Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies in August 1968, Hajek turned to the United Nations and voiced complaints about the Soviet occupation of his country. For his action, he was expelled from the Central Committee of the Communist party and all his other posts in 1969. Until 1989, Hajek remained a dissident, who joined the group of writers and artists who openly voiced their objections to the restoration of Stalinism in Czechoslovakia.


Bibliography

Skilling Gordon H., Czechoslovakia's Interrupted Revolution ( Princeton, NJ, 1976).

Havel, Vaclav (1928- ). As a young playwright, Havel quickly established himself as the conscience of the intellectuals. His plays, which probed the debt of the crises of national life, soon made him a spokesman for the discontented creative people. He had great difficulty in having his works performed in Czechoslovakia, yet he was recognized in the West as an important voice in the Czechoslovak theater. In June 1967, at the fourth congress of the Union of Czechoslovak Writers, there was an open confrontation between the dogmatic communists and the increasingly vocal dissidents. After Ludvik Vaculik roundly condemned the communist system and its failure to solve the problems of the country, Havel criticized the bureaucratic leadership of the Union of Writers. As a consequence, they were both excluded from the leadership, together with other dissidents.

In March 1968, Havel made a statement that was widely circulated in typewritten form among the leading intellectuals. His "On the Theme of Opposition" was eventually published in Literarny Listi; it advocated the establishment of a two-party system in Czechoslovakia with a new democratic party based on Czech historical traditions, namely, democracy. He argued that the only safeguard of human rights was "real choice where people will elect those who will govern them." This required two independent political parties with equal opportunity to compete for the votes of the population.

During the first half of 1968, discussions on the role of the Writers' Union in Czechoslovak intellectual life continued. The noncommunist writers, who continued to encounter difficulties in having their works published by the state publishing houses, finally had enough. They established a Circle of Independent Writers with the participation of sixty members and elected Vaclav Havel as the chairman of the group. The group demanded the independence of culture from political interference. They also proposed that the Writers' Union be transformed into an independent interest group, a truly democratic organization.

In 1977, Havel was among the signers of the Charter 77 document (see Charter 77). After this, Havel became the focus of government persecution. He was arrested several times, tried, and sentenced to various terms in jail. This inevitably made him a hero of the opposition. He never gave up his protest.

In 1989, Havel was a founding member of the Civic Forum (see Civic Forum and Public against Violence), a national liberation movement that eventually wrested

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