The Freedom of November 1989 is Fragile

15.11.2019, 4681 visits


Science cannot and must not be subdued by the interests and ambitions of politicians. It should, however, be a value base for everyday and historical movements in society. This is repeatedly recalled in various forums in the context of the 30th anniversary of the November 1989 events. The SAS Institute of History in cooperation with the Comenius University organized an international conference entitled "November 89 - 30 Years After" in Bratislava.

The two-day conference was opened on 14 November in the Assembly Hall of the Comenius University, with the Head of the Office of the President of the Slovak Republic Mgr. Štefan Rozkopál representing Slovak President Zuzana Čaputova, Vice-Rector for External Relations of Comenius University PhDr. Radomir Masaryk PhD. and SAS President Prof. Pavol Šajgalík. He recalled that he belonged to a generation that had survived half of its life in the former regime and the next thirty years in a freer society on the road to democracy. “We are a happier generation than the one my father belonged to. November 1989 opened new opportunities for free choice and professional growth for us scientists. In the historical days many scientists from SAS were on the front lines of the Velvet Revolution, many are still here among us today. I am glad to say this also in the context of social movements and trends, not only in our region, but throughout the whole European area. He then turned to the students, saying, "Freedom is fragile, remember, even you who did not know the limitations of society at that time."

Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford and author of several remarkable books on the "history of the present", gave the opening lecture of the conference. He focused not only on the events of November 1989 in the former Czecho-Slovakia and their legacy, but also on historical movements in Central Europe and Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. With detailed knowledge and ability to link events and abstract key context from them, he brought the auditorium to a period of enormous expectations, as well as subsequent errors and disappointments in the democratization process. He pointed out the harmful consequences of populism and corruption which erode the stability of post-Communist states, but also penetrate developed societies.

Thanks to other guests, the conference provided many experiences of transformation from communist society, including the accompanying phenomena of changes in the economy, law, sociology, to the slower catching-up of the more developed Western countries and the rise of nationalism. Adam Hudek, Agáta Šústová Drelová and Miroslav Londák from the SAS Institute of History presented several topics. On Friday November 15, Zuzana Panczová from the Institute of Ethnology and Social Anthropology discussed the topic of 1989 and the conspiracy theories. Juraj Marušiak from the SAS Institute of Political Sciences discussed the political parties and European integration of Slovakia after 1989 and Zuzana Poláčková from the SAS Institute of History focused on democratic renewal and minority problem in Slovakia.

Stano Ščepán

Photo: Tomáš Benedikovič

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Conference on November 1989 in UK.
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Speech of the President of SAS prof. Pavol Šajgalík.
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Timothy Garton Ash.
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The conference was organized by the Slovak Academy of Sciences in cooperation with University Comenius in Bratislava.
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Live was also discussed behind the scenes.