The Enduring Significance of Charter 77

Victims of Communism — Memorial Foundation

The Enduring Significance of Charter 77


The Czech Republic’s successful transition from communism to democracy would not have been possible without the committed activists who provided a consistent and courageous voice in favor of political and intellectual freedom and civic engagement. Speaking up in favor of truth and justice represents a radical threat to a state that seeks ideological control over the lives of all its citizens. This is why Charter 77, a short manifesto with a few thousand signatories, had such an explosive impact within the Eastern Bloc. Not only did many members and signatories of Charter 77 go on to play important roles in Czech and Slovak national life, the manifesto has also served as an inspiration to democratic dissidents from China to Cuba. This roundtable will explore the enduring significance of Charter 77 for the partisans of human freedom.

DATE: Friday, February 3, 2017
TIME: 9:00AM-10:30AM
LOCATION: Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW, Washington, DC
Breakfast to be served. Advance registration required.


Martin Palouš
was the Czech Ambassador to the United States (2001-2005) prior to taking office as the Czech Republic’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (2006-2011). He has also served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Czech Republic, and, before that, Czechoslovakia. One of the first signatories of Charter 77 and spokesperson for the group in 1986, he was a founding member of the Civic Forum and was elected in 1990 to the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly, where he served as a member of the foreign affairs committee. Palouš is currently director of the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy at Florida International University and is also a member of the Prague Society for International Cooperation, a respected NGO that aims for the development of a new generation of responsible and well-informed leaders and thinkers.

Dr. James F. Pontuso is Charles Patterson Professor of government and foreign affairs at Hampden-Sydney College. He has authored or edited seven books and published more than ninety articles, reviews, and essays, including Václav Havel: Civic Responsibility in the Postmodern Age and Assault on Ideology: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Political Thought. His latest book, Nature’s Virtue, published by St. Augustine’s Press, will appear in 2017. He has taught or lectured in a dozen countries and held positions including John Adams Fellow at the University of London, Fulbright scholar in the Czech Republic, and Visiting Professor at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani.

Dr. F. Flagg Taylor, IV is an associate professor of government at Skidmore College. He holds a PhD and an MA in political science from Fordham University and a BA from Kenyon College. Dr. Taylor’s specialty is in the history of political thought and American government, especially the question of executive power. He is the editor of The Great Lie: Classic and Recent Appraisals of Ideology and Totalitarianism, co-author of The Contested Removal Power, 1789-2010, and the author of numerous articles. He is editor of The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Václav Benda, 1977-1989, which is forthcoming in March 2017.

Marianne Canavaggio Silvereano is a professor of French at the French Lycée in Washington, DC. In the 1980’s she worked in the French school in Prague where she was translating Czech authors (Hrabal, Topol) into French, was smuggling books into Czechoslovakia, and was a contact point to Pavel Tigrid, among others. The StB followed her and she had to leave the country. Among her students numbered, Václav and Ivan Havel and Martin Palouš. In 2009, she received the Václav Benda medal from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which recognizes those who played a significant role in the fight for the restoration of freedom and democracy of the Czechoslovak Republic.

Feb 3, 2017
9:00am — 10:30am

Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW, Washington, DC, 20008