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).
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid