Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Ľubomír Feldek

The citizens’ movement was just the last drop

Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Slovak English

Ľubomír Feldek, Poet, Writer, Playwright, Translator

Sometimes, only thoughts were prohibited. People were not prohibited, but thoughts were prohibited. I was, for example, zaslúžily umelec (an officially recognized artist of merit during communism) and a party member. Yet, I had books that were destroyed.

Theater, in the time before the Velvet Revolution, had a special role. What you couldn’t say directly was said in the theater through metaphor. In 1988, my play Skúška, (The Rehearsal) was staged at the Slovak National Theater. It was inspired by Molière’s, Misanthrope, the person who is not satisfied with anything. My misanthrope was also not satisfied and saying things against the state. At the premiere, the people who had tickets in the first row of seats were, as usual, party officials. After the intermission the first row was empty. The misanthrope was played by, Milan Kňažko. He wore his costume, from the play, on the tribune during the Velvet Revolution. He was the MC for the whole revolution in the costume of the misanthrope.

In the West, people assume that the dissidents did the Velvet Revolution. It is not true. People were coming from everywhere. Some people were dissidents. Some people came from the so-called island of positive deviance, they were working legally, but they were actually working in a structure that was against the State. There were the environmentalists, the scientists and the sociologists. A strong opposition group was within the arts. And many of them were also members of the Communist Party. Thus, this constellation of people that created this movement, Public Against Violence, was flowing from different streams. But they all had one characteristic in common. They all went through something in the past.

The most important thing about the Velvet Revolution, what I am affirming and what I will always be affirming, is that it is laughable (to think) that these small little movements overthrew communism. That is complete nonsense. The glass was full with those victims that during the 42 years (of communism) were executed, imprisoned and so on. That is the Velvet Revolution. The citizens’ movement was just the last drop that led to the revolution.

The twentieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution should be celebrated, not with memories, but by making a new revolution - an everyday revolution. The tendency to suppress the freedom of speech is permanent. The government is always trying to find a way to suppress the freedom of speech. When censorship was cancelled after the Velvet Revolution they were searching for new censorship tools and it’s always possible to find one. One of them is an economic tool. You can now say what you want, but you don’t have the money for paper and printing.

This interview was in English and Slovak with the aid of a translator
Photo by Magda Stanová

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Ideology Suppression Revolution Freedom Hope Values Identity