Former Czech president Václav Havel dies at 75

Former Czech president Václav Havel dies at 75

Former Czechoslovak and Czech president Václav Havel died today, aged 75.

Václav Havel became internationally known in the 1980s, when the playwright became the face of the dissident movement against the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Because of his political activism, he spent several years in prison.

After the regime fell in 1989 in what later became known as the Velvet Revolution, Havel became the president of the country and quickly received worldwide fame. After the Czechoslovak federation split up in 1993, Havel became the president of the Czech Republic, one of the two successor states. He served as the head of the state until 2003.

In the 2000s, Havel organized the annual Forum 2000 conference in Prague, in addition to other projects. He also wrote several books and his play Leaving premiered in 2007. A movie version, directed by Havel, was introduced in 2010.

IN PICTURES: Havel’s film “Leaving” premieres in Prague

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His successor as Czech president Václav Klaus said today that Havel’s “fearless fight against the Communist totality and his being the leader of our Velvet Revolution” made him the symbol of the modern Czech state.

Havel has been suffering from long-term respiratory system and lung problems. In the second half of 1990s, he has been diagnosed with lung cancer two times, and underwent a surgical operation.

Václavské náměstí, December 18th 2011
Václavské náměstí, December 18th 2011

The news of his death immediately appeared on the front pages of the world’s most important global media, including The New York Times, CNNBBC, the Guardian and Al Jazeera.

Note: Three years ago filmmaker Pavel Koutecký released Citizen Havel, a film comprised almost exclusively of behind-the-scenes footage collected over the course of 13 years, beginning with Havel’s bid for the initial presidency of the newly-formed Czech Republic in 1992, running through the duration of his term in office and culminating with him picking up a retirement check at the post office. Read our review here.

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