VONS Collection at Libri Prohibiti
Senovážné nám. 2, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted
Provenance and cultural activities
Libri Prohibiti – the library of “prohibited books” – was opened in 1990. The foundation of Libri Prohibiti was created by Jiří Gruntorád, pre-1989 publisher and collector of samizdat literature and signatory to Charter 77, whom was twice imprisoned because of his samizdat activities. Gruntorád wanted to collect in one place exile and samizdat literature, to make them accessible to the public in order to help clarify recent Czechoslovak history. According to him, the library should serve as a “message about past times,” and show how the communist regime in Czechoslovakia functioned. Nowadays, the library’s entire collection consists of about 40 500 library units and more than 3 400 periodicals in the areas of literature, literary science, history, political science, philosophy, theology, sociology, culture and politics, the field of human rights, international relations and others.
Apart from samizdat and exile monographs and periodicals, the library also focuses on collecting documents concerning violations of human and civil rights in former Czechoslovakia and the entire Soviet bloc. This is why the VONS collection is also part of the Libri Prohibiti. The basis of this collection is the working archive of the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted (VONS). This independent dissident initiative was founded in April 1978 by Charter 77 signatories, although the organisation was independent from Charter 77. The aim of the organisation was to monitor cases of persons that were criminally prosecuted, or kept in prison because of their beliefs, or became victims of police and judicial despotism. During the first half of the 1980s, the archive of VONS was hidden by various persons, in some cases even by collaborators of the secret police. Thus, already in this period, communist authorities had some control over these documents. In 1986 the VONS archive was confiscated by the police and later used for criminal prosecutions. In January 1990, the archive was returned to Jiří Gruntorád and thus became the part of the Libri Prohibiti collections. Since 1990, the collection has gradually been expanded and today the original VONS archive confiscated in 1986 constitutes only one quarter of the VONS collection. This collection was organised in 2000.
Libri Prohibiti not only makes books and magazines accessible to the public, but it also organises various activities such as exhibitions (focusing on exile and samizdat visual artists, photographers and other topics) or literary evenings (dedicated mostly to samizdat and exile authors). The library also hosts an annual award ceremony by the PANT Civic Society which gives the Jaromír Šavrda Prize for Testimonial about Totality.
Libri Prohibiti has also participated in the creation of many publications, films (mainly documentaries) and exhibitions; it cooperates with radio stations, theaters, and several websites.
Description of content
This collection is an important source of oppositional activities in Czechoslovak society from the end of the 1970s to the end of the communist regime. The basis of this collection is the working archive of The Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted (VONS) – it contains documents from cases monitored by VONS. These documents were created by persecuted persons and others connected to these cases, by the state administration (accusations, decisions, home search warrants and protocols etc.) or by VONS itself (declarations of VONS, reports on cases etc.). Some of these documents deal with the functioning of VONS (lists of cases, instructions, correspondence).
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Blažek, Petr and Jaroslav Pažout, eds. 2008. Nejcitlivější místo režimu: Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných pohledem svých členů: diskusní setkání 19. října 2007. Testis, Praha: Pulchra.
Pažout, Jaroslav, ed. 2007. Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných: politická perzekuce, opozice a nezávislé aktivity v Československu v letech 1978-1989: sborník grantového projektu. Praha: Libri prohibiti.
Pažout, Jaroslav, ed. 2008. Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných: politická perzekuce, opozice a nezávislé aktivity v Československu v letech 1978-1989: sborník grantového projektu. Praha: Libri prohibiti.
Pažout, Jaroslav, ed. 2009. Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných: politická perzekuce, opozice a nezávislé aktivity v Československu v letech 1978-1989: sborník grantového projektu. Praha: Libri prohibiti.
Pažout, Jaroslav, ed. 2014. Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných 1978-1989: Edice dokumentů. Praha: Academia.
Author(s) of this page
- Kůželová, Michaela
Gruntorád, Jiří. 2002. “Libri prohibiti – poučné ohlédnutí za neradostnou minulostí.“ Dějiny a současnost 24, No. 5: 41–43.
Gruntorád, Jiří. 2014. “Vznik knihovny Libri prohibiti.” Last modified December 5. http://www.moderni-dejiny.cz/clanek/jiri-gruntorad-vznik-knihovny-libri-prohibiti/
Český rozhlas. 2014. “Libri prohibiti.” Last modified October 8. http://www.rozhlas.cz/vltava/dokument/_zprava/libri-prohibiti--1058103.
Libri Prohibiti. 2017. “Annual Report 2016.” Accessed May 15. http://www.libpro.cz/docs/2823-lp-vyrocni-zprava-2016-en-web-v02_1499883831.pdf.
Libri prohibiti. 2017. "Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných. VONS. (1958) 1977–2006. Katalog." Last modified March 10. http://www.libpro.cz/docs/vons-katalog-celek_1489476734.pdf.
Libri Prohibiti. 2017. Accessed February 24. http://www.libpro.cz/.
Gruntorád, Jiří , interview by Kůželová, Michaela, February 01, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection