Scholar Interviews

What else is significant about the Declaration of the Creation of Charter 77?


A few important things come out here at the end. One is the statement that "responsibility for the maintenance of civic rights in our country naturally devolves in the first place on the political and state authorities. Yet not only on them, everyone bears his share of responsibility," and it’s this notion that everyone is responsible for the state of affairs. It’s not just the regime that’s oppressing us. We somehow share in this. Havel points out in his famous essay “The Power of the Powerless” that the system actually lives inside each individual and each individual makes up the system and that we are co-responsible for our fate and that I think is a very important sentiment. And there were some people in the nascent dissident movement who didn’t like this language.

The second part is the actual statement of Charter 77 starts off much more prosaically and it doesn’t get to the point until near the end where it says “Charter 77 is a free, informal open community of people of different convictions, different faiths and different professions united by the will to strive individually and collectively for the respect of civic and human rights in our own country and throughout the world. Rights accorded to all men by the two mentioned international covenants, by the final act of the Helsinki Conference, and by numerous other international documents.”

And it’s the first part of this that I think is the most interesting and telling. “A free informal open community of people,” the notion that it’s open, it’s public, is one thing. And it’s a community. It’s not an organization. It’s a community of people who share this one interest. It has no rules, permanent bodies, or formal membership. It embraces everyone who agrees with its ideas, participates in its work, and supports it. It does not form the basis for any oppositional political activity. They are expressly stating that this is going to be a fluid organization. By saying “we believe that Charter 77 will help to enable all the citizens of Czechoslovakia to work and live as free human beings,” which is a nice way I think to wrap up what they were trying to say.


How to Cite

Bradley Abrams, interview, "What else is significant about the Declaration of the Creation of Charter 77?" Making the History of 1989, Item #624, (accessed September 15 2019, 4:52 pm).