51 years ago, Czech student of history and political economy at Charles University, Jan Palach, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square, Prague. His self-immolation was a political message against the end of the Prague Spring, a time of political liberalization cut short when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country.
Palach survived the self-immolation but died three later in hospital. According to insiders who spent time with Palach during his last days, his self-immolation was more in protest to the demoralization of Czechoslovak citizens caused by the occupation than the occupation itself.
According to Jaroslava Moserova, Czech senator and Palach’s burn specialist:
It was not so much in opposition to the Soviet occupation, but the demoralization which was setting in, that people were not only giving up but giving in.
His funeral turned out to be a protest against the occupation. Palach remains an icon of freedom and a national hero to some Czechs. You can find his memorial in front of the National Museum on Wenceslas Square.