism. But rather than agitating for a revolution, like their parents did, today's young Czechs are pressing for reforms behind closed doors — and occasionally taking to the streets. Here, two young actors hold up a bunch of giant keys, the symbol of 1989 revolution, during a march through Prague's city center, Nov. 17, 2009. (Petr Josek/Reuters)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — It’s been 20 years since Czechoslovakia’s young people initiated the overthrow of their communist government.

Now, a sizable slice of the next generation isn’t happy with the political culture that their parents helped bring about. One group of young Czechs has petitioned government officials for change with specific demands that echo strains of 1989’s Velvet Revolution.

Inventura Demokracie, a student group made up of 15 core members with an additional 1,700 Facebook fans, wants to reform the political system, which it sees as beset by public apathy, corruption and cronyism, according to the group’s spokesperson, Silvie Mitlenerova, a 21-year-old political science student.

It does not, however, want to bring about a revolution, said Mitlenerova.

“We would like to improve communication between politicians and the public,” she said. “We don’t only blame the politicians, but the public too.”

Silvie Mitlenerova
Silvie Mitlenerova
(Bruce Konviser/GlobalPost)

Having been born within a year or so of the Velvet Revolution, which brought about the collapse of communism here in 1989, Mitlenerova’s generation is the first to grow up in a democracy. And they are savvy enough to see the flaws in the current system, but smart enough to seek advice from older political hands in order to maximize their ability to bring about successful reforms. Today’s students are more about persuading politicians behind closed doors.

In the run-up to last month’s anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Inventura Demokracie knocked on doors and pressed politicians on four specific areas, an initiative they dubbed: ‘Give us a present.’

On their list of grievances were liberal protections from prosecution under parliamentary immunity, legislative reform and reform of unregulated lobbying and media councils.

Almost all the political leaders they sought after agreed to meet with them — all, that is, except Mirek Topolanek, who was prime minister until his right-of-center coalition collapsed in a no-confidence vote this past spring. “Topolanek refused to meet us,” Mitlenerova said. “He told us we bore him.”

Jiri Paroubek, on the other hand, who is the leader of the social democrats, the largest left-of-center party in the country, not only met with the students but told them he agreed with everything on their list.

“Mr. Paroubek, [made] no sense,” Mitlenerova said. “He repeated, ‘when I’m prime minister I will pass all these but until then I can’t help you.’ He really stuck to that sentence.”