Despite heavy rain, thousands of Czech and Slovak troops marched through Prague in the city’s biggest military parade in decades. The event celebrates a century since the founding of now long-dissolved Czechoslovakia.
Over 4,000 soldiers took part in the biggest military parade since the end of the Cold War in Prague, marking the founding of Czechoslovakia in October 1918.
Sunday’s parade involved tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery, with crowds braving heavy rain to watch the day’s events alongside top officials from Slovakia and the Czech Republic. There was also a fly-by of JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.
Troops from the UK, France, Italy, and the US all took part in the event, with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in attendance.
The Czech army is doing its bit in fighting international terrorism, the “greatest enemy of mankind,” with its NATO allies, said the country’s President Milos Zeman.
At a press conference, US General Mattis expressed his condolences to the families of four Czech soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan this year.
Czechs and Slovaks
Although Czechoslovakia is long gone, both the Czechs and Slovaks celebrate its founding as a landmark moment of national emancipation. Before the creation of the joint country a century ago, both peoples were ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czechoslovakia soon faced threats to its sovereignty from Nazi Germany, culminating with the annexation of the German-dominated Sudeten region in 1938 and the subsequent occupation of the country in the following year.
The joint state reemerged after WWII but found itself in the Eastern Bloc, dominated by the Soviet Union. Following attempts at liberalization pushed by Czechoslovakian President Alexander Dubcek, the Soviet Union and its allies invaded Czechoslovakia in the 1968 Prague Spring. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Czech and Slovak leaders agreed to a peaceful divorce in 1992. The independent nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic emerged on January 1, 1993. The relations between Bratislava and Prague have remained amicable. On Sunday, Slovak President Andrej Kiska viewed the parade alongside his Czech colleague Zeman.
The Sunday parade comes as a culmination of three days of celebrations, which saw French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel visit the Czech capital. The festivities are set to end with Zeman hosting a state medal ceremony at Prague Castle on Sunday evening.