News / Europe

Vaclav Havel, Playwright and Former Czech President, Dead at 75

Former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel answers questions about anti-government protests in Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East, (File).
Former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel answers questions about anti-government protests in Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East, (File).

Dissident playwright and freedom fighter, Vaclav Havel, a leader of Czechoslovakia's anti-communist revolution in 1989, has died at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic at the age of 75.  He was a modest writer whose powerful words catapulted him from political prisoner to president.

Born in Prague three years before the outbreak of World War II, Vaclav Havel was persecuted by the communists who seized power in 1948 because his parents were wealthy.  They would not allow Havel to receive a university education.

The plays Havel wrote in the early 1960s gained an international following.  When he loudly protested the Warsaw Pact invasion of his homeland in 1968, his passport was confiscated.

As news spread of the death of former President Vaclav Havel, Czech citizens lit candles and placed flowers on Prague's Wenceslas Square

In the late 1970s, Havel stepped up his human-rights activities, actions that led to years of imprisonment and house arrest.

In 1989, as the communist regimes of Eastern Europe crumbled, Havel was the undisputed leader of Czechoslovakia's revolution.  He was elected president in December 1989 and when the country peacefully split in two four years later, he was twice elected president of the Czech Republic - a post he held until 2003.

As a visiting scholar at New York's Columbia University in 2006, Havel recalled the stifling and pervasive impact of communism on people's lives.

"Everything was controlled.  Everything was directed.  Everything was manipulated.  It was in these conditions, very difficult to believe, that the situation could change," Havel stated.

Havel told students at Columbia that it was important challenge oppression with the truth.
"Truth and morality can have stronger power than weapons.  And that it makes sense to speak the truth and do what you think it is right to do, to be moral and try to make solidarity with other people who are in need," he said.

Havel said that his proudest achievement as president was the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Moscow-led military alliance that lasted until 1991.

Vaclav Havel long struggled to maintain good health.  He suffered from pneumonia that was not treated during his time in prison.  A heavy smoker and chronically short of breath, he was hospitalized with lung cancer in 1996 and nearly died.  His ill health continued when he suffered a ruptured colon in 2007.

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid