Monday, 6 April 2020

Portraits of Charter 77 spokespersons to go on display

9 December 2016

Prague, Dec 8 (CTK) - The most famous "faces" of the Charter 77 anti-communist movement in former Czechoslovakia will be presented in an exhibition at Vaclav Havel square in Prague from January 6-26, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) deputy head Ondrej Matejka has told CTK.

The little square, piazzetta, situated at the National Theatre was named after the late dissident and first Czechoslovak post-communist and Czech president Havel this year, on the occasion of his 80th birth anniversary.

The large outdoor display will consist of 16 panels to present a dozen of the 44 Charter 77 spokespersons, the personalities who worked in the movement from its establishment in January 1977 until the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, Matejka said.

Charter 77 started to be organised at a meeting of regime opponents on December 10, 1976.

Charter 77 was an informal and open community. It had signatories of its human rights manifesto from January 1, 1977 and spokespersons who represented the movement and issued documents.

A trio of spokespersons was selected every year. A total of 44 people took their turns in the posts until the official end of Charter 77's activity in November 1992.

"The documents, which Charter 77 issued, were its very significant part. However, there is no point in presenting documents at an outdoor display. The spokespersons became often target of persecution, they suffered from spying and imprisonment, and this is why we want to remember them," Matejka said.

The first Charter 77 spokespersons were former foreign minister Jiri Hajek (1913-1993), playwright Vaclav Havel (1936-2013) and philosopher Jan Patocka (1907-1977).

Patocka also became the first victim of repressions against Charter 77. He was arrested in March 1977 and died of the consequences of an 11-hour secret police questioning.

Other well-known Charter 77 spokespersons are Vaclav Maly, 66, Jan Ruml, 63, Dana Nemcova, 82, and Petruska Sustrova, 69. She also helped organise this exhibition.

"We were always three, we worked very democratically. Two of the three were often in prison," Matejka said.

The power of Charter 77 lied in uniting various opposition streams and groups. Its fundamental element was human rights observance, he added.

Charter 77 was the first and longest working opposition movement in the former Soviet bloc.

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