PRAGUE (AP) — Ludvik Vaculik, an author, journalist and anti-communist dissident whose "Two Thousand Words" manifesto became a key document of the 1968 Prague Spring reform movement that contributed to the Kremlin's decision to invade Czechoslovakia, has died. He was 88.
Czech public radio and television, and daily newspaper Lidove Noviny, to which he contributed a weekly column "The Last Word," all announced Vaculik's death on Saturday. No further details were immediately given.
Vaculik created the manifesto at the request of leading scientists from the Academy of Sciences to support a process of liberal reforms meant to lead toward the democratization of communist Czechoslovakia that started in early 1968 when Alexander Dubcek became secretary-general of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
In the manifesto, Vaculik wrote that since the Communists took power in 1948, "the nation reached a point where its spiritual health and character are under threat."
The manifesto was published July 27, 1968 in three nation-wide newspapers and a leading weekly, a day after censorship was abolished.
With demands for freedom of speech and the removal of hard-line apparatchiks, hundreds of thousands of people, including many leading intellectuals, signed the document in approval. Vaculik said it was necessary to complete the reforms, "otherwise the revenge of the old powers would be cruel."
Dubcek began making changes to increase freedom of speech, hold elections at state and national levels and legalize non-communist parties, something revolutionary for the rigid communist regime.
After a few months, Soviet leader Leonid Brehznev lost his patience and launched an invasion that started Aug. 20, 1968, and put the reforms to an end.
"We will all remember him as an important and brave man of pen and word who was free and independent throughout his life and under any regime," said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who offered his condolences to the family.
Born July 23, 1926 in the eastern town of Brumov, Vaculik supported the Communist regime early in his life and became a Communist Party member. But soon realizing the totalitarian nature of the system, he became disappointed with it. After a fierce critical speech he delivered at a congress of Czechoslovak writers in 1967, he was expelled from the party.
Banned by the hard-line regime that was established after the 1968 invasion, Vaculik contributed to drafting the Charter 77 human rights manifesto together with other leading dissidents, including Vaclav Havel, who later would become Czech president after the fall of communism in 1989. Vaculik was in charge of an underground publishing house that released hundreds of books by banned authors.
His major books include "The Guinea Pigs," a diary-novel "The Czech Dreambook" and a chronicle "A Cup Of Coffee with My Interrogator."
After the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution, Vaculik received several major state and literary awards.
Vaculik is survived by his wife, Madla, and five children — two of whom are from another relationship. Details about funeral arrangements weren't immediately available.