The publication of the manifesto Několik vět, or A Few Sentences, was a milestone in the final year of communism in Czechoslovakia. After being broadcast by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America on June 29, 1989, the document – calling for the release of political prisoners and other freedoms – was eventually signed by around 40,000 people. I discussed its contribution to the eventual fall of communism with historian Jakub Jareš.
“Love, tolerance and creative freedom aren’t just for fairytales”. That’s the central message of a new documentary called The Art of Dissent, which celebrates artistic engagement in Czechoslovakia before and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Written, directed and filmed by the American intellectual historian James D Le Sueur, the film aims to debunk the myth that life behind the Churchillian ‘Iron Curtain’ was static and grey, and to inspire viewers through the messages of Václav Havel and fellow former dissidents.
Saturday is the 30th anniversary of the publication of the dissident A Few
Sentences manifesto in the then illegal newspaper Lidové noviny, on June
22, 1989. The document demanded the end of criminalisation of
Czechoslovakia’s opposition, the release of political prisoners and the
lifting of a ban on public gatherings.
A Few Sentences is considered to have been officially declared on June 27, when its text was broadcast on Radio Free Europe. Over the coming months it was signed by around 40,000 people, making it the biggest action of its kind. Communism fell in Czechoslovakia five months later.
Many Czechs remember the concert of American folk musician Joan Baez’s in Bratislava on 10 June 1989 as one of the signs of the approaching fall of communism. During the concert Baez openly expressed her support for Czechoslovak opposition groups and to Václav Havel, who managed to smuggle himself into the concert hall pretending to be a roadie. Her stay in Bratislava was closely observed by the communist State Security services, but they missed the Czechoslovak dissident who fit into his pretended role by carrying her guitar.
Harold Wilson Fernyhough an aide to Prime Minister Harold Wilson who was
reported to have spied for Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s and 1960s, was
very likely unaware that he was not associating with diplomats, but
communist secret police handlers, according to Czech archivist Svetlana
Ptáčníková, who heads the Security Services Archive, said that according to the secret police files Fernyhough shared information willingly, but without knowledge of who he was dealing with. The archivist noted that secret police handlers were often placed in diplomatic posts in order to acquire information.
According to the files Fernyhough never revealed anything confidential, only sharing information that was either common knowledge or was later made public.
Reports that Harold Wilson Fernyhough had spied for the Czechoslovak communist secret police appeared in the British press at the weekend.
Translator, literary scholar and historical sociologist Martin Tharp’s current research focuses on the working-class counterculture of post-1968 Czechoslovakia. He finds that – dissident groups such as Charter 77 aside – the “underground” social movement comprised a diffuse and generalised sentiment of an “emotive-artistic resistance to state cultural control” and censorship.
A bust of the late Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is due to be unveiled at Prague’s DOX gallery this coming Monday. The ceremony is part of an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Among the guests will be Liu Xiaobo’s widow and two of the former student leaders.
A director who documented the last few years of Václav Havel’s life has
received more than twice the initial amount he sought through a Czech
crowdfunding site to begin work on editing his film.
Petr Jančárek, who worked with the late Czech president from 2009 to 2011, shot some 200 hours of material that will be edited for a feature-length documentary.
He had sought 400,000 crowns in public donations through the crowdfunding site HitHit but received more than 1 million crowns in the first 10 days. Jančárek will continue trying to raise money through crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo, his representative told ČTK.
Entitled “This is Havel, Can You Hear Me?”, the documentary is set to premiere in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the fall of Communism in Europe.
Jančárek is hoping to get the rights for songs by some of Havel’s favourite musicians, including the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and David Bowie, for a symbolic price.
During the 1960s as the Warsaw Pact sought to change the balance of military power decisively in its favour it employed a largescale disinformation to fool NATO about its strength and intentions. One of the enterprises conducted to support this deception effort was Operation BLÍN. Its story is one of a daring embassy heist right under the noses of NATO intelligence officers reminiscent of a Hollywood thriller.