Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce Examined

SASW logo (left) & FOS logo (right)

On May 4 at the Slovak Embassy, Ambassador Ted Russell (Ret.) discussed his experiences as Deputy Chief of Mission in Czechoslovakia during and after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia after the 1993Velvet  Divorce.  He described the role of U.S. diplomacy during these turning points in Czech and Slovak history and the U.S. Embassy’s interaction with Czech and Slovak leaders,  including Václav Havel and Vladimír Mečiar. Ambassador Russell emphasized how the  Communist government in Czechoslovakia, which lacked public credibility and the  promise of Red Army support, simply dissolved in the face of growing, massive demonstrations beginning November 17, 1989. He then described the bumps in the road  towards democratization during Meciar’s leadership of newly independent Slovakia after  the 1993 Velvet Divorce. He underscored how the popular vision of rejoining Western  democratic institutions, including the EU and NATO, helped buffer some of Mečiar’s autocratic tendencies and opened the way to successful reform efforts once  Mečiar left office in 1998.

Prof. James Krapfl then discussed the Slovak transition.  He pointed out that most studies of revolutions ignore their most important actors:  the citizens, without whom a democratic system of government cannot (by definition) be created.  He explained how citizens  across Slovakia took myriad concrete steps in 1989 and the early 1990s to create a democratic political culture.  He pointed out the social, geographic, and temporal patterns in the revolutionary process, explaining how and why the joyous sense of unity that characterized 1989 gave way to frustration, factionalism, and in some quarters despair—though never to the point of Slovak citizens becoming incapable of concerted action for the sake of the public good.  He described how the civil society forged in the Slovak revolution of 1989 has proved remarkably resilient, enabling the country to overcome repeated crises since becoming independent 25 years ago, and setting it apart from its neighbors.

Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.) speaking at the event. Dr. James Krapfl speaking at the event. Dr. James Krapfl speaking at the event with a presentation. Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.) and Dr. James Krapfl shaking hands.

Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.)Ambassador Theodore E. Russell (Ret.) served 36 years as a Foreign Service officer, including postings in Prague during the 1968 Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion, and as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.  He then served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia  1993-96.  Since 2001, he has served as Founding Chairman of Friends of Slovakia, a non-profit organization of volunteers promoting U.S.-Slovak friendship.

Dr. James KrapflProf. James Krapfl teaches modern central and eastern European history at McGill  University in Montreal.  He is the author of Revolution with a Human Face:  Politics,  Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Slovak edition 2009, English  edition 2013), which won the George Blażyca Prize for the best book of 2013 in East  European studies, and the Czechoslovak Studies Association Prize for best book of  2013-14 in Czech and Slovak history.  He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of  California, Berkeley, and has conducted research in over 50 local, regional, and national  archives in the Slovak and Czech Republics.

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Farewell & Godspeed to Amb. Peter Kmec

Ambassador Peter Kmec has dutifully served Slovakia and its citizens for nearly 30 years.  Since September 2012, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the United States.  Now, it is time to say farewell and godspeed to Ambassador Kmec and his wife at a reception held in his honor. 

At A Reception In Their
Honor At the Home of
Eva and Robert Jenkins
Saturday, May 19th
3– 6 pm
606 Kentland Drive
Great Falls, VA 22066

Please RSVP to: information@friendsofslovakia.org or call 703-671-0926

Click here for a downloadable pdf flyer for this reception event.

Click here to learn more about Ambassador Kmec’s distinguished foreign service career.

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Wreath-laying to honor Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, 1st President of Czechoslovakia

Gallery

A wreath laying ceremony was held on March 8 commemorating the 168th anniversary of the birth of the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.  Remarks were made by Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec, AFoCR President Tom Dine … Continue reading

2018 Slovakia Anniversary Year Celebrations Kick Off with Capitol Hill Reception

The Year 2018 is a special anniversary year for Slovakia, with celebrations commemorating the events of 100, 50 and 25 years ago. The Slovak Embassy kicked  off the year’s celebrations with a special reception held in Washington, D.C. on January 19 in the ornate Members’ Room of the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill. The focus of  the reception was on the 25th anniversary of Slovakia’s independence, when it split from the former Czechoslovakia in 1993, and its remarkable achievements in terms of  integration with Europe and transatlantic institutions, as well as strong bilateral relations with the U.S. under the theme, Together for Freedom and Democracy. At the same time the events that led to the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 following WWI were commemorated, along with the spirit of freedom and democracy displayed during the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968.

Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec led the celebration and spoke of the Slovakia’s struggles and achievements on the road to independence. He acknowledged the support of a number of American individuals and organizations, including Friends of Slovakia, the Slovak fraternal organizations, the Slovak League and many others. Also giving remarks at the event were the co-chairs of the Congressional Slovak Caucus, Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Peter Visclosky (D-IN). In addition, remarks were provided on
behalf of the U.S. State Department by Matthew A. Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Following the event, the publication Diplomatic Connections (Mar-Apr issue) published an excellent interview with Ambassador Kmec that summarized Slovakia’s  achievements in the past 25 years, and also provided some nice photos of the Capitol Hill event. See this link and turn to page 14 for the story.

(https://issuu.com/diplomaticconnections3/docs/marapr2018_issu?e=18128973/58276973)

Also, for other events during this anniversary year check the FOS website, www.friendsofslovakia.org or watch for FOS e-blasts. To get on the list for e-blasts and/or to update your contact information send a note to  information@friendsofslovakia.org .

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Book launch: Friend – Partner – Ally, by Dr. Pavol Demeš

Book cover: Friend - Partner - Ally by Pavol Demes

Dr. Pavol Demeš celebrates publication of a revised edition of his excellent book “Friend-Partner-Ally” in a book launch sponsored by Ambassador Adam Sterling at the US Embassy in Bratislava on February 6.  

A link to the book launch and to the pdf version of the book is attached. Friends of Slovakia sponsored a well-attended talk by Dr. Demeš on US-Slovak relations entitled “Slovakia and the United States: The Ties that Bind” at the Slovak Embassy in Washington onNovember 13.”

Information on book launch

https://sk.usembassy.gov/friend-partner-ally-book-launch-celebrates-25-years-diplomatic-relations/

Book in pdf (use keyboard arrows to turn pages)

http://www.usembassy.sk/pdbook

Pavol Demes Friend-Partner-Ally revised edtion book launch announcement

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Engaging at the Demeš Lecture

On Monday, November 13, 2017 Pavol Demeš, a well-known Slovak expert on international relations and civil society, author and photographer, spoke about Slovakia and the United States: The Ties that Bind at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington D.C.  The event was co-sponsored by Friends of Slovakia (FOS) and the Embassy of the Slovak Republic.  The evening affair was attended by an inquisitive audience including members of FOS, the Embassy, think tanks and US government agencies. FOS President Joe Senko presented Pavol Demeš with a custom-made General Rastislav Štefánik coffee mug at the conclusion.

Pavol Demeš’ personal observations included how Slovakia, as a respected member of the European Union and the Visegrád Group, is doing today both domestically and in its foreign relations.  He also covered a variety of societal trends and key challenges faced by Slovakia including in the areas of education and the judiciary. Pavol Demeš assessed the current state of Slovak – United States relations in today’s political environment and concluded by positing what could be done to improve these relations via enhanced contacts.  Audience members posed at least a dozen excellent questions to which he provided thoughtful and eloquent responses.  The evening ended with a wonderful reception of goulaš and knedle, orechovnik for dessert and, of course, delicious Slovak Wine.

About the presenter:  Pavol Demeš served in the Slovak government, first at the Ministry of Education and later as Minister of International Relations (1991-92), and then as Foreign Policy Advisor to Slovak President Michal Kováč (1993-97). In 1999 he was awarded a six-month public policy research fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.  From 2000 until 2010 he was the Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the German Marshall Fund of the United States based in Bratislava. Since then, he has been a non-resident Senior Fellow with German Marshall Fund and board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. In 1998 he received the EU-US Democracy and Civil Society Award and in 1999 the USAID Democracy and Governance Award.  In 2011 he was awarded a Medal of Honor from the Friends of Slovakia and in 2017 he received the Czech and Slovak Transatlantic Award.

