Public Against Violence

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Public Against Violence (Slovak: Verejnosť proti násiliu, VPN) was a political movement established in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 20 November 1989.[1] It was the Slovak counterpart of the Czech Civic Forum[2]


Public Against Violence was founded during the Velvet Revolution, which overthrew the Communist Party rule in Czechoslovakia.[1] After riot police cracked down on a student demonstration in Prague on the 17 November 1989 a growing series of demonstrations were held.[1] On the 19 November Civic Forum was founded in Prague as a coalition of opposition groups demanding the removal of the Communist leadership.[1]

The following day on the 20 November a meeting was held in an art gallery in Bratislava, where Public Against Violence was founded as an ally of Civic Forum in Slovakia.[1] Among the founders of Public Against Violence were actor Milan Kňažko, dissident Ján Budaj and sociologist Fedor Gál.[1]

1990 elections[edit]

Going into the first free elections in June 1990 Public Against Violence wanted greater powers for Slovakia, but backed continuing the union between the Czechs and Slovaks.[2] However they called for the emphasis to be on the economy and environment, rather than Slovak nationalism.[2]

Candidates for Public Against Violence at the 1990 election included the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia Marián Čalfa and Alexander Dubček, the ex-leader of the Communist Party during the Prague Spring.[2]

In the lead up to the 1990 elections opinion polls showed Public Against Violence with between 18 and 25% support in Slovakia, behind the Christian Democratic Movement on 25 to 30%.[2] Public Against Violence was reported to be suffering from an increase in Slovak nationalism[3] and many rural voters saw intellectuals from Public Against Violence as alien to them.[4] However Public Against Violence gained during the campaign on their anti-communist credentials with Václav Havel being well received when he campaigned in Slovakia.[4] A poll on 1 June 1990 showed Public Against Violence ahead of the Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia for the first time.[5]

The election results saw Public Against Violence finish first in Slovakia, both in the federal and Slovak elections.[6] In the federal election together the combination of Civic Forum and Public Against Violence won a majority, while in the Slovak election Public Against Violence came first but short of a majority.[7] However on election night one of the founders of Public Against Violence, deputy chairman Ján Budaj, announced his withdrawal from politics as he had been pressed to co-operate with the secret police in the 1970s.[8][7][9]

Following the election Marián Čalfa of Public Against Violence continued to lead a coalition government nationally as Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, while Vladimír Mečiar of Public Against Violence led a coalition government in Slovakia together with the Christian Democratic Movement.[10]

Decline and split[edit]

In local elections held in November 1990 Public Against Violence came second to the Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia.[11] Public Against Violence was reported to have won 20.4% of the vote in Slovakia, compared to 27.4% for the Christian Democratic Movement.[11]

Public Against Violence faced tensions over the amount of power that should be held centrally in Czechoslovakia and how much should be held in Slovakia.[12] This led to a split in March 1991 when the Prime Minister of Slovakia Vladimír Mečiar walked out of a leadership meeting of Public Against Violence and formed a rival wing of the party called PAV-Platform for Democratic Slovakia.[12] Mečiar and his supporters had accused the leadership, including the leader Fedor Gál of being too close to Prague and Mečiar called for economic reforms to be less vigorous due to fears that Slovakia would lose the most economically.[12][13] However the leadership of Public Against Violence accused Mečiar of wanting an independent Slovakia and of joining with Communists.[14]

On the 23 April 1991 Vladimír Mečiar was replaced as Prime Minister of Slovakia by the leader of the Christian Democratic Movement Ján Čarnogurský.[15] This came after the majority of Public Against Violence joined with the Christian Democratic Movement to replace Mečiar.[16]

At an extraordinary party congress held on 27 April 1991, a new party called Movement for a Democratic Slovakia split off from Public Against Violence

By July 1991 Public Against Violence had fallen to 3% in the polls, while Mečiar's party had 38% support.[17] In the same month Alexander Dubček quit the movement, accusing Public Against Violence of having moved too far to the right.[18]

Public Against Violence quickly lost popular support and most members created the Civic Democratic Union (Občianska demokratická únia, ODÚ), which however ceased to exist by November 1992.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mahoney, William (2011). The History of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 238–243. ISBN 9780313363061. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Wise, Michael (8 June 1990). "Nationalist Appeals Key in Slovak Vote;Parties Press for Greater Autonomy From Prague in Open Election". The Washington Post (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 13 August 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ Colitt, Leslie (17 May 1990). "Nationalism a new campaign issue: Personalities rather than policies will determine the leaders in Czechoslovakia's first free elections in 44 years". Financial Times (NewsBank). 
  4. ^ a b "The spirit revives. (Slovakian separatism)". The Economist (HighBeam Research). 9 June 1990. Retrieved 13 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Lloyd, John (4 June 1990). "Eastern Europe Elects Czechoslovakia". Financial Times (NewsBank). 
  6. ^ "Now, govern. (Czechoslovak election)". The Economist (HighBeam Research). 16 June 1990. (subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ a b Bassett, Richard (11 June 1990). "Communists do well as Havel party wins - Czechoslovakia". The Times (NewsBank). 
  8. ^ Battiata, Mary (10 June 1990). "Czechoslovaks Vote For Havel's Party; Early Tally Shows Communists Running 3rd". The Washington Post (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 13 August 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ Lloyd, John (11 June 1990). "Past returns to haunt Czechoslovak politics". Financial Times (NewsBank). 
  10. ^ Wise, Michael (14 November 1990). "Czechs, Slovaks Reach Agreement on Federal, Regional Power-Sharing Plan". The Washington Post (HighBeam Research). Retrieved 13 August 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ a b "Poll support for Civic Forum slips". Financial Times (NewsBank). 26 November 1990. p. 4. 
  12. ^ a b c Dempsey, Judy (7 March 1991). "Slovakian party in split". Financial Times (NewsBank). p. 4. 
  13. ^ "The danger of delinquency. (Slovakia seeks some kind of autonomy within Czechoslovakia)". The Economist (HighBeam Research). 16 March 1991. Retrieved 13 August 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  14. ^ Battiata, Mary (19 March 1991). "Separatist Slovaks Becoming More Vocal in `Family Feud' With Czechs". The Washington Post (HighBeam Research). (subscription required (help)). 
  15. ^ "Slovak premier forced to quit". Financial Times (NewsBank). 24 April 1991. p. 3. 
  16. ^ Colitt, Leslie (26 April 1991). "Slovak PM falls victim to tide of economic reform: The political demise of a volatile 'hero' who clung to the past". Financial Times (NewsBank). p. 2. 
  17. ^ "Compare and contrast: if Slovenia wins its independence, how long before Slovakia follows suit.". The Economist (HighBeam Research). 13 July 1991. Retrieved 13 August 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  18. ^ "Dubcek quits reform movement". Financial Times (NewsBank). 23 July 1991. p. 2.