June 12, 2014

Remarks at the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

I am extremely honored to be at this place at this very moment. The statue of the Goddess of Democracy, standing here only seven years, has already become an integral part of the city. Today´s commemoration puts together several important events – the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, the 7th anniversary of the unveiling of the Goddess of Democracy statue by President George W. Bush, the 27th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan´s historic Berlin speech at which he famously said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” and, last but not least, the unforgettable memory of the Tiananmen Square Massacre where the original statue was erected by Chinese students in May 1989.

As someone who was for decades locked inside communist Czechoslovakia and remembers both Ronald Reagan´s speech and Tiananmen Square atrocities, I feel very strongly about all these events and am glad to be able to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to all of you for keeping the memory of victims of communism alive and for not letting communism be forgotten.

I was highly honored in October 2013 when the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation gave me the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. In my speech on that occasion, I said that the tragedies connected with communism must not be marginalized, must not be misinterpreted or even excused and – what I would like to stress – must not be taken as an unrepeatable aberration which happened more or less by accident and can never return. I am convinced that I am not alone who sees new dangers around us in the current era. We shouldn´t be misled by the fact that these dangers do not use the term communism as their headline or as their main idea.

When we look at the impressive statue of the Goddess of Democracy, we shouldn´t only look back. Democracy is weakened, attacked, and endangered in many places all over the world now.

The disregard for democracy appears in different forms, often in a disguise which hides its real nature. We are confronted with new popular “isms” that have very threatening undertones. We are confronted with softer attacks on democracy in places where there is nominally a democratic political system. We should not look only at the residual totalitarian states where the disregard for democracy is easily detectable. We are witnesses of many examples of that – let´s name African countries like Nigeria, Mali, Libya, various Middle East countries, and last but not least Ukraine.

I am very sad about what is going on in Ukraine and with Ukraine. The situation there should not be misinterpreted. This unfortunate country, this country with many different and sometimes conflicting roots, affiliations and allegiances, a country which has not succeeded in making a thoroughgoing post-communist transformation (both in political and economic sense) has been used as an instrument in the confrontation between the West and the East. This is a role this country doesn´t deserve. Especially the people there who went through tragic decades of communism do not deserve it.

We should also look closer to us. The situation in Europe should not be underestimated. Many of us in Europe – and recent elections to the European Parliament demonstrated it very clearly – feel the growing democratic deficit there and are afraid it could lead to the return of ideas as well as procedures and mechanisms which will lead us backwards, not forwards.

Thank you for allowing me to speak here today and let me repeat my today’s message – we have to concentrate on fighting communism in the new reincarnations we are surrounded by these days.

Václav Klaus, Speech at the June 11 Commemorative Events, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Washington, June 11, 2014.


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