Press Advisories

9. 1. 2017 20:46

Statement of the Government of the Czech Republic to mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of Charter 77

On 6 January 1977, Charter 77 was published. It was signed by 241 Czechoslovak citizens, with three people acting as their mouthpiece: the philosopher Jan Patočka, the politician Jiří Hájek and the playwright Václav Havel.

On that very same day, the repression of the signatories began. Dozens of house raids were conducted and no end of signatories were arrested. A huge anti-Charter 77 campaign was kickstarted in the media, even though the text of the Charter was never officially published anywhere.

Charter 77, referring to international documents adopted by the Czechoslovak state, pointed out that responsibility for the observance of human and civil rights lay first and foremost with the political and state powers. However, it could also drew attention to the fact that everyone shouldered some responsibility for the general state of play. Civic engagement makes sense whatever the circumstances, whatever the era.

On 13 March 1977, Charter 77 spokesperson Jan Patočka died as a result of the persecution he had suffered due to his involvement. In the ensuing atmosphere of repression and public defamation, hundreds of other citizens added their signatures to Charter 77.

As the Government of the democratic Czech Republic, we subscribe to the traditions of Charter 77’s long battle for human and civil rights, for civilisational values, and for democracy. We hold in the deepest esteem all victims of repression associated with Charter 77 and other independent initiatives of that time.

Our present-day democratic state architecture is by no means perfect or faultless, but its firm entrenchment of values and the democratic progress we have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century are a major guarantee that the state will continue to champion respect for human and civil rights and human dignity. A government cannot be successful or beneficial if it does not gauge its activities, decisions or political visions by those values.

We acknowledge the legacy of Charter 77 as an important movement in modern Czech history. We believe that, were it not for the courageous stand, steadfast efforts and, at times, torment of the signatories, it would have been a much more difficult path to reach the stage our country is at now.

Charter 77 will always be a reminder of a resolute civil mindset powerful enough to change the world even at the cost of sacrifice. 

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