Nenad Ž. Petrović

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Strategic Research Institute


DISSIDENTS IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA AND YUGOSLAVIA AT THE END OF 1970s A comparative study on the case of Charter 77 and journal Časovnik

The article presents a comparative analysis of dissidents’ activities in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (in Belgrade) at the end of 1970s. It refers to the time after the adoption of The Final Act of The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki. According to the archival data from the Federal Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and literature, the interest of Yugoslav diplomacy and political factors in “Charter 77”, which was initiated by the group of Czechoslovakian dissidents, was presented. The article also deals with the activity of one group of dissidents in Belgrade regarding the samizdat “Časovnik” (‘The Clock’), as well as with the reaction of Yugoslav political and security factors to it. The comparison of political opposition (dissidents) in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (the part which acted in Belgrade) at the end of 1970s might be a useful contribution to a better understanding of past events, as well as actual and future events. The regime in The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), although it was to some extent “more liberal” compared with those “behind the iron curtain”, in essence exercised more clandestine, and therefore, more dangerous forms of repression by creating illusions among the widest circles of population about its openness, heterogeneity, about the fact that we were not the same as “Stalinists”, that our system was better, that it was “socialism with a human face”. This mass social-political hypnosis led to the devitalization of wide layers of society, and in addition to it a successfully created illusion of our “otherness” corrupted the layer of people, who called themselves “intellectuals”, and who were proverbially inclined to conformity and accepted all regimes that did not intrude into their privileges. In Czechoslovakia, particularly in its Czech part, there was a solid civic tradition and the new system, which was established as a one-party system during the Czech Coup in February 1948, had to face with the resistance of the intellectual elite. This was expressed fully during the “Prague Spring” n 1968, which was suppressed by the intervention of the group of armies of the Warsaw Treaty. Political opposition in Czechoslovakia of the 1970s acted through “samizdat” publications, that is, illegal journals, bulletins, novels, pamphlets. In Yugoslavia “samizdat” was a rarity and the appearance of “Časovnik” (“The Clock) in 1979 was an unsuccessful attempt to instigate the resistance to the one-party system incarnated in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. Certainly the reason for that lay in the openness of publishing and young people’s, students’ and literature periodicals, through which the free flow of ideas was created especially at the end of the 1960s and during the 1970s. The discontent and criticism towards the current social-political model was expressed on film through “Black Wave” (which was put down in 1973). The situation became tense after the “Croatian Spring” (“MASPOK”) in 1971 and the change of leadership of the Socialist Republic of Serbia due to “liberalism” in 1972. Near the end of Tito’s life, the activity of political opposition revived, but it did not significantly influence the wave of changes which began to spread over the whole Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s. On the contrary, it seemed as if The Fall of the Berlin Wall and “The Velvet Revolution” in Prague near the end of 1989 surprised the political opposition in Yugoslavia which found itself on the tail of events imitating the events in the countries of the Eastern Bloc, which was quickly dissolving.