On this day January 16, 1969

Student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in Prague to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia one year earlier. He died three days later from the third-degree burns he suffered.

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.

He was the first of a group of students to sign a suicide pact, but most of the others did not go through with their part, after the well-publicised pleas Palach made on his deathbed about the degree of pain they faced.

The funeral of Palach turned into a major protest against the occupation, and a month later (on February 25, 1969) another student, Jan Zajíc, burned himself to death in the same place, followed in April of the same year by Evžen Plocek in Jihlava.

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