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The Young Man

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

In 1948 they confiscated all our family property and we became objects of the class struggle.

Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace, 1986

Lecture´s Summary

In the first lesson the students will learn about the family background in which Vaclav Havel grew up and which shaped him. The example of the social decline of a First-Republic entrepreneurial family shows the post-February development in Czechoslovakia and the gradual restriction of human rights which affected the whole country. The lesson shows that this development also affected the life of the young Vaclav Havel, who had to learn how to cope with hardship and injustice from an early age. Students will recognise Vaclav Havel as a young active man who takes an interest not only in himself, but also in what is going on around him.

In this lesson the history of Czechoslovakia is put in the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which the United Nations adopted in the same year that the Communist Party began to rule this country. The lesson briefly introduces the topic of human rights – what they are and which rights are universal. 

Lecture 1 - The Young Man

Aims of the Lecture

  • Introduce the family background in which Vaclav Havel grew up and, through the changes affecting the family after 1948, show the political development of the then Czechoslovakia
  • Show the personality and character of Vaclav Havel enabling him to advocate human rights in Czechoslovakia in the future
  • Gain a basic knowledge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and understand what fundamental human rights are and who is entitled to them

Support Materials

Recommended Literature

  • UN´s Declaration of Human Rights, here to download 

Photo Gallery 


Timeline of the Lecture

1936 Václav Havel was born
1939 Beginning of World War II
1945 End of WWII
1948 The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1948 The Communist Coup (the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumed undisputed control over the country)
1956 Václav Havel's first public performance at a meeting of official pro-regime writers
1963 Havel’s first play The Garden Party
1964 Václav Havel married Olga Splichalova
1965 play The Memorandum

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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