Pavol Demeš

Pavol Demeš with Terezia Filipejova with the Slovak Embassy

(left to right) Martina Hrvolova, Terezia Filipejova, Sharon Fisher, Carrie Slease

(left to right) Dr. Sharon Fisher of FOS, Pavol Demeš, Carrie Slease of IJM

Amb. Ted Russell of FOS with Martina Hrvolova who works with the Center for International Private Enterprise

(left to right) Joe Senko, Pavol Demeš, Ted Russel, Amb. Tod Sedgwick

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Prof. Jan Svejnar Delivers 2017 Czech & Slovak Freedom Lecture on “The Czech Republic in the World Economy”

Former Economic Advisor to President Havel, 2008 candidate for President of the Czech Republic and Professor of Global Political Economy at Columbia University Jan Svejnar gave the 2017 Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture at the Wilson Center on November 7. Friends of Slovakia co-sponsored the lecture with The American Friends of the Czech Republic and the Czech and Slovak Embassies. It was attended by a lively audience including members of FOS and AfoCR, the press, think tanks and US government agencies. FOS Founding Chairman Ted Russell presented Professor Svejnar with the FOS Medal of Honor for his work promoting democracy, a free market economy and an active role for the Visegrad countries in the European Union.

The lecture was recorded and may be heard via the link listed below. The first few minutes recorded on the link are low volume, but normal volume is resumed if you scroll in 7-8 minutes.

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-czech-republic-the-world-economy

FOS Board member Sharon Fisher with Prof. Svejnar

FOS Founding Chairman Ted Russell presented Professor Svejnar with the FOS Medal of Honor.

(left to right) AfoCR President Tom Dine, AfoCR Treasurer Barbara Gibian, Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček, Roger Kodat, Board member of FOS and AfoCR

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Slovak & the US: The Ties that Bind, a lecture and informal discussion with Dr. Pavol Demeš

The Embassy of the Slovak Republic to the United States and Friends of Slovakia invite you to a lecture and informal discussion with  

Pavol Demeš
SLOVAKIA AND THE UNITED STATES: THE TIES THAT BIND

Monday, November 13, 2017
7:00 pm
The Embassy of the Slovak Republic
3523 International Court, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Pavol Demeš is a well-known Slovak expert on international relations and civil society, author and photographer.  He served in the Slovak government, first at the Ministry of Education and later as Minister of International Relations (1991-92), and then as Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of the Slovak Republic (1993-97). In 1999 he was awarded a six-month public policy research fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. From 2000 until 2010 he was the Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the German Marshall Fund of the United States based in Bratislava. Since then, he has been a non-resident senior fellow with GMF US and board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. In 2011 he was awarded a Medal of Honor from the Friends of Slovakia and in 2017 the Czech and Slovak Transatlantic Award.

RSVP by email: emb.washington@mzv.sk
by November 8, 2017

Click here to view a downloadable pdf invitation.

Click here to view the event on Facebook and share with your friends.

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Slovak Ambassador meets with the FOS Slovak Scholars

Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec welcomed the five 2017 Friends of Slovakia Slovak Scholars to the Embassy together with program supporters including FOS Chairman Joe Senko and President of The Fund for American Studies Roger Ream. TFAS runs this intensive two month summer program at George Mason University. The FOS Scholars also have internships with local organizations relevant to their interests. 

Contributions from individual FOS supporters and from the Slovak-American Foundation and Slovak American Business and Innovation Council have made the program available to 44 Slovak Scholars thus far. 

Featured in the photos above from left to right (*=FOS scholar): Mária Sofia Takáčová*; TFAS President Roger Ream; FOS Chairman Joe Senko;  Jeff Reid, Adjunct Professor and Director Georgetown Entrepreneur Initiative & Matúš’ sponsor; Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec; Jaroslav Leitmann*; Andrea Ratkošová; Matúš Záhradník; Michaela Halásová*; Roger Kodat; Amb. Ted Russel; Ken Bombara; and Miroslav Ivan of the Slovak Embassy.

Behind the group is the FOS Wall of Honor which thanks contributors that support FOS’ cultural and educational activities.

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