Charter 77 Collection of the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre
Charter 77 was an informal Czechoslovak citizens' initiative that criticised state power for the non-recognition of basic civil and human rights, following the movements of the CSSR and their signing of the Final Act at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe on 1st August 1975 in Helsinki.
Na Zátorách 6, 170 00 Praha 7 - Holešovice, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
- Charter 77
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection of Charter 77 was founded in 1977 by historian Vilém Prečan, who, after going into exile, devoted himself to the systematic archiving of samizdat literature and all dissident papers. Immediately after the establishment of Charter 77 in January 1977, he documented everything about this citizens' initiative. Already in April, he published his first reflection mapping the phenomenon of Charter 77 under the title “Civil Rights - a Central Issue”. Vilém Prečan also contributed on the “White Book on Czechoslovakia”, published in June 1977, where the first documents of Charter 77 were published evidencing concrete examples of the persecution of its signatories.
Vilém Prečan archived all the documents of Charter 77, the materials on Charter 77, documentation on the repression of their signatories, and human rights violations in Czechoslovakia. He became the "Archivist of Charter 77", who managed to create a unique collection of documents and individual texts relating to Charter 77, which in this form is not in any other Czech or foreign archive. Vilem Prečan has not only archived, but also distributed materials to foreign journalists. Thanks to the contacts with Western diplomats he was in touch with, a Charter 77 spokesmen was able to send Charter 77 documents to the West. At the same time, Vilém Prečan sought financial support and technical equipment for the Chartists, which he smuggled secretly into Czechoslovakia.
After ten years of hard work, plans were made by Vilém Precan to set up an archive, documentation and information centre to preserve for the future, everything that was at home was constantly under threat of being seized by state security. In January 1986, the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington NGO, provided a subsidy to the project of a documentation centre in exile. Vaclav Havel's appeal on June 29th 1985 for the support of the centre, played a major role in awarding the grant. Václav Havel pointed out the unique importance of the work of Vilém Prečan, who operated the centre without an institutional background, under his own direction and with the help of only his closest friends, "almost as a private hobby". The Czechoslovak Documentation Centre for Independent Literature was founded in March 1986, and at the beginning of November 1986, it became located in Scheinfeld, Bavaria, on the property of Karel Schwarzenberg, at his own expense. Prečan handed over all his collections to the newly-established centre. Many samizdat creators supported the centre and completed its samizdat collections, including Ludvík Vaculík and Václav Havel, who founded and ran two of the most important samizdat publications. In September 2000, the Documentation Centre and its collections were moved to the Czech Republic. In 2003, ČSDS made an agreement with the National Museum in Prague; the CSDS collections, including the Charter 77 collection, were donated to the National Museum.
Description of content
The Charter 77 Collection documents the efforts of its signatories to implement the civil rights and freedoms of Czechoslovak citizens from the end of the seventies to the fall of the communist regime. Charter 77 has been a symbol of the struggle against totalitarian power throughout its existence. The Charter 77 collection contains the basic documents of the Charter, the series of which began with the declaration from the 1st of January 1977. In addition statements, positions, and letters signed by Charter 77 spokesmen are stored in the collection. The Collection also includes so-called situation reports on the status of Charter 77, issued for a certain period of time. There are also protests against the various forms of police repression and persecution against the Charter 77 signatories and their families. There are documents from the field of work persecution and discrimination of Charter 77 signatories, job denunciations, and legal action. There are also literary and published texts as well as commentaries on human and civil rights issues.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Hanáková, Jitka
Prečan, Vilém , interview by Hanáková, Jitka, September 28, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection