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THE LANDS THAT became the Czech Republic in 1993 were part of communist Czechoslovakia from 1948 to the collapse of totalitarianism in 1989. During that period all right-wing political activity was persecuted. During the 1950s, political opponents of the regime were killed and imprisoned. But the late communism of the 1970s and 1980s suppressed dissident initiatives more mildly. Dissidents lost their jobs and their children were barred from higher education. Some came under pressure to become informants or emigrate. But only a few were jailed for considerable periods of time. In that environment, the dissident human rights movement of Charter 77 came into being as a coalition of anti-communists from Hapsburg monarchists on the right to reform communists on the left.

The philosopher Jan Patocka, who ...

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