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Czech Student Jan Palach Remembered 45 Years After Self-Immolation

On January 16, 1969, 20-year-old student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague in protest against the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. He died of his burns three days later. Palach's funeral turned into a mass demonstration of opposition against the Soviet Union's crushing of the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring. His act of protest inspired two other Czechs -- Jan Zajic and Evzen Plocek -- to commit suicide by self-immolation in the following months, followed by several in other communist countries. In 1989, on the 20th anniversary of Palach's death, gatherings in his memory turned into mass anticommunist protests, giving momentum to the Velvet Revolution that brought down the communist regime later that year.