Vaclav Havel, Czech leader and playwright, died at 75

  Dead Famous

Dead, Václav Havel on the 18th of December 2011, he was a Czech writer, philosopher, dissident, and statesman.

Born in Prague on the 5th of October 1936 and grew up in a well-known, wealthy entrepreneurial and intellectual family, which was closely linked to the cultural and political events in Czechoslovakia from the 1920s to the 1940s.

His father, Václav Maria Havel, was the owner of the suburban Barrandov Terraces, located on the highest point of Prague.

Havel’s mother, Božena Vavrečková, came also from an influential family; her father was a Czechoslovak ambassador and a well-known journalist.

In the early 1950s, the young Havel entered into a four-year apprenticeship as a chemical laboratory assistant and simultaneously took evening classes; he completed his secondary education in 1954.

For political reasons, he was not accepted into any post-secondary school with a humanities program; therefore, he opted for studies at the Faculty of Economics of the Czech Technical University in Prague but dropped out after two years.

His educational opportunities limited by his bourgeois background, Havel first rose to prominence within the Prague theater world as a playwright.

Havel used the absurdist style in works such as The Garden Party and The Memorandum to critique communism.

After participating in Prague Spring and being blacklisted after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, he became more politically active and helped found several dissident initiatives such as Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted.

His political activities brought him under the surveillance of the secret police and he spent multiple stints in prison, the longest being nearly four years, between 1979 and 1983.

He assumed the presidency shortly thereafter, and was reelected in a landslide the following year and after Slovak independence in 1993.

Havel was instrumental in dismantling the Warsaw Pact and expanding NATO membership eastward.

Many of his stances and policies, such as his opposition to Slovak independence, condemnation of the Czechoslovak treatment of Sudeten Germans after World War II, and granting of general amnesty to all those imprisoned under communism, were very controversial domestically.

As such, he continually enjoyed greater popularity abroad than at home.

When massive antigovernment demonstrations erupted in Prague in November 1989, Havel became the leading figure in the Civic Forum, a new coalition of noncommunist opposition groups pressing for democratic reforms.

In early December the Communist Party capitulated and formed a coalition government with the Civic Forum.

As a result of an agreement between the partners in this bloodless “Velvet Revolution,” Havel was elected to the post of interim president of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989, and he was reelected to the presidency in July 1990, becoming the country’s first noncommunist leader since 1948.

As the Czechoslovak union faced dissolution in 1992, Havel, who opposed the division, resigned from office.

The following year he was elected president of the new Czech Republic. His political role, however, was limited, as Prime Minister Václav Klaus (1993–97) commanded much of the power.

Even after Mr. Havel retired in 2003, leaders sought him out, including President Obama.

At their meeting in March 2009, Mr. Havel warned of the perils of limitless hope being projected onto a leader. Disappointment, he noted, could boil over into anger and resentment.