Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic

Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic

Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic

Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic

Synopsis

In Communists and Their Victims, Roman David identifies and examines four classes of justice measures--retributive, reparatory, revelatory, and reconciliatory--to discover which, if any, rectified the legacy of human rights abuses committed during the communist era in the Czech Republic. Conducting interviews, focus groups, and nationwide surveys between 1999 and 2015, David looks at the impact of financial compensation and truth-sharing on victims' healing and examines the role of retribution in the behavior and attitudes of communists and their families. Emphasizing the narratives of former political prisoners, secret collaborators, and former Communist Party members, David tests the potential of justice measures to contribute to a shared sense of justice and their ability to overcome the class structure and ideological divides of a formerly communist regime.

Complementing his original research with analysis of legal judgments, governmental reports, and historical records, David finds that some justice measures were effective in overcoming material and ideological divides while others obstructed victims' healing and inhibited the transformation of communists. Identifying "justice without reconciliation" as the primary factor hampering the process of overcoming the past in the Czech Republic, Communists and Their Victims promotes a transformative theory of justice that demonstrates that justice measures, in order to be successful, require a degree of reconciliation.

Excerpt

For more than four decades, communist ideology divided the world. After 1989, most communist regimes collapsed but their legacies refused to disappear. Facing their history, citizens of formerly communist countries sought justice for both perpetrators and victims. The Czech Republic has been a leader in dealing with the past in postcommunist Europe. It implemented far-reaching reparation and rehabilitation programs for the victims of communist rule, it returned properties to their original owners, expropriated the assets of the Communist Party, extended the statute of limitation for communist crimes, and enriched the world’s vocabulary by reviving the forgotten word “lustration” as a process for dealing with secret collaborators. The implementation of these measures was unprecedented in their scale and speed; many of these measures remain unique. Yet the results are disappointing for many Czechs who observe that historical divisions persist twenty-five years after the regime change. This book therefore raises a question about the role of justice measures in overcoming the communist past. Did justice measures transform the divided society in the Czech Republic?

This book is a culmination of my research into the topic of dealing with the past that dates back to the 1990s. Since then, my research interest in what became known as “transitional justice” has taken me to Poland, Hungary, Croatia, South Africa, and South Korea. Although I found only a few of their citizens satisfied with the outcomes of dealing with the past, I was glad to learn from their experiences. In particular, the issue of “reconciliation” helped me to revisit the Czech process of dealing with the past, which has been dominated by an emphasis on retributive and reparatory justice. I believe that this study can inform academics in the fields of history, political science, sociology and law; policymakers; and civil society members about the positive and negative features of the process of dealing with the past. My . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.