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Pithart: Charter 77 stirred up civic society in Czechoslovakia

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Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) – The Charter 77 human rights initiative, launched 40 years ago, stirred up civic society in communist Czechoslovakia, but it was not a political opposition nor was it prepared for taking up power in 1989, Petr Pithart, one of the Charter 77 signatories and a post-1989 Czech PM, said on Thursday.

Pithart, who was the prime minister of the Czech part of the former Czechoslovak Federation in the early 1990s and later Czech long-standing Senate chairman or deputy chairman, was speaking at a Senate conference focusing on Charter 77 and its legacy.

Charter 77 tended to stir up civic society in communist Czechoslovakia. It may not have succeeded in completely waking it up, but it encouraged a number of activities and initiatives and acted as a shield to cover them, Pithart said.

He said Charter 77 was not behind the Prague demonstration on November 17, 1989, which triggered the fall of the communist regime, though the offspring of some Charter 77 protagonists helped organise the demonstration.

Charter 77 was not prepared for taking up power, since it was no political opposition, this was not the goal it pursued, Pithart said.

However, Charter 77 offered a number of quality people who proved good as personalities resisting the communist regime. They included people who were not Charter 77 signatories.

“Charter 77 highly appreciated dozens of supporters who did not sign [the human rights manifesto], without whom the movement would have possessed a half or merely a quarter of its strength,” Pithart said.

He said the movement helped speed up the transition to the first free elections in 1990s. Afterwards, however, its pace slowed down, since its signatories did not rank among the “irritated and radical” players, he said.

Charter 77 was one of the first and longest-operating opposition movements in the Soviet-led bloc. It was a community of people striving for the observance of human rights in accordance with the commitments Czechoslovakia signed in the Helsinki agreements in 1975.

The communist regime resented Charter 77 as a threat.

Charter 77 issued its first declaration on January 1, 1977. A total of 1,898 signatories claimed their adherence to the movement by January 1990. The movement officially terminated its activities on November 3, 1992.

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