Ladislav Hejdánek in 2016 via Wikimedia / Přemysl Fialka

Czech philosopher and dissident Ladislav Hejdánek passes away at 92

Czech philosopher and dissident Ladislav Hejdánek, a former spokesman of the Charter 77 human rights movement, has died at the age of 92

Prague, April 28 (CTK) – Czech philosopher and dissident Ladislav Hejdánek, a former spokesman of the Charter 77 human rights movement, has died at the age of 92 years, the public Czech Radio reported today, referring to his relative, director Hana Kofránková.

During the “normalisation” period of restoring the hardline communist rule in the 1970s after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, Hejdánek was banned from teaching at university and from any public activities. He organised secret seminars in flats. He returned to Charles University (UK) in Prague after the 1989 collapse of the Communist regime.

Hejdánek, a follower of the way of thinking of first Czechoslovak president T. G. Masaryk (1850-1937) and Emanuel Radl (1873-1942), was mainly preoccupied with the relation between philosophy and theology.

Born in Prague on May 10, 1927, Hejdánek studied mathematical logics, sociology and philosophy at UK. After the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia in 1948, he worked as a manual worker in the 1950s and then he was employed in the documentation section of the Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Prague.

At the end of the 1950s, he co-formed the New Orientation reform evangelical movement. In the 1960s, he cooperated with the cultural magazine Tvar and took part in a dialogue between Christians and Marxists.

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After his short work at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (CSAV) in 1968-1971, Hejdánek was arrested and sentenced to nine months in prison, six of which he spent in custody. Later he was pardoned.

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Shortly after the launch of the Charter 77 human rights dissident movement, Hejdánek became its spokesman and he took up this position again after Charter 77 spokesmen and dissidents Václav Benda and Jiří Dienstbier were arrested.

In the meantime, Hejdánek was granted a scholarship and a honorary doctorate at the University in Amsterdam in 1987. He was one of the initiators of the samizdat Lidové noviny paper from 1987. He also held unofficial philosophical seminars in flats under the previous regime and issued samizdat journals Reflexe and the Oikumene series.

He became a senior lecturer at UK in 1990 only and was appointed professor two years later. In 1990-2005, he headed the philosophy chair at UK’s Evangelical Faculty of Theology.

Hejdánek received the Jan Palach Award in 1984, bearing the name of a student who burnt himself in protest against the society’s lethargy after the 1968 invasion, the French Order of Arts and Letters in 1992 and the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk in 1995.

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