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.

Video of Amb. Ted Russell’s talk

Video of Prof. James Krapfl’s talk

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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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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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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