Prague's Paradise Lost the Velvet Revolution Has Been Followed by a Period of Doubt and Witch-Hunting. the West Can Help, and Learn from, Czechoslovakia

By Mark Sommer. Mark Sommer is the of "Living in Freedom: The Exhilaration and Anguish of Prague's Second Spring, ". published this month Mercury House, San Francisco. | The Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 1992 | Go to article overview

Prague's Paradise Lost the Velvet Revolution Has Been Followed by a Period of Doubt and Witch-Hunting. the West Can Help, and Learn from, Czechoslovakia


Mark Sommer. Mark Sommer is the of "Living in Freedom: The Exhilaration and Anguish of Prague's Second Spring, ". published this month Mercury House, San Francisco., The Christian Science Monitor


FOR Martin Palous, longtime dissident and current Deputy Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, the mood of this moment in post-communist Prague recalls the despair of the ancient Israelites who, having fled Pharaoh, found themselves stranded in a wilderness, yearning for the fleshpots of Egypt. "We're somewhere in the middle of the Red Sea now," he says, "and everyone is grumbling."

For Vaclav Havel, Czechoslovakia's playwright-president, the gentle revolution seems to have brought out the worst in his countrymen - "an enormous and blindingly visible explosion of every imaginable human vice.... Society has freed itself, true, but in some ways it behaves worse than when it was in chains."

Two-and-a-half years after the revolution, euphoria has turned to anxiety and anger. The ironies are extreme. In the once-totalitarian East, the former communists have become the most proficient capitalists, inheriting much of the wealth and influence they formerly wielded. Familiar with the exercise of power, they are well positioned to profit from the opportunities of buccaneer capitalism. Meanwhile, most Czechs and Slovaks, outmaneuvered by the new entrepreneurs and bewildered by the sudden necessity to compete for what once was guaranteed, succumb to a politics of blame and resentment.

The forthcoming parliamentary elections, June 5-6, threaten to sunder the uncertain union between the Czech and Slovak republics. In the Czech lands, Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus, a Thatcherite free-marketeer who has directed the country's rapid privatization, seems likely to become prime minister of the Czech republic. In Slovakia, Vladimir Meciar, a former communist who skillfully recast himself as a Slovak nationalist, is expected to win. The clash is of both ideology and personality, for while Mr. Klaus promises a capitalism without constraints, Mr. Meciar pledges a return to the old authoritarian social contract.

Between them is President Havel, seeking like a latter-day Lincoln to hold the nation together against the polarizing extremes. He retains great respect as a moral compass for the nation: 90 percent of all Czechs and 66 percent of all Slovaks approved of his performance in a recent poll, his highest rating since the revolution. But the president is elected by parliamentary vote, not popular mandate, and in the cauldron of animosities that the Federal Assembly has become, he could fall to an alliance between Slovak nationalists and anti-Havel Czechs.

Though it seems unlikely, would the country divide if Havel resigns? Who else could bridge the chasms of culture and ideology? Perhaps Alexander Dubcek, the reform communist who led 1968's Prague Spring.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prague's Paradise Lost the Velvet Revolution Has Been Followed by a Period of Doubt and Witch-Hunting. the West Can Help, and Learn from, Czechoslovakia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.