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4. 4. 2009 10:39

Meeting between the Prime Minister and Elijahu Rips

Held on Tuesday 21 April 2009 at 15:00 at the Straka Academy

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek briefly met Elijahu Rips and praised his fight against totalitarianism in the former Eastern Bloc, handing him an honorary prime minister’s plaque. The Prime Minister greatly values his courage and determination to protest against the former regime.

Eliahu RipsElijahu Rips came to Prague at the end of April in response to an invitation from the Institute for Study of Totalitarian Regimes. On 21 April at 18:00 there was a meeting between Rips, students and the public at the Charles University Arts Faculty on Palachovo náměstí entitled “Riga, 13 April 1969: Ilja Rips Protest against the Occupation of Czechoslovakia.” The next day, 22 April at 18:00, there was a meeting with Rips at the Education and Cultural Centre of the Jewish Museum in Prague at Maiselova 15 entitled The Heated History of Latvian Jews.

The twenty-one year-old Elijahu Rips, a student at the Latvian University in Riga, wrote his best friends and parents farewell letters on 13 April 1969. He then took a bottle full of petrol, matches and a sign, which he had prepared the day before, and went to the Freedom monument in the centre of Riga. He poured the flammable liquid on himself, put his sign on the ground and set himself on fire. The sign said, I protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia.

He was saved from the fate encountered by most young people who set themselves on fire in protest against Soviet power at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the ‘70s by a group of passers-by. However, he was punished for the protest. He was arrested and placed in jail. After half a year, a court declared him unable to act for himself and ordered him to undergo psychiatric treatment – a favourite practice the Soviet Union used against dissidents. During his stay at the psychiatric clinic, Rips managed to solve several mathematical problems, one of which was published in the specialist press abroad after his release and emigration. Elijahu Rips has lived in Israel since 1971, and lectures in mathematics at the Hebrew University.

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