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Vaclav Havel, R.I.P.
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // December 23, 2011 // Europe & EU // Comments Off on Vaclav Havel, R.I.P.
Vaclav Havel, Dissident Playwright Who Led Czechoslovakia, Dead at 75
by: Dan Bilefsky and Jane Perlez, The New York Times News Service
His moral authority and his moving use of the Czech language cast him as the dominant figure during Prague street demonstrations in 1989 and as the chief behind-the-scenes negotiator who brought about the peaceful transfer of power known as the Velvet Revolution, a revolt so smooth that it took just weeks to complete, without a single bullet fired.
Vaclav Havel, the writer and dissident whose eloquent dissections of Communist rule helped to destroy it in revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall and swept Havel himself into power, died on Sunday. He was 75.
A shy yet resilient, unfailingly polite but dogged man who articulated the power of the powerless, Mr. Havel spent five years in and out of Communist prisons, lived for two decades under close secret-police surveillance and endured the suppression of his plays and essays. He served 14 years as president, wrote 19 plays, inspired a film and a rap song and remained one of his generation’s most seductively nonconformist writers.
He was chosen as democratic Czechoslovakia’s first president — a role he insisted was more duty than aspiration — and after the country split in January 1993, he became president of the Czech Republic. He linked the country firmly to the west, clearing the way for the Czech Republic to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999 and the European Union five years later.
Both as a dissident and as a national leader, Mr. Havel impressed the West as one of the most important political thinkers in Central Europe.
Political ideas, not economics, interested him. His country, widely considered to have made a smooth transition from Communism to market democracy, came in for his devastating critique in December 1997, when he attacked corruption and the sell-off of government-run industries in a thinly veiled barb at his political nemesis, the longtime prime minister — and now president — Vaclav Klaus.
Czechs, foreign leaders bid farewell to Havel
(CBC) Czechs and world leaders paid emotional tribute to Vaclav Havel on Friday at a pomp-filled funeral ceremony, ending a week of public grief and nostalgia over the death of the dissident playwright who led the 1989 revolution that toppled four decades of communist rule.
Jeffrey D. Sachs: The Power of Living in Truth
(Project Syndicate) The world’s greatest shortage is not of oil, clean water, or food, but of moral leadership. With a commitment to truth – scientific, ethical, and personal – a society can overcome the many crises of poverty, disease, hunger, and instability that confront us. Yet power abhors truth, and battles it relentlessly. So let us pause to express gratitude to Václav Havel, who died this month, for enabling a generation to gain the chance to live in truth.
Havel was a pivotal leader of the revolutionary movements that culminated in freedom in Eastern Europe and the end, 20 years ago this month, of the Soviet Union. Havel’s plays, essays, and letters described the moral struggle of living honestly under Eastern Europe’s Communist dictatorships. He risked everything to live in truth, as he called it – honest to himself and heroically honest to the authoritarian power that repressed his society and crushed the freedoms of hundreds of millions.
Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, dies aged 75
Dissident playwright who led velvet revolution and became first post-communist Czechoslovakian president dies
(The Guardian) Havel’s state funeral is likely to draw a crowd of leaders, artists and intellectuals from around the world. Havel was a renowned playwright and essayist who, after the crushing of the Prague spring in 1968, was drawn increasingly into the political struggle against the Czechoslovakian communist dictatorship, which he called Absurdistan. His involvement in the Charter 77 movement for freedom of speech won him admiration around the world.
His commitment to non-violent resistance helped ensure the velvet revolution was bloodless. It also help ensured that the “velvet divorce” three years later, when the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was equally peaceful.
Memories of Václav Havel’s ascendency
By Jeff Heinrich
(Montreal Gazette) On freelance assignment for The Gazette with photographer Peter Martin, I was a young reporter with a personal connection to the story: my father, Heinz, was born and grew up in Czechoslovakia before the war. Now, along with my mother, Gwen, he’d returned to his homeland to witness history firsthand, and so had we.
It was a heady time, what the Czechs and Slovaks called their Velvet Revolution.
In the damp cold of the second courtyard of Prague Castle on Dec. 29, Pete and I stood with newly minted American ambassador Shirley Temple Black, the former child actress and singer, and looked up in anticipation at the ornate presidential apartments where Havel was readying his victory speech.
Vaclav Havel: remembering the Czech president, playwright, and peacenik
Vaclav Havel went from being a playwright to a symbol of the new Czech state and democracy in Eastern Europe. Along the way he became Czech’s first democratically elected president, nominee and winner of prestigious peace prizes, and one of the world’s preeminent anti-communist revolutionaries.
(Associated Press via CSM) Among his many honors were Sweden’s prestigious Olof Palme Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, bestowed on him by President George W. Bush for being “one of liberty’s great heroes.”
An avowed peacenik whose heroes included rockers such as Frank Zappa, he never quite shed his flower-child past and often signed his name with a small heart as a flourish.
“Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred,” Havel famously said. It became his revolutionary motto which he said he always strove to live by.
“It’s interesting that I had an adventurous life, even though I am not an adventurer by nature. It was fate and history that caused my life to be adventurous rather than me as someone who seeks adventure,” he once told Czech radio, in a typically modest comment.
Vaclav Havel, Czech leader and playwright, dies at 75
The BBC also offers a number of Tributes for ‘great European’ Vaclav Havel, many are heartfelt, but some appear to us to be somewhat self-serving.
Czech leader Vaclav Havel dies
(Al Jazeera) Playwright who wove theatre into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia was 75.