also declared that they were not engaging in any oppositional activity against the regime. Similarly, they were not interested in participating in politics or of proposing any economic or social reforms. They were interested only in expressing their opinions in areas of civic duty: They were pointing out infringements on individual human rights; they were proposing ways to correct abuses; they were working for the strengthening of the observation of human rights; and they offered their mediation between violators and victims.
The three major spokesmen for Charter 77 were Professor Jan Patocka, Vaclav Havel (see Havel, Vaclav), and Jiry Hajek (see Hajek, Jiry), a former communist minister of foreign affairs. As his case illustrated, the members of Charter 77 were a mixed group indeed. They were mostly intellectuals who supported Alexander Dubcek's efforts at reform in 1968 (see Dubcek, Alexander). They stressed the differences between Czechoslovak culture and that of the Soviet Union. They were also an alternate source of information contradicting official propaganda coming from the Communist party's agitprop department.
Charter 77 was instrumental in the establishment of a Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Accused, another group that tried to establish the rule of law in the country. The members of both the Public against Violence in Slovakia and Charter 77 were undoubtedly brave people, and the persecution that they suffered did not discourage them. Yet the authorities succeeded in keeping both groups small, and only a relatively few people had the courage to join them aside from the original members.
One drawback for the Charter 77 group was the fact that, as intellectuals, they had few contacts with ordinary people. Nevertheless, they evoked wide responses throughout Eastern Europe. Prominent intellectuals signed the charter's call for respect for basic human rights. In Poland and Hungary, in particular, the document created a sense of a common struggle against the communist tyranny. By 1987, over 2,500 people had signed the Charter 77 document. Their influence on public opinion in their own countries was much greater than their numbers would indicate. Chartists played a leading role in the establishment of the Czech Civic Forum, which developed into a national liberation movement, ending communist rule in Czechoslovakia.
Skilling Gordon, Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia ( Boston, 1981).
Civil Forum and Public Against Violence. When the communist system was about to collapse in Czechoslovakia, following a brutal police attack on peaceful demonstrators in November 1989, there emerged an umbrella organization, really a national liberation movement, that was to negotiate with the government about a peaceful transformation from communist to democratic rule. This organization called itself the Civic Forum. Its counterpart in Slovakia called itself the Public against Violence. As with similar organizations in Hungary and Poland, the two groups in Czechoslovakia were not political parties, but movements. As such, they were uniquely suited to negotiate not only the ending of the communist regime, but also the new institutions that
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Publication information: Book title: Dictionary of East European History since 1945. Contributors: Joseph Held - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 135.
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