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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid