Why do you get the day off on October 28th?

Czechs & Slovaks are celebrating the establishment of the Independent State

We get so excited when public holidays give us a three-day weekend that we don’t always take the time to research the significance of the date. On October 28th 1918, Czechoslovakia gained independence from the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire. So, what do you need to know about this day?

October 28th is Czechoslovakia’s official birthday and is also known as Independent Czechoslovak State Day. This makes it one of Czech Republic’s three independence days! The two others are January 1st, marking the peaceful split between Czech Republic and Slovakia. Finally and then there’s November 17th.

Known as the Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy, November 17th celebrates two remarkable demonstrations! The 1939 movement was against the Nazi occupation and the second in 1989 was against the communist government. 50 years after Czechs stood up to Nazis, a student-led protest snowballed into the Velvet Revolution which freed the nation.

The creation of Czechoslovakia was the very first time Czechs and Slovaks experienced true freedom. The events leading up to the day when thousands of people gathered in Wenceslas Square for the long-awaited announcement were quite remarkable.

Most Czechoslovaks never truly felt patriotic towards the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The momentum to gain independence began early on, but it was during World War I which started in 1914 that pushed the issue of oppressed nationality. During the war, Czechs and Slovaks suffered because most of their food and resources where given to the soldiers on the front lines.

It was Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Beneš and M. R. Štefánik who pushed for freedom. Together, the three men organized a secret mafia that led an anti-Austrian resistance. It was T. G. Masaryk, the leader of the nationalist movement who became the president of the “First Republic”. Czechoslovakia remained “First Republic” for 20 years until it ended in 1938 with the annexation of Sudetenland under Hitler’s rule.

It was early on October 28th when the Agricultural Council officially stopped transporting grain to the soldiers – the war was nearly over at this point. Later that day, along with declaring independence from Austria-Hungary, they announced the formation of five independent states: the provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Slovakia and Ruthenia.

Every year on October 28th, the president of the Czech Republic, along with key members of the government, visit the grave of Masaryk to pay their respects. In the evening, honours and awards are presented to Czechs who act as leaders of cultural and social life within the country. Strangely enough, Slovakia doesn’t have a public holiday on this day. Czech’s, on the other hand, celebrate the day so much that various cities around the country are named “October 28th Street”.

If you want to celebrate the day in style, take a walk around Wenceslas Square and absorb the energy of the place that brought so many people together. You can also visit Masaryk’s grave just like the president does. Masaryk died in on September 14th, 1937 and his grave is located at Lány City Cemetery. Lány is a village in the Czech Republic, you can find out more about it here.

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