Report on the activity of the ČSDS in 2016

Completion of our main projects

1. We launched our main project, Czechoslovak Dissidents and Exiles, 1968−89: Working for an Open Society – the Archive Collections of the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre, in January 2016. The aims are to organise our archive collection, to inventory three funds (Czechoslovak Documentation Centre 1986–1989, Charter 77, and the secret correspondence of Vilém Prečan), to digitalise some of our samizdat and exile periodicals, and to catalogue the book collection. The project, financed by the George Soros Foundation to Promote Open Society, will last until 30 June 2017 and is run in cooperation with the National Museum.

2. In the first half of the year we made considerable progress in preparing the extensive edition of sources German-Czechoslovak relationships in the time of the democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe 1989 –1990. This long-term project, financed by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, already had several projects to its credit in recent years – the publication of documents in Ke svobodě přes Prahu (To Freedom via Prague) and the exhibition and publication Německý podzim 1989 v Praze (German Autumn 1989 in Prague). A publication will be forthcoming in 2017.

Web documentation of Charter 77

Preparations for the long-term project Documentation of Charter 77 began in autumn 2016. Its purpose is to make available on our web pages a fully comprehensive set of freely accessible sources and literature on the history of Charter 77 throughout its existence, covering every aspect of its anchorage in society and operations at home and abroad. It is a joint project in cooperation with the Institute for Contemporary History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and the web portal with the financial support of Karel Janeček. Work on the project began in January 2017.

Annual Events

As in previous years, in 2016 the ČSDS endeavoured to use major anniversaries and birthdays to remind the general public of the importance of personalities connected with Czechoslovak dissent and exile whose names are inscribed through their work in the historical memory of Czech and Slovak society.

In January 2016 an evening was organised jointly with the Václav Havel Library to mark the 90th anniversary of the birth of Ivana Medek. The programme, which took place on the evening of 20 January in the Václav Havel Library, included the biographical documentary by the colleague of the ČSDS Dominik Jůn: Ivan Medek – Jistý hlas (Ivan Medek – A Certain Voice).

To mark the 70th birthday of the historian Vojtech Čelko, the ČSDS shared in an evening’s programme at the Slovak House in Prague and in the publication of a Festschrift Ve službách česko-slovenského porozumění/porozumenia (In the Service of Czecho-Slovak Understanding).

On 22 September 2016 in cooperation with the Václav Havel Library and Charter 77 Foundation we organised an evening to mark the 85th birthday of the founder of Charter 77 Foundation and co-founder of the exile documentation centre František Janouch where the publication Bez Františka Janoucha ani moře nešplouchá (Without František Janouch there wouldn’t even be any lapping of the sea), jointly published by the ČSDS and Charter 77 Foundation was presented.

In November we remembered George Theiner, translator and editor in chief of the British human rights journal Index on Censorship, who would have been 90. To mark the occasion, the journalist Jiří Peňás interviewed George Theiner’s son Pavel for the weekly Echo, and the Czech/British journalist Jan Jůn contributed his personal memories.

The ČSDS proposed a Czech and Slovak celebration for the 85th birthday of Miroslav Kusý, philosopher, signatory of Charter 77, co-founder of Public Against Violence, Rector of the Comenius University in Bratislava and politician post-November 1989. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Bohuslav Sobotka awarded Miroslav Kusý the Karel Kramář Medal at a ceremony in the Kramář Villa on 8 December. Part of the evening took the form of a discussion on the theme of contemporary Czech and Slovak ties and cooperation in which the Slovak Ambassador Peter Weiss and the Director of the Institute for Contemporary History Oldřich Tůma participated and was documented for the ČSDS webpages by Dominik Jůn.

Other activity

Other activity by the ČSDS includes consultations for doctoral students (inter alia a seminar was held in May for undergraduates and doctoral students of the Arts Faculty of the Charles University) and for the media, cooperation with the Film Institute and other institutions with which the ČSDS is in partnership.

The ongoing work of the ČSDS includes the digitilisation of several funds, the cataloguing of the library and the transfer of data from floppy discs onto up-to-date technology.