Vaclav Havel, Czech leader and playwright, dies at 75

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Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic's first president after the Velvet Revolution against communist rule, has died at the age of 75.

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The former dissident playwright, who suffered from prolonged ill-health, died on Sunday morning, his secretary Sabina Tancecova said.
As president, he presided over Czechoslovakia's transition to democracy and a free-market economy.
He oversaw its peaceful 1993 split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Havel first came to international fame as a dissident playwright in the 1970s through his involvement with the human rights manifesto Charter 77.


'Great European' Tributes have been pouring in for the man many consider a driving force in the overthrow of communist rule in eastern Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed Havel as a "great European" in a letter of condolence to Czech President Vaclav Klaus.
"His fight for freedom and democracy was as unforgettable as his great humanity," wrote Mrs Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany.


"We Germans in particular have much for which we are grateful to him. We mourn this loss of a great European with you," she wrote.
In a Twitter post, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Havel a "Cold War hero".
"He opened the door to democracy in Eastern Europe and will always be remembered," Mr Hague said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also reacted on Twitter: "Vaclav Havel was one of the greatest Europeans of our age. His voice for freedom paved way for a Europe whole and free."
Havel died at his country home north-east of Prague.
In his final moments, he was comforted by his wife Dagmara and several nuns, his secretary was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
Havel had looked thin and drawn on recent public appearances, the BBC's Robert Cameron reports from Prague.
When he met the visiting Dalai Lama in Prague this month, he appeared in a wheelchair.
A former heavy smoker, Havel had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his years in communist prisons.
He had part of a lung removed during surgery for cancer in the 1990s.
He was taken to hospital in Prague on 12 January 2009, with an unspecified inflammation, and developed breathing difficulties after undergoing minor throat surgery.
Jiri Schneider, a deputy Czech foreign minister, told the BBC Havel had been a unifying figure at the time of the transition from communism.
He had done much to put both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic on the political map, Mr Schneider said.
"I think that without him it would have been much harder to get the Czech Republic and other countries in the region into Nato and the European Union, back to the family of free nations," he told BBC World News.

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[h=2]Vaclav Havel[/h]
  • 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
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16236393
+
http://edition.cnn.com/2011/12/18/world/europe/czech-republic-vaclav-havel-obit/index.html?hpt=hp_t1



(CNN) -- Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the leading anti-Communist dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the age of 75, his spokeswoman announced Sunday.

"Vaclav Havel left us today," Sabina Tancevova said in a short statement on Havel's website.

Havel, a puckish, absurdist playwright turned political activist, spent four and a half years in prison for opposing Czechslovakia's Communist government before emerging as a leader of the Velvet Revolution that swept it aside in 1989.

He went on to become president of Czechoslovakia, and of the Czech Republic when the country split in two at the end of 1992.

He died peacefully in his sleep Sunday morning in the presence of his wife Dagmar, Tancevova said.

Prague Castle, the office of the Czech president, is flying a black flag Sunday, Czech Television reported.

The Czech government will meet in emergency session Monday to consider declaring a day of national mourning, the Czech News Agency reported.

A deeply serious thinker given to long, rambling statements in presidential speeches and conversation, Havel also had an impish sense of humor, reportedly whizzing through the long corridors of Prague Castle on a scooter after becoming president.

It was his love of rock and roll as much as his moral outrage at the Communist system that brought him to prominence.

He co-wrote the influential Charter 77 anti-Communist declaration in protest at the arrest of a Czechoslovak rock band, the Plastic People of the Universe.

A perennial contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, Havel never won, but remained active in anti-Communist causes from Cuba to China until his death.

He urged Chinese authorities to release dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose Charter 08 call for greater political freedom in China was inspired by Czechoslovakia's Charter 77.

Havel and other Czech dissidents attempted to deliver a letter to the Chinese Embassy in January 2010, before Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize, but found the doors closed and no one to receive it.

It was an absurd scene that could have come out of one of the plays he wrote in the 1960s, poking fun at the Soviet-backed authorities who ruled his country at the time.

Theater proved a potent weapon against Czechoslovakia's Communist rulers, who stepped down without a shot being fired in the weeks after the Berlin Wall fell, signaling the defeat of the region's authoritarian Moscow-backed regimes.

Havel was unanimously elected president by the last Communist-run parliament of Czechoslovakia 22 years ago this month, and two months later delivered a speech to a historic joint session of the U.S. Congress.

