Vaclav Havel and his legacy: A Czech perspective

 I  received this email from a reader who grew up in the former Czechoslovakia. They've very kindly given me permission to publish it in full here.

Dear Neil,

I just wanted to congratulate you on your article:

I grew up in what was then Czechoslovakia in the 1980s and eventually left Czech Republic in mid-90s with my father. I return regularly, and have seen some of the effects of free market capitalism on the country since then.

Although most of the population under Communism wanted a change, it was mainly a) to be able to govern themselves, and b) to have their individual freedoms - ability to travel abroad for example. These were not economic or social motives.

After the initial celebration following the Velvet Revolution, large sections of the society began to mourn the socio-economic value system under Communism, with the Communist party actually increasing its (now somewhat more genuine) support.

My own father, who left because he was very much a Havel follower in the 70s and 80s and an active anti-Communist now lives in the UK and has changed his outlook, now understanding that what was perceived as completely false propaganda about the west and inequality, poverty and wealth hoarding had a grain of truth in it.

I still respect what Havel has achieved in his pursuit of certain freedoms and rights, which were very much lacking under a Communist regime, however the other side of the story, as you have put it, is rarely told. I hope it will be explored more and I was disappointed to see so many ignorant comments responding to the article. I'm sure you have spoken to other Czech people who told a range of stories and I hope mine is in some way a helpful addition.