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The Dissident

Invasion - Normalisation - Letter to Gustáv Husák - Dissent (1968 - 1976)  

 "Dissent" springs from motivations far different from the desire for titles or fame. In short, they do not decide to become "dissidents," and even if they were to devote twenty-four hours a day to it, it would still not be a profession, but primarily an existential attitude.

Václav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, 1978 

Lecture´s Summary

In this lesson students will become acquainted with the notion of the Prague Spring 1968 and will find out where Vaclav Havel stood in this period when Czechoslovakia is occupied by the Warsaw Pact armies in August 1968.  Vaclav Havel became an open critic of the regime which, in turn, banned him from publishing and introducing his plays and put him into social isolation. In mid-1980s Havel decided to break through the silence and isolation and wrote an open letter to Gustav Husak, the President. Havel was not alone in this fight against the regime, however, and a group of opponents, called dissidents, formed and jointly opposed the regime, tried to secretly publish banned literature and nurture an unofficial culture. The students learn the term “dissident” and find out about activities which were of crucial importance for this group of people in the totalitarian period.

Lesson 2 - The Dissident

Aims of the Lecture  

  • Understand the political events of 1968 
  • Show Vaclav Havel’s attitude to the occupation and normalisation and its reasons
  • Show the practices used by the totalitarian regime when trying to restrict human rights
  • Place Vaclav Havel’s life in the context of Czech dissent and sketch out the activities the dissent was involved in from the mid-1970s, including the development of alternative culture 

Support Materials

Photo Gallery

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Timeline of the Lecture

1967 The Prague Spring: a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia (December 1967 - August 1968)
1968 The premiere of Havel's play Memorandum in the U.S.A.
1968 The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia (August)
1969 The self-immolation of student Jan Palach - a political protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia
1975 Vaclav Havel wrote an open letter to Gustáv Husák
1975 Samizdat edition "Expedition" founded by Václav Havel
1975 Havel wrote his legendary play Audience
1976 Trail with the members of the Czech rock band The Plastic People of the Universe

All Lectures 

Lesson The Young Man

The Young Man

Happy Childhood - Communist Coup - Harsh Fiftees - Golden Sixtees (1936 - 1968)

Lesson The Dissident

The Dissident

Invasion - Normalisation - Letter to Gustáv Husák - Dissent (1968 - 1976)  

Lesson The Political Prisoner

The Political Prisoner

The Plastic People Band - Charter 77 - Imprisonments (1976 - 1983)

Lesson The Revolution Leader

The Revolution Leader

Perestroika - Few Sentences - Velvet Revolution (1983 -1989)

Lesson The President

The President

Human Rights in the World - Human Rigts at Home (1989 - 2003) 

Lesson The Citizen

The Citizen

Civil Society - Civil Responsibility (1989 - 2011)

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