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Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities

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Americans tend to section their political memories into four-year--or, in the case of reelected presidents--eight-year intervals that come and go with the reliability of the natural seasons. No such rhythm exists in the political memories of countries that lack an unbroken history of regularly scheduled elections. Instead, a static line of existence is punctuated not by routine rotations of officeholders, but instead by cataclysmic events that are recalled by specific dates or by names intended to convey an interpretation (and often used for ironic effect even by those who hold contrary views). Thus, Czechs and Slovaks divide their recent past into that which existed before November 17 and that which has existed afterward. The period that ended on November 17 began with "the February events" of 1948, and its only interval of hope was cut short by the "entry of the fraternal armies" in August, 1968 and the "normalization" which followed.