Dissidents And Authorities Say Farewell To Nobel Laureate
PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ Dissidents and authorities alike gathered in downtown Prague for the funeral of Jaroslav Seifert, the country’s most beloved poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984.
Seifert, who died Jan. 10 at the age of 84, was buried Tuesday.
People gathered at Dvorak Hall in downtown Prague where Seifert’s body lay in state. Dissidents and mourners packed St. Marketa’s Basilica for an unofficial requiem Mass in this communist country.
Some people waiting outside Dvorak Hall shouted in protest because authorities allowed only 11/2 hours for mourners to file past the closed coffin, draped in the blue, white and red flag of Czechoslovakia.
At least 3,000 Czechoslovaks and foreign visitors attended the Mass at St. Marketa’s and hundreds more stood outside the baroque basilica in near- freezing temperatures. Secret policemen moved through the crowd.
The heavy security, dissident service and adulation from all segments of society reflected the career of a poet who was in and out of official favor.
Seifert signed the Charter 77 human rights manifesto, but never was active in the Prague dissident community. He was congratulated by Gustav Husak, the president and Communist Party leader, on his 80th birthday but much of his work was censored here.
″The poetry of Jaroslav Seifert already belongs to the classical values of modern Czech literature,″ Culture Minister Milan Klusak said at the state funeral.
Admission to the service was by invitation only, but people lined the street outside Dvorak Hall for hours before to file past the coffin.
″Only an hour and a half for a whole nation to bid farewell?″ cried a woman in the crowd after an official appeared on the steps to announce that the viewing was over.
″Are they afraid we will bow to the dead?″ another woman in the crowd shouted.
After the announcement, people placed pictures of Seifert and flowers at the feet of the stone lions outside the building. Hundreds of mourners, among them dissident playwright Vaclav Havel, stood in silence.
Other Charter 77 signers attended the basilica service, including Former Foreign Minister Jiri Hajek, Charter 77 spokesman Jan Stern and former spokeswoman Eva Kanturkova.
Plainclothes policemen stopped a West German television crew from working at the basilica and confiscated the film of journalists and amateur photographers.
Charter 77 was founded in 1977 to monitor Czechoslovak compliance with domestic and international human rights accords. It is among the most prominent dissident groups in the Soviet bloc and has issued several documents and analyses.