Vaclav Havel, Dissident Turned President, Dies at 75

Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who led the struggle to bring down communism in Czechoslovakia, has died, news reports said. He was 75.

An assistant told the Associated Press that Havel, a longtime chain-smoker who had respiratory problems died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic.

Havel, a noted playwright, was his country’s first democratically elected president after the nonviolent “Velvet Revolution” that ended four decades of repression.

He led the young country’s bumpy transition to democracy and a free-market economy, as well its 1993 breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which stands out for its peacefulness in a region where ethnic conflict killed thousands and sparked bloody civil wars.

Havel was also credited with helping to bring down the Iron Curtain across all of eastern Europe and turned the region into a pro-Western bulwark against totalitiarianism.

Havel had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his years imprisoned by the Communist regime. He was hospitalized in 2009, with an unspecified inflammation, and had developed breathing difficulties after undergoing minor throat surgery.

Havel left office in 2003, 10 years after Czechoslovakia broke up and months before both nations joined the European Union.

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Vaclav Havel, Dissident Turned President, Dies at 75

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close