The Helsinki Process and the Demise of Communism

to be held in Prague on 5–7 June 2005.

The conference will mark the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act by presenting a comprehensive view of research into issues that stood at the forefront of the struggle for the implementation of the principles of the Helsinki Covenant in the countries of Soviet sphere. It will consider in particular the question of the implementation of one of the ten basic principles binding on signatories to the Final Act – namely, ‘respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief’ (Principle VII), questions of human and civil rights, and the Helsinki ‘third basket’.

The chief aim of the conference is to explore the direct and indirect impact of the norms adopted in Helsinki in 1975 and the subsequent course of the Helsinki process. The conference, presenting papers based on primary sources, will provide a fairly comprehensive picture of the extent to which the process contributed to the re-emergence of civil society in each of the countries in the Soviet sphere, as well as whether, how, and to what extent ‘Helsinki’ called forth or influenced the dynamic processes that ultimately led to the dismantling or collapse of Communist rule in 1989/90, and helped to bring about the end of the Cold War era.

Thus conceived, the conference will provide a forum for the comparison of developments in the individual countries of the Soviet sphere. It should also present research results on related topics, including the following:

  • work among dissidents in the different countries of central and eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany);
  • work between dissidents and Western democratic institutions across the frontiers of the two blocs (including the history of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, US-Helsinki Watch, and an assessment of the roles of Amnesty International and the Helsinki Commission of the US Congress).

The conference will also be devoted to the influence of the subsequent Helsinki process (the follow-up meetings in Belgrade, Madrid, and Vienna) on the approaches of the Communist governments. Here, it will provide a forum for the presentation of research into the Helsinki agenda in the individual governments (using the archives of the then ruling Communist parties and foreign ministries).

Experts from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and other states of the former East bloc, as well as Germany, France, Great Britain, Finnland, Canada, the United States, and other countries, are invited to the conference.

Prague, February 2005

On behalf of the Board of the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre, 

Vilém Prečan, Chairman of the Board