Vaclav Havel wrote this work in 1979. The essay begins the intellectual attacks that Havel, the future President of a democratic Czechoslovakia, made against the Communist regime controlling his country. Rather than rely solely on political arguments, Havel argues here that, in fact, cultivating an individual "sphere of truth" will ultimately destroy the totalitarian communist government. ….
Protesters rally in the streets to celebrate the election of the new President of a democratic Czechoslovakia, Vlaclav Havel.….
One of the many ways historians, economists, and other social scientists measure the health of a state’s economy is by examining changes in macroeconomic indicators over time. This chart shows changes in four of those measures—the gross domestic product (GDP), the rate of personal consumption, the gross rate of investment by the state in the economy, and the wages of workers—in….
This graph shows two trends in the Czech population (first in Czechoslovakia and after 1993 in the Czech Republic)—changes in fertility rates (births per women aged 15-49) and the abortion rate in this same population. This fairly simple graph offers a number of insights into the experiences of Czech women both during and after Communism. For instance, we see births per woman declining from a….
One of the most important indicators of a societies transition to what economists often call “modern industrial society” is a decline in infant mortality rates. As you might imagine, declines in infant mortality rates are also very important to individual citizens, because it means that their children are much more likely to live to adulthood. This rate reflects the number of children who….
In Spring 1990, Czechoslovak artist and cartoonist Vladimir Rencin sends this message that is was time to stop the flag-waving euphoria surrounding the revolution's victory and to get to the hard work of rebuilding the country. The caption reads: "It's high time for you to climb down and get to work! The garden is neglected, the latrine" (actually a Czech word for an open-air refuse pit) "is….
In 1976, the Czech psychedelic rock band, the Plastic People of the Universe, were arrested and tried by the Czech Communist government. The government convicted the band for disturbing the peace, with the band members serving 8 to 18 month sentences. In response to the arrest of the band, a group of Czech artists, writers, and musicians, including Vaclav Havel, circulated a petition for their….
Instructions of the Coordinating Center of the Civic Forum for the Local Forums with a Recommendation for Policy Toward the Communists
The name "Velvet Revolution" was an oxymoron: revolutions were traditionally violent overthrows wiping away the old regime in order to build a new society. The Communist Party followed this model in Eastern Europe, and opposition groups rejected it in 1989 with their strategy of non-violence. But could this strategy successfully remove power from a totalitarian regime? The problem emerged….
The Czechoslovak Communist Party faced some unpleasant realities on November 28. The previous day's general strike had seriously weakened its hand. That day's negotiations with opposition leader Civic Forum forced it to accept several devastating conditions, including the removal of its constitutionally-guaranteed domination of state and society. Party members had not yet resigned themselves to….
Civic Forum suffered from an ongoing identity crisis because the movement's origins conflicted with the demands of leading popular opposition to the state. The dissident intellectuals guiding its early formation had advocated the idea of self-limiting resistance; they didn't want Civic Forum to become a top-down political organization, but rather a free, open society of citizens. After great….
The Position of the Civic Forum and Public Against Violence Toward the Negotiations with Czechoslovak Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec
Civic Forum and Public Against Violence released this communique after their second round of negotiations with the government on November 28. The nationwide general strike had occurred the day before with resounding success; it was estimated that between one-half and three-fourths of the adult population participated in some fashion. This triumph gave the opposition a great deal of leverage in….
From the beginning, Civic Forum had to balance two objectives: leading popular protests and negotiating with the regime. In its first week, the Forum concentrated on mobilizing public support for the upcoming general strike. November 26 signified a turning point. That morning, Forum representatives appeared at the first formal round of negotiations with only their original four demands; they….
Speech by Premier Ladislav Adamec at an extraordinary session of the CPCz CC, stating his preference for a political solution to the crisis
Only days after November 17 a growing number of Czechoslovak communists were becoming convinced that the conservative leadership's hardliner approach to the growing public unrest was failing. This sea change in official opinion began to crystallize on November 24 at the extraordinary session of the Czechoslovak Communist Party's Central Committee, which foreshadowed the ascendancy of younger….
Several of the previous documents (for example doc. 492, 508 and 510) have dealt with the Czechoslovak Communist Party's attempts to control public opinion in the early days of the Velvet Revolution. The party's strategy for the first week or so consisted of isolating the opposition and using ideological arguments to convince the general public of the harmful consequences of the protesters'….
Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPCz, to Regional Committees and Municipal Commitees in Prague and Bratislava
The battle for public opinion occupied both government and opposition at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In this November 23 communique, Central Committee member Jozef Lenart reported on the party's measures to sway the public against the opposition. His argument echoed the conservative leadership's refusal to compromise with the protesters, maintaining instead that local communists….
Anti-state demonstrations have traditionally taken place in the heart of Prague on Wenceslas Square. After the November 17 police crackdown, it was no accident that the Square became the central point for people to get information, meet others and, from November 21 on, to attend the daily "meetings" when opposition groups addressed citizens from the balcony of the Melantrich publishing house.….
Teleprint from the Presidium of the CC CPCz to the Secretaries of Regional Committees of the CPCz and CPS and the Party Municipal Committees in Prague and Bratislava
Czechoslovak communist leaders reacted to the first protests after November 17 with the same uncompromising attitude towards opposition they had held for twenty years. This November 21 Central Committee directive, calling on local communists to create a uniform front against the protests, illustrates some of the leadership's initial arguments and strategies. Denying that the public outcry….
Letter from the Civic Forum to US President George Bush and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev
On November 21, Civic Forum representatives addressed the throngs of demonstrators on Wenceslas Square for the first time; this public "meeting" would soon became a daily ritual. Afterwards, Forum members wrote this letter to the U.S. and Soviet leaders, speaking as the legitimate representatives of those "hundreds of thousands" on the Square. The letter concerns one of the touchiest subjects….
The Civic Forum's Position on the Negotiations of its Representatives with Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec
Civic Forum's original demands included "round-table" negotiations between itself and the government following the model used in Poland and Hungary. Unlike the party leadership in those countries, however, the Czechoslovak communists refused to open dialogue with the opposition until their hand was forced by the explosion of protest after November 17. Despite continued conservative resistance,….
Czechoslovak Ministry of Interior Memorandum, "Information Regarding the Development of the Security Situation During the Period of the 17 November Anniversary"
Despite the growing pressure for change in the autumn of 1989, Czechoslovak officials did not automatically view the November 17 commemoration as a major security risk. Unlike the other politically-charged anniversaries that had increasingly become beacons for protest, this date did not ideologically threaten communism. In fact, it had been officially recognized since World War II and in 1989,….