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Thread: Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, dies aged 75

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    Elite Member Novice's Avatar
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    Default Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, dies aged 75

    Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, dies aged 75
    Dissident playwright who led velvet revolution and became first post-communist Czechoslovakian president dies


    Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, in 2007 Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images
    Julian Borger
    guardian.co.uk, Sun 18 Dec 2011 11.37 GMT

    Václav Havel, the dissident playwright who led the Czechoslovakian "velvet revolution" and was one of the fathers of the east European pro-democracy movement that led to the fall of the Berlin wall, died this morning aged 75.
    Reports quoted his assistant, Sabina Dancecova, as saying Havel died at his weekend house, and the news was announced on Czech television during an interview with the current prime minister, Petr Necas.

    The former president's state funeral is likely to draw a crowd of leaders, artists and intellectuals from around the world. Havel was a global icon, admiration for whom transcended boundaries. He was a revered 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 Havel derisively titled Absurdistan. His involvement in the Charter 77 movement for freedom of speech made him famous.
    His commitment to non-violent resistance helped ensure that Czechoslovakia's "velvet revolution" when the Berlin wall fell in 1989 was bloodless. It also help ensured that the country's "velvet divorce" three years later when the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was equally peaceful.

    Havel opposed the split and stepped down from his position as the country's first post-communist president in 1992, rather than oversee the process. However, he stood for the presidency of the Czech Republic early the following year and won it. It was a non-executive position but Havel brought to it both moral authority and prestige on the world stage. He stayed in the position, despite bouts of ill health including lung cancer, until 2003.
    His role in the east European revolutions of 1989 was second only to Poland Lech Walesa. As the twin inspirations of the pro-democracy movement, they were strikingly contrasting figures. While Walesa was a flamboyant, brash, working-class union agitator, Havel was a soft-spoken intellectual from a well-to-do family, who was a reluctant politician.

    He was one of a generation who came to political consciousness at the time of "flower power" and the "summer of love". Rockers like Frank Zappa were among his heroes and late in life he continued to sign his name with a small heart-shaped flourish.
    His motto was: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate."

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    21 December 2011 Last updated at 14:59

    Vaclav Havel: Thousands honour late Czech leader

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    There were emotional scenes as Vaclav Havel's coffin passed through Prague

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    Thousands of people have accompanied the coffin of late Czech leader Vaclav Havel to Prague Castle where he lies in state.
    The procession marked the start of three official days of mourning for Havel, who died on Sunday aged 75.
    Many applauded as the hearse carrying the dissident playwright, who led the 1989 overthrow of communism, passed through Prague's historic centre.
    A state funeral for the first Czech president is to take place on Friday.
    Royal route
    Havel's coffin was carried in a hearse, followed by members of his family and an estimated 10,000 people, many dressed in black.
    Continue reading the main story AT THE SCENE

    Rob Cameron BBC News, Prague
    This is a country in mourning for the first post-communist president of the Czech Republic.
    In the city's medieval centre, a crowd of mourners followed his coffin up the steep hill. Many more people stood by the side, watching the procession pass.
    Many are still struggling to come to terms with Havel's death. Local people have told me that he was unique and that they felt he will always be their president.
    He was, they say, the man who led the demonstrations in November 1989 and then led the country back to Europe.
    Many towns and cities have already asked to name squares and streets after him.

    "Mr Havel was a model of a man who longs to live in truth and in harmony with his inner conscience, and who is not afraid to suffer for that," Jaroslav Mino, who came from eastern Slovakia for the event, told Agence France Presse.
    The procession through the heart of the medieval Old Town following what is known as the Royal Route - used by kings and emperors for centuries.
    Among the crowd was Havel's secretary during the 1990s, Martina Smith.
    "It's a personal affair for me. I wanted to bid farewell and accompany him on this journey," she said, according to AFP.
    At the barracks of the Castle Guard, the coffin was draped in the Czech flag and placed on a gun carriage drawn by six horses accompanied by soldiers in ceremonial uniform for the short journey to Prague Castle.
    Vaclav Havel



    • Born in 1936 to a wealthy family in Czechoslovakia
    • Considered "too bourgeois" by communist government, studied at night school
    • Writing banned and plays forced underground after the 1968 Prague Spring
    • In 1977, co-authored the Charter 77 movement for democratic change
    • Faced constant harassment and imprisonment as Czechoslovakia's most famous dissident
    • Czechoslovakia's first post-communist president in December 1989
    • Oversaw transition to democracy, and 1993 division into the Czech Republic and Slovakia
    • Left office in 2003 and continued writing, publishing a new play in 2008 and directing first film in 2011

    The carriage is the same one that bore the coffin of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's first president after it was founded in 1918.
    It now lies inside the 15th-century Vladislav Hall from where current President Vaclav Klaus - who often clashed with Havel on the direction of the country after communism - described his predecessor as a "remarkable personality" and a "brave man of firm opinions" who is "difficult to classify".
    "He became a symbol of changes under way and people projected their hopes in him," he said.
    Friday's funeral, at St Vitus Cathedral in Prague, will be the Czech Republic's first state funeral since independence and is expected to be attended by dignitaries from around the world.
    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband, Bill, visited a jazz club as president with the late Czech leader in 1994, is expected to attend, as is the Czech-born former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
    Heads of state or government from France, Germany, Israel and Austria and leaders from across eastern Europe, including Georgia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania are also expected to attend.
    Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 after the fall of communism. When Slovakia split in 1993, he remained Czech leader until 2003.
    Having suffered from respiratory problems for many years, he died on Sunday at his country home in Hradecek, north-east of Prague.

    BBC News - Vaclav Havel: Thousands honour late Czech leader
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    A great man, on many levels. It makes me sad when the people who loomed so large in my youth die.
    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


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    TBH WCG, I was surprised that no-one has commented on it, after I'd posted the main article on Sunday.

    Two weeks ago I stood in Wenceslas Square and it still gives me goosebumps. I showed my family where Vaclav addressed the crowd



    And now.... Wenceslas Square looks like this...



    Considering the mess that the ex-Yugoslavia ended up as & the "ethnic cleansing", the revolution in the Czech Republic & Slovakia could have been very different.
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    The whole 20th century history of the Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic & Slovakia is really fascinating. Masaryk and Benes, later Masaryk's son Jan. Prague Spring. The velvet revolution, etc.
    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


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    I had no idea he had died, I didn't see the original post Novice or I would have commented. He was a hero to so many millions who saw him as the bringer of freedom. A great loss.
    "You're going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well."



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    Quote Originally Posted by witchcurlgirl View Post
    The whole 20th century history of the Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic & Slovakia is really fascinating. Masaryk and Benes, later Masaryk's son Jan. Prague Spring. The velvet revolution, etc.
    I'm glad that you said that WCG & not me. Our family history is so tied up with the Czech Republic & that area of the world, plus Opa was in Prague around 1936 or so (he arrived in the UK in 1938 we found recently).
    My Aunt was in Prague in 1968....
    I was there two weeks ago.... Its one of the places in the world that I feel totally at home, even when I first arrived and didn't speak a word of the language.
    So the whole history & how our family history is intertwined, I found fascinating, too....
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