In 1968, the Czechoslovak government intended to implement some reforms to humanize socialism, however, the Soviet Union felt threatened and invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, putting an end to socialist reforms known as the “Prague Spring”. In January 1977, a group of dissatisfied Czechoslovak intellectuals, signed a document known as “Charter 77”, which criticized the government for the failure of socialist reforms, namely the implementation of the human rights clauses in the Czech Constitution, the Final Act of the Helsinki 1975 and the United Nations’ intentions on political, civil, cultural and economic rights. 243 individuals signed the “Charter 77” and, over the next decade, more 1621 people joined the group.
This document was signed by artists, writers and intellectuals, who were not unhappy with the state of the country, and defended the decentralization of the economy, the end of restrictions on presses’ freedom and expression. They called themselves a free association, without statutes or permanent bodies and without any political or opposition basis. Vaclav Havel, the former President of Czechoslovakia, was one of the “Charter 77” signatories, and one of its co-authors, as well as its spokesman when the movement was established in January 1977. Some important names in the movement included Jiri Dienstbier, who became Minister of Foreign Affairs, or writers as Ludvik Vaculik and Pavel Kohout.
The “Charter 77” movement is one of the oldest human rights movements in Eastern Europe. Its signatories were constantly subject to redundancies, the refusal of access to education for their children, the withdrawal of driving licenses, forced exile and the loss of the citizenship. They were also victim of police harassment, arrest and trial.
Bolton, J. (2012). Worlds of dissent. Harvard University Press.
Skilling, H. G. (1981). Charter 77 and the Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. Londong: Unwin Hyman.
Järvinen, J. (2010). Normalization and Charter 77: violence, commitment and resistance in Czechoslovakia.