From the Other Side of the Aisle

Prague in 1989 and Today

12 December 2019

Illusions regarding the Soviet type of socialism were followed by certain illusions regarding the solidity of the normative, institutional and cultural pillars of liberal democracy in the Czech Republic. Today, the possibility to engage in a peaceful protest opens a new chapter in the development of Czech society.

When I was asked to reflect on 1989 in Prague, I first declined as I felt it was inappropriate: indeed, I was a member of the Communist Party at that time and one who genuinely believed there was a chance to reform the Soviet type of state socialist system (implemented also in Czechoslovakia) in the context of the Gorbachev’s perestroika.

Nonetheless, as there was an explicit interest to have a view “from the other side of the aisle”, here are my very personal notes on the events of 1989 and the following transition in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.

A great sense of relief

First of all, as indicated above, my colleagues, family, friends and I believed the Soviet type of state socialism could be transformed into a democratic socialist society. We had witnessed and shared the growing discontent with the totalitarian system, the dire state of the national economy, environment, we had seen the moral decay of the society (and the Communist Party itself).

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Vladimír Handl

PhD from Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He worked as a researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and is currently with the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Charles University, Prague.

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