Bridge Episode. Between 1945 and 1948, the democratic parties of Czechoslovakia still believed that it was possible to establish a democratic and independent Czechoslovakia, and that such a state could exist side-by-side with the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin. They presumed that the country would be a loyal ally of the Soviet Union, its big Slavic brother, but this would not mean a break with Western contacts and the general historical traditions of the Czech and Slovak peoples. According to President Eduard Benes, who was one of the major inventors of this idea, a rebuilt Czechoslovakia would be a bridge between East and West. This would have required the continuous cooperation between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. In addition, the Czechoslovak Communist party would have had to play the role of a democratic party, participating in the parliamentary life of the country. In the elections of 1946, the Communist party gained 37.9 percent of all the votes cast, becoming the strongest party in the reconstituted Czechoslovak state. The following year, the Council of Ministers decided unaninously (with the participation of the communist members) to join the European Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan. However, swift Soviet intervention forced Czechoslovakia to withdraw from the preparatory conference held in Paris. This was the signal that the "bridge plan" was an illusion.
Ulc Otto, "The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia," East European Quarterly, ( June, 1972); Zinner Paul E., Communist Strategy and Tactics in Czechoslovakia, 1918- 1948 ( New York, 1963).
Charter 77. A combination of a statement, a petition, and a declaration, the Charter 77 document was intended to be delivered to the Czechoslovak government and party leadership in 1977. It was signed by 243 persons, mostly intellectuals. One of than withdrew his signature before the intended submission. The document began by citing the covenant of the United Nations and the Helsinki Accord on human rights. Its main assertion was that the human rights guaranteed by the UN charter and the Helsinki Accord constituted the framework of civilized life in the twentieth century. Although Czechoslovakia signed both documents, its government observed their provisions only on paper.
The Charter 77 document, in large part, detailed the violations of human rights by the communist government of Czechoslovakia. It referred to violations of the freedom of expression, and the right to an education, of freedom of information, and of religious convictions. It stated that the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the leading role of the Communist party was at the root of most violations of human rights. There were specific charges against the police. The authors also stressed the fact that the government placed obstacles in the way of travel by the citizens and forbade them to leave the country.
The Charter 77 document defined its signatories as a group of people of different faiths, opinions, and convictions, who felt it to be their obligation to bring attention to the violations against the human rights of the Czech and Slovak peoples. The signers