Today is the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Charter 77 (Charta 77), an organization of Czech prominents who courageously objected to the oppressive policies of re-Stalinized Czechoslovakia. The recently departed Václav Havel was one of its primary founders and spokesmen.
Havel characterized Charter 77 thus (translation mine):
“Charter 77 is neither left nor right of center. This isn’t because it lies “somewhere in the middle,” but for a deeper reason. It belongs neither to this or to that pole of the political spectrum because it has nothing to do at all with that spectrum. It exists, by its very essence, outside it. It is a citizens’ initiative that is not limited by or to politics, and it pursues no specific political program. This initiative is – if it may be so stated – somehow above it all. It seeks the truth, a truthful description of the existing conditions, and their free and objective critique.”
Havel’s copy of the founding document, confiscated in in home by the StB (Czechoslovak secret police) is here, complete with StB annotations. This document, and the antigovernment activities by Charter 77 members, ultimately led to Havel’s arrest and imprisonment (ditto for a number of other Charter 77 members).
But Charter members didn’t give up and, over time, Charter 77 became the leading vector of opposition to communist tyranny. The communist regime finally collapsed in 1989 and, under the tutelage of the leading Charter member, namely Havel himself, Masaryk‘s dream of democracy finally returned to long-suffering Czechoslovakia.
Its mission accomplished, Charter 77 terminated its activities in 1992. But the memory of this group of brave and selfless men and women will not just remain; it will serve as an example to all powerless persons who live under the heel of dictatorship but have the courage to seek freedom.