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History - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

​Facing massive funding cuts that precluded continued operations in Germany, RFE/RL accepted the invitation of Czech President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and relocated its broadcasting center to the former Czechoslovak parliament building in Prague in 1995. For over 13 years, RFE/RL called this former communist headquarters its home, until 2009, when RFE/RL relocated to a custom built, state-of-the-art building just outside the city center.

1989 and all that: Plastic People of the Universe and the Velvet Revolution | Plastic People of the Universe | The Guardian

And so, writes Wilson, "in December 1989, two key events signalled that the old regime was dead. One of them you know about: the remarkable election of Vaclav Havel as president of his country. The other was the massive Concert for All Decent People. Dozens and dozens of musical groups, rock bands, choruses, folk singers, gypsy bands, jazz ensembles played almost non-stop in the largest indoor sports arena in the country – a true tower of song that the regime had desperately tried, and failed, to control."

1989 and all that: Plastic People of the Universe and the Velvet Revolution | Plastic People of the Universe | The Guardian

Along with thriving alternative theatre, cinema and literature, there existed "a very special atmosphere" in Prague at the time, writes Paul Wilson in Rock in a Hard Place, a forthcoming essay on the band. Wilson was a Canadian studying in Prague, and was invited to join the Plastic People as its vocalist in 1969, not least because he sang in English. The country was emerging, or trying to emerge, from the shadow of the crushing of the "Prague Spring" in 1968 when Soviet tanks put an end to the reformist government of Alexander Dubcek. While the west hails the heroism displayed in these events, for the Czechs they tend to evoke feelings of shame. And this to no small degree explains an immediate darkness to the band's sound, born not of self-indulgence but of experience. Advertisement

Václav Havel’s Funeral: Why Truth Needs Love –

Truth without love is like facts without context, like music without passion, like a sermon without faith. That is to say, it is finally not truth at all. Parsing words to gain momentary self-advantage at the expense of deeper understanding spreads a kind of moral rot, one that inhibits development and blunts joy.

Havel tidies, waits for the end

Late in his life, he remarked that he was moving about his country house, all alone, a battered old man, tidying up, making sure that his table was orderly, all the books piled just so, “fresh flowers in the vases.” Why, he wondered, was he doing this? Or rather, for whom was he doing it? It’s as though I were constantly expecting someone to visit. But who? … I have only one explanation: I am constantly preparing for the last judgement, for the highest court from which nothing can be hidden.

Havel needs a beer

By the 1980s, before Gorbachev and glasnost, Havel sensed his growing authority. When the American Embassy in Prague gave parties, visiting writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Albee, and Philip Roth sought him out. When Havel ran out of beer at a gathering in his Prague apartment, the cop assigned to surveil him volunteered to go to a nearby pub to refill his jug. This was when he knew that power was flowing his way.

Havel on hope and meaning

Havel discovered—in the words for which he is best remembered—that hope “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

Czechoslovakia in the 70s

In January 1969, Jan Palach, a philosophy undergraduate, burned himself to death in Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet invasion. Unlike most of his fellow dissidents, Havel did not react to Palach’s death with tears, desperation, or hopeless rage. Instead, like the politician he was to become, he gave a television interview in which he declared, with strange—and up to this point uncharacteristic—bravado, “There is just one road open to us: to wage our political battle until the end … I understand the death of Jan Palach as a warning against the moral suicide of all of us.” Moral suicide—taking a job with the regime, informing on your erstwhile dissident friends—became a standard if depressing mode of collaboration in the 1970s. The parallel polis collapsed, leaving the few remaining dissidents to face the full pressure of the regime alone. Of that long decade, Zantovsky writes, “few … can imagine the twilight mood, the torpor, which resembled a state of semi-anaesthesia.”