The following essay is based on the laudatio given by Jacques Rupnik in October 2009 on the occasion of the awarding to Václav Havel of an honorary doctorate from Sciences Po. The text, which originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Commentaire, was translated from the French by Catherine Temerson. It is a great honor and deeply gratifying to be speaking here in praise of President Václav Havel. It is a privilege that is not without hidden difficulties, however.
EVER SINCE THE collapse of communism in 1989, Central and Eastern Europe was supposed to be a success story for liberalism. As Russia was backsliding from democracy in the late ’90s, a liberal political culture appeared to be developing in the polities of its neighbors to the west.