Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic

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Communists and Their Victims: The Quest for Justice in the Czech Republic
By Roman David
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018
280 pp.
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After the fall of an authoritarian regime, countries often spend years trying to come to terms with the past and find justice for the victims of state oppression. Those working in this area call these efforts “transitional justice,” but David believes the label is too imprecise. He takes the example of the Czech Republic, which has employed an array of mechanisms meant to deliver justice for its communist past. He identifies four main types: “retributive” (punishing the perpetrators), “reparatory” (compen- sating the victims), “revelatory” (exposing the guilty and their abuses), and “reconciliatory” (offering apologies). The results depend on who is being targeted— those once loyal to the system, those who suffered, or society at large. David employs a variety of survey data to conclude that the ambitious Czech effort has largely failed. Neither punishing the perpetrators nor compensating the victims is enough, unless the former repudiate the system of which they were a part.

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