SASW Speakers’ Series: The Velvet Revolution and Divorce / Remaking Slovakia

The SASW and Friends of Slovakia (FOS) present:

“The Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce as Witnessed by a U.S. Diplomat”
by Amb. Ted Russell (Ret.), our first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia


“Remaking Slovakia: The Gentle Revolution and Its Legacies, 1989-2018”
by Prof. James Krapfl, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Friday, May 4, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Embassy of the Slovak Republic
3523 International Ct., NW
Washington, DC

Admission is free, but RSVP is required, by 11:00 PMSunday, April 29, to


Ambassador Ted Russell will speak about his experiences as Deputy Chief of Mission in Czechoslovakia during and after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and then as Ambassador to Slovakia after the 1993 Velvet Divorce.  He will highlight the role of U.S. diplomacy during these turning points in Czech and Slovak history, and describe U.S. Embassy interaction with Czech and Slovak leaders, including Václav Havel and Vladimír Mečiar.

Prof. James Krapfl will then continue discussing the Slovak transition, from an academic perspective.  Most studies of revolutions ignore their most important actors:  the citizens, without whom a democratic system of government cannot (by definition) be created.  This lecture will explain how citizens across Slovakia took myriad concrete steps in 1989 and the early 1990s to create a democratic political culture.  It will reveal social, geographic, and temporal patterns in the revolutionary process, explaining how and why the joyous sense of unity that characterized 1989 gave way to frustration, factionalism, and in some quarters despair—though never to the point of Slovak citizens becoming incapable of concerted action for the sake of the public good.  Indeed, the civil society forged in the Slovak revolution of 1989 has proved remarkably resilient, enabling the country to overcome repeated crises since becoming independent 25 years ago, and setting it apart from its neighbors.

Ambassador Theodore E. Russell (Ret.) served 36 years as a Foreign Service officer, including postings in Prague during the 1968 Prague Spring and Warsaw Pact invasion, and as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.  He then served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia 1993-96.  Since 2001, he has served as Founding Chairman of Friends of Slovakia, a non-profit organization of volunteers promoting U.S.-Slovak friendship.

Prof. James Krapfl teaches modern central and eastern European history at McGill University in Montreal.  He is the author of Revolution with a Human Face:  Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Slovak edition 2009, English edition 2013), which won the George Blażyca Prize for the best book of 2013 in East European studies, and the Czechoslovak Studies Association Prize for best book of 2013-14 in Czech and Slovak history.  He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted research in over 50 local, regional, and national archives in the Slovak and Czech Republics.