Primary Sources

Declaration of Charter 77


In 1976, the Czech psychedelic rock band, the Plastic People of the Universe, were arrested and tried by the Czech Communist government. The government convicted the band for disturbing the peace, with the band members serving 8 to 18 month sentences. In response to the arrest of the band, a group of Czech artists, writers, and musicians, including Vaclav Havel, circulated a petition for their freedom, known as the Manifesto of Charter 77. Charter 77 was not a formal political party, but instead functioned as an advocacy group for human rights. In 1975, the Czech government had signed the Helsinki Declaration, which included guarantees of human rights and individual freedoms. The Czechoslovak government condemned all of the signers of Charter 77, several of whom were subsequently tried and imprisoned. However, Charter 77 can be seen as the first public action of a newly-emergent Czechoslovak dissident movement.


"Manifesto of Charter 77," January 1, 1977, Libri Prohibiti (accessed June 1, 2007).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Charter 77 is a loose, informal and open association of people of various shades of opinion, faiths and professions united by the will to strive individually and collectively for the respecting of civic and human rights in our own country and throughout the world—rights accorded to all men by the two mentioned international covenants, by the Final Act of the Helsinki conference and by numerous other international documents opposing war, violence and social or spiritual oppression, and which are comprehensively laid down in the U.N. Universal Charter of Human Rights.

Charter 77 is not an organization; it has no rules, permanent bodies or formal membership. It embraces everyone who agrees with its ideas and participates in its work. It does not form the basis for any oppositional political activity. Like many similar citizen initiatives in various countries, West and East, it seeks to promote the general public interest.

It does not aim, then, to set out its own platform of political or social reform or change, but within its own field of impact to conduct a constructive dialogue with the political and state authorities, particularly by drawing attention to individual cases where human and civic frights are violated, to document such grievances and suggest remedies, to make proposals of a more general character calculated to reinforce such rights and machinery for protecting them, to act as an intermediary in situations of conflict which may lead to violations of rights, and so forth.

How to Cite this Source

Charter 77, "Declaration of Charter 77," Making the History of 1989, Item #628, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:24 pm).