International Students’ Day
The 17th of November is the International Students’ Day, an international observance of student activism. The date commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders, over 1200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closing of all Czech universities and colleges.
The day was first marked in 1941 in London by the International Students’ Council (which had many refugee members) in accord with the Allies, and the tradition has been kept up by the successor International Union of Students, which has been pressing with National Unions of Students in Europe and other groups to make the day an official United Nations observance.
The Athens Polytechnic uprising against the Greek military junta of 1973 came to a climax on November 17, with a violent crackdown and a tank crushing the gates of the university. The Day of the Greek Students is today among the official student holidays in Greece.The 1989 Prague demonstrations for International Students Day helped spark the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day is today marked among both the official holidays in the Czech Republic (since 2000, thanks to the efforts of the Czech Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions) and the holidays in Slovakia.