František Janouch, nuclear physicist, and founder and chairman of the Charter 77 Foundation, has proposed establishing a human rights prize in Václav Havel’s name to ensure the contribution of the late playwright and dissident’s contribution to the Charter 77 movement is not forgotten.
Janouch founded the Charter 77 Foundation (a.k.a. Foundation Charta 77) in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1978 in order to bring attention to the plight of the authors and signatories of the Charter 77 declaration first issued in 1977, and to raise finances for the dissident movement in communist Czechoslovakia.
Janouch wrote in an email to the daily Právo (Dec. 30) that the reaction of hundreds of thousands of Czech citizens to the death on December 18 of Václav Havel, co-author of the Charter 77 declaration and Czechoslovakia’s post-communist president, had pleasantly surprised him and gives rise to hope in “potential to resolve the big political crisis in the Czech Republic.”
“Nevertheless, I would like for [Václav Havel’s] contribution to Charter 77 not to be forgotten. Therefore I have proposed for the Charter 77 Foundation to announce a large international prize for human rights in Václav Havel’s name,” Janouch told Právo. “We have many years of experience in organizing awards,” he added.
The Charter 77 Foundation has four annual prizes: the Tom Stoppard Prize for Czech Literature, which is financed by the British writer of Czech origin after who the prize is named; the Jaroslav Seifert prize for poetry and literature; the František Kriegl prize for human rights, civic freedoms and national independence; and the Josef Vavroušek prize for achievements in the field of environmental protection and ecology.
The first three prizes were established in 1984, 1986 and 1987 prior to the regime change in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
The Charter 77 relocated to Prague in 1990 following the fall of the communist regime.