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Freedom & Democracy

Freedom & Democracy

Founded on liberal democratic principles, Czechoslovakia prospered in the interwar period, even granting women the right to vote six months earlier than the United States. Yet, the nation state’s dreams were dashed as foreign powers appeased Hitler during the Munich Conference in 1938. Albeit resisting the occupation from abroad and within, the innocent paid the ultimate price when the Nazis annihilated many, including the entire Czech village of Lidice. As US General Patton’s army liberated western Czechoslovakia at WWII’s end, democracy was restored; only for the flame to dim again in 1948 with the communist coup d'état. Nevertheless, the torchbearers of the struggle for freedom at home and in political exile in America, with the support of the US government through the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe (RFE), could not be silenced. The people’s voices were heard in the 1968 Prague Spring but then the Soviet tanks rolled in. The intellectually brave continued to demand that the government honors human rights via the historically vital document Charter 77. The truth ultimately prevailed over the totalitarian regime during the bloodless 1989 Velvet Revolution, which reinstated the multi-party democratic government. Today, still broadcasting to countries where the freedom of press is oppressed, RFE reports from its headquarters in Prague. 

Celebrating freedom - December 29, 1989
© Lukáš Volek / Václav Havel Library


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