The trip to Washington as president of his country came less than four months after Havel was last arrested by the Communist authorities, leading him to tell Congress dryly: "It is all very extraordinary indeed."

His country joined NATO and the European Union under his stewardship, but he lost out on many of the major domestic political battles of his presidency, including his effort to keep Czechoslovakia together.

He resigned as president of Czechoslovakia after national politicians agreed to divide it in two, declaring, "I will not be president of a self-liquidating nation."

He went on to be elected president of the Czech Republic twice before writing one final play, "Leaving," about a politician preparing to hand over power to a successor he despises -- widely considered one last dig at his perennial political opponent Vaclav Klaus, his successor as president.

Klaus Sunday called Havel a "symbol of our renewed nation."

Havel's former spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, declared that Sunday was "a cruel day," but recalled that when Havel had an operation to remove part of a cancerous lung in 1996, doctors gave him only a few years to live.

Havel lived another 15 years, Spacek observed, saying people should be grateful for having had him as long as they did.

Havel spoke to CNN's Jim Clancy in March, reflecting on links between the Arab Spring and the fall of Communism in eastern Europe.

"What is also sleeping under the surface and is invisible is a longing for certain elementary freedoms and that doesn't usually break out just like that, by itself," Havel said. "The snowball is created, it's rolling and rolling and, very often, it turns into an avalanche."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called him a "Cold War hero" who "opened the door to democracy in Eastern Europe and will always be remembered."

But in his typically understated way, Havel expressed more modest wishes for how history would remember him.

"I would be glad if it was felt that I have done something generally useful," he said. "I don't care much about personal fame or popularity. I would be satisfied with the feeling that I had a chance to help with something in general, something good. That history gave me that chance."
 

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Michael Jackson and Vaclav Havel in Prague 1996, Michael invited Havel over for his opening show for HIStory tour.



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One of the legendary European politicians.

RIP Václav Havel.
 

TheSilentOne

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It made me very sad when I read some of the comments on the internet this afternoon (I know, my fault, shouldn't have read it at all, but I just love to read peoples opinions). Nearly all the discussions were eventually closed because of people being disrespectful.
One of the most absurd comments (but still not as offensive as some other comments!) in my opinion was this one:

"He was truly memorable...
His truth and love make me sick..."


Then I realized that these are just few desperate unhappy people, who search for negativity - and find it everywhere. In the internet era there's always someONE - in the whole world - who wants to spread negativity.

havel1.jpg


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When I saw these pictures, I realized that this is what really matters. People are putting his photographs to their windows, lighting candles, the church bells all over the country chimed... The love that people show to him everywhere is much bigger and stronger that any hate can ever get.

The other thing I find comforting is that Dalai Lama visited Havel only few days ago. People say it was a sort of last rites visit.
 
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elusive moonwalker;3562516 said:
probably commies and or neo nazis
It's doubtful that so-called "neo-nazis" hated him but "commies," by their very ideological essence, surely hated him as he viewed the decline of Christianity and militant secularization as an existential threat to European civilization. In the late 90s, Newsweek conducted a survey that found 39% of French profess no religion and only 56% of English believe in a personal God. In Italy, only 15% attended mass while in Haclav's Czech Republic Sunday church attendance was only 3%.

Havel commented ominously on this:

"[Europeans] are creating the first atheistic civilization in the history of mankind . . . . Could not the whole nature of our current civilization with its shortsightedness, with its proud emphasis on the human individual . . . and with its boundless trust in humanity's ability to embrace the universal by rational cognition, could it not all be but the natural manifestation of a simple phenomenon which, in simple terms, amounts to the loss of God."

Source: “Czech President Vaclav Havel: Man May Have Lost God,” Associated Press, September 4, 1997.
 

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before everyone starts praising this guy, you should really start fact checking what he really stood for, an article you might want to read...

"No figure among the capitalist restorationists in the East has won more adulation from U.S. officials, media pundits, and academics than Vaclav Havel, a playwright who became the first president of post-Communist Czechoslovakia and later president of the Czech Republic. The many left-leaning people who also admire Havel seem to have overlooked some things about him: his reactionary religious obscurantism, his undemocratic suppression of leftist opponents, and his profound dedication to economic inequality and unrestrained free-market capitalism.

Raised by governesses and chauffeurs in a wealthy and fervently anticommunist family, Havel denounced democracy's "cult of objectivity and statistical average" and the idea that rational, collective social efforts should be applied to solving the environmental crisis. He called for a new breed of political leader who would rely less on "rational, cognitive thinking," show "humility in the face of the mysterious order of the Being," and "trust in his own subjectivity as his principal link with the subjectivity of the world." Apparently, this new breed of leader would be a superior elitist cogitator, not unlike Plato's philosopher, endowed with a "sense of transcendental responsibility" and "archetypal wisdom." Havel never explained how this transcendent archetypal wisdom would translate into actual policy decisions, and for whose benefit at whose expense.

Havel called for efforts to preserve the Christian family in the Christian nation. Presenting himself as a man of peace and stating that he would never sell arms to oppressive regimes, he sold weapons to the Philippines and the fascist regime in Thailand. In June 1994, General Pinochet, the man who butchered Chilean democracy, was reported to be arms shopping in Czechoslovakia - with no audible objections from Havel.

Havel joined wholeheartedly in George Bush's Gulf War, an enterprise that killed over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. In 1991, along with other [e]astern European pro-capitalist leaders, Havel voted with the United States to condemn human rights violations in Cuba. But he has never uttered a word of condemnation of rights violations in El Salvador, Columbia, Indonesia, or any other U.S. client state.

In 1992, while president of Czechoslovakia, Havel, the great democrat, demanded that parliament be suspended and he be allowed to rule by edict, the better to ram through free-market "reforms." That same year, he signed a law that made the advocacy of communism a felony with a penalty of up to eight years imprisonment. He claimed the Czech constitution required him to sign it. In fact, as he knew, the law violated the Charter of Human Rights which is incorporated into the Czech constitution. In any case, it did not require his signature to become law. in 1995, he supported and signed another undemocratic law barring communists and former communists from employment in public agencies.

The propagation of anticommunism has remained a top priority for Havel. He led "a frantic international campaign" to keep in operation two U.S.-financed, cold war radio stations, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, so they could continue saturating Eastern Europe with their anticommunist propaganda.

Under Havel's government, a law was passed making it a crime to propagate national, religious, and CLASS hatred. In effect, criticisms of big moneyed interests were now illegal, being unjustifiably lumped with ethnic and religious bigotry. Havel's government warned labor unions not to involve themselves in politics. Some militant unions had their property taken from them and handed over to compliant company unions.

In 1995, Havel announced that the 'revolution' against communism would not be complete until everything was privatized. Havel's government liquidated the properties of the Socialist Union of Youth - which included camp sites, recreation halls, and cultural and scientific facilities for children - putting the properties under the management of five joint stock companies, at the expense of the youth who were left to roam the streets.

Under Czech privatization and "restitution" programs, factories, shops, estates, homes, and much of the public land was sold at bargain prices to foreign and domestic capitalists. In the Czech and Slovak republics, former aristocrats or their heirs were being given back all lands their families had held before 1918 under the Austro-Hungarian empire, dispossessing the previous occupants and sending many of them into destitution. Havel himself took personal ownership of public properties that had belonged to his family forty years before. While presenting himself as a man dedicated to doing good for others, he did well for himself. For these reasons some of us do not have warm fuzzy feelings toward Vaclav Havel."

http://www.zcommunications.org/must-we-adore-vaclav-havel-by-michael-parenti
 

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^^ I see a rebuttle posted to the above .. Facts that are all one sided dont bring the whole truth to the matter

[h=2]javascript: void(0)Deeply misinformed[/h]By Polak, Michal at Dec 21, 2011 12:07 PM
The piece is full of distortions, based mainly on the fiction that runs throughout: that Havel was the leader, the head of the executive. But there's never been any such thing as 'Havel's government'. Havel did not do most of the things claimed here to be his doing for the simple reason that it wasn't in his power to do them. The Czech Republic, and Czecho-Slovakia before that, has been a parliamentary regime, not a presidential one. Havel was a figurehead, his role as the President largely ceremonial. He *never* demanded to 'rule by edict' - all he did was to ask for an extension of the largely non-existent presidential powers (and was rebuffed). He was up there in the Prague Castle writing his intellectual speeches, but he had zero input into economic policy - the truth is, he seemed to have very little idea of what was actually to happen. It was the Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus, who was the actual champion of the restoration of capitalism - it is he who is the appropriate figure for leftist hatred, and the responsibility for a lot of what is ascribed to Havel in this piece falls squarely on Klaus' shoulders. If anything, Havel stood in opposition to Klaus, albeit not so much in matters of policy (on which, as I've said, Havel knew very little) as in the matters of political style, broadly speaking. Apart from anything else, Havel actually did veto the continuation of the law preventing former agents of the secret police (not former Communists as such) from taking public office - he vetoed it twice, in fact, but the Parliament broke his veto both times, which again goes to show just how much power he actually had as the President.

Havel's uncritical embrace of U. S. imperialism is well documented and vile, giving lie to his celebrated 'moral stance'; it is just one of the many, many faults that he exhibited over the years (most of the real ones are unfortunately not even mentioned in this piece). However, his worst failing was, in my opinion, that he actually turned out to be completely ineffectual as a leader, had no clear idea of what ought to have been happening to the country, and accordingly left the running of it to others, who unfortunately were all too clear. His feeble attempts to criticise the 'mafia capitalism' (his term) that developed in the Czech Republic were too little, too late.

However, within the context of the country, he was still much, much the lesser evil compared to Klaus, who replaced him as President after having been ejected from the executive - and who has been poisoning the atmosphere ever since by both continuously overstepping his constitutional role and spewing out the kind of conservative nationalist crap familiar to anyone with any knowledge of the far right. Havel's wishy-washy liberalism, while no great shakes in itself, was certainly preferable.

There is much to criticise Havel for, but such criticisms should be based on fact, not fiction.

(Disclosure: I come from Slovakia and although over time I came to reluctantly appreciate some few aspects of Havel's thought, I was never enamoured of him and considered his political career after 1989 to be largely a disaster on his own terms.)

http://www.zcommunications.org/must-we-adore-vaclav-havel-by-michael-parenti
 

PaceMioDolceCuore

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Actually, no politician of that time will "get away" without criticism... the very fact that it is possible to write such pieces should be an eye opener in and of itself. It's actually quite possible to not agree with everything Mr. Havel did- but that is one nasty hit piece. What purpose is supposed to be served with the mentioning of his "nanny and chauffeurs"- what is that, the green eyed monster decrying him as bourgoise piece of work? Yeah, I got that.

Again, I understand the need to approach him on a rational level- but ad hominem attacks ("nanny and chauffeur") of that kind are not objective criticism.

Mr. Havel meant a great deal to political dissidents- I am from East Germany and I recall very much what an impact it had that a POET turned dissident stood in the forefront at a time when most people were hoping to just know if they had a job in 2 weeks. It's extremely easy in 2012 to blast his contribution as "faulty". People forget what those years were like, hindsight us aaaaawesome.
 
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I happened to be in Prague a few days after he passed. I was still there when his funeral was held. I was impressed by the respect that was shown to him. I remember seeing a huge line of people waiting to pay their respects at Prague Castle. The line was probably over 300 meters long, it was freezing cold. As I walked down from the castle through Mala Strana, it was late afternoon, there were still people climbing up to the castle with flowers and Czech flags.

His picture was everywhere in town, I remember seeing lots of candles and tributes. A minute silence was observed at the beginning of his funeral, and I was impressed to see everybody observe it. In the area where I was, everything stopped.

I was also impressed to see that it was people of many different generations, older people, but also younger people, who came with their children.

I am from France, and don't know much about the Czech Republic, I don't understand Czech. I have no idea what it was like to live in communist Europe. But I can tell you that since De Gaulle, I can't think of any French politician who can get that much popular respect. So maybe he was not perfect and made bad choices, but he did achieve something that really mattered to a lot of Czech people.

I remember landing at Prague airport, and seeing that famous cube shaped building with the huge letters "PRAHA" on it. My first thought, was "Gee, when I was a teenager, in the 80s, that is something I never thought would be possible. Me, a western girl, travelling freely to Eastern Europe". Back then, it sounded impossible, I didn't even have an idea of what the city looked like. The image we had back then, was all gray, dull, unhappy people.

Guess what, Prague is absolutely beautiful, the city center is amazing. One of the most beautiful city I've ever seen. The people I met there were really nice and welcoming. I think Mr Havel is one of the persons I can thank for making this trip, and so much more, possible.
 

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MJKing985;3599512 said:
before everyone starts praising this guy, you should really start fact checking what he really stood for, an article you might want to read...
After reading few lines of the article you have posted, I thought "what? I can't believe this!" After I read the rest I was left in silent consternation.

I know there are people from all over the world here and I really like it - people of all races who have different opinions, different religion; in fact that is what I like the most about human race - that every single person is different. The world would be so boring if we were all the same.

The things written in this article - I'm usually not that harsh - but IT IS ONE LIE AFTER ANOTHER. Not only did Václav Havel as a president NOT have a competence to do these things (as explained in the reply posted by qbee - thank you for that), but most of the things mentioned were just opposite to the way they were presented in the article and the people who managed to do them (mostly it wasn't Havel) should be praised for them. The person who wrote the article apparently does not have a slightest idea of what is it like to live under the communist regime.
Had he written something similar against one of the communist leaders in '50s Czechoslovakia, he would be imprisoned for at least 10 years, death penalty being one of the options when deciding about the verdict. Had he written it in '80s he might also have been imprisoned, he would loose his job and was given a manual work instead, his children would never be able to study at the high-school or university, his wife would loose her job too and all his relatives would be looked at with suspicion.

I'll try to comment on each part of the article, I apologize in advance for this lengthy post (and for the mistakes I make in my English), I usually am Silent, but when I see so many lies I can't help myself but reply and try to say the truth.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
Raised by governesses and chauffeurs in a wealthy and fervently anticommunist family, Havel denounced democracy's "cult of objectivity and statistical average" and the idea that rational, collective social efforts should be applied to solving the environmental crisis. He called for a new breed of political leader who would rely less on "rational, cognitive thinking," show "humility in the face of the mysterious order of the Being," and "trust in his own subjectivity as his principal link with the subjectivity of the world." Apparently, this new breed of leader would be a superior elitist cogitator, not unlike Plato's philosopher, endowed with a "sense of transcendental responsibility" and "archetypal wisdom." Havel never explained how this transcendent archetypal wisdom would translate into actual policy decisions, and for whose benefit at whose expense.
Havel was not a politician, he wasn't even allowed to study at the university because he was a "class enemy" only because he had "a governess and a chauffeur" as a child. He was a play-write. Then he became a president - it simply happened to him. He didn't know how to do it (and I doubt anyone else would know, as it was a really difficult time) and I firmly believe he tried to do his best. And considering all the circumstances I also believe he did well.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
That same year, he signed a law that made the advocacy of communism a felony with a penalty of up to eight years imprisonment. He claimed the Czech constitution required him to sign it. In fact, as he knew, the law violated the Charter of Human Rights which is incorporated into the Czech constitution. In any case, it did not require his signature to become law. in 1995, he supported and signed another undemocratic law barring communists and former communists from employment in public agencies.
This is one of the things that Havel is sometimes criticised for. But the other way round. People blame Havel for being overly democratic here! Most people think he should have fight to FORBID the communist party the way it was before 1989 TOTALY!

After 1989 the communist party remained as it was, they only changed their name slightly, to this day in political debates on TV, they justify Stalin's crimes and murders and their own political criminal cases and executions from the '50s. They get support mostly from older people who think they lived better lives when they were younger and give credit to communists for it.

Communist party really was a criminal organization, who would arrest, imprison and even execute (in '50s) people for their political opinions on regular basis. It may seem that it concerned only a small group of so called dissidents who went hard against the regime, but it wasn't so. Without exaggerating I can say that the whole nation was suffering under the communist regime.
There were the general restrictions, like the lack of freedom of speech, people could not travel outside of Czechoslovakia, there were long lines in front of the shops when the new goods was to come, there wasn't enough fruit in the shops, and so on.
But not only this. In nearly every family I know there is a story about how the communists destroyed someone's life. Anyone who didn't join the party was persecuted. It wasn't as bad as e.g. in North Korea but still...
Last year I saw a document about Korea. There were different people who managed to escape from the concentration camps and from the country. One of them was a young lady, a singer, who was persecuted because her voice sounded too close to a voice of a South Korean singer. Another man was put into a concentration camp because he used a newspaper to cover the floor when he was painting his room and there happened to be a picture of Kim Jong Il which he didn't even noticed and someone denounced him. His whole family was persecuted as well.
Now few stories from Czechoslovakia. There was an underground rock group called The Plastic People Of The Universe, who really adored "western" underground groups like Velvet Underground. Each performance have to be announced in advance at the authorities and after hearing Plastic People play the authorities forbid them, because they sounded too western-like and most of the members had long hair. The group continued to play at illegal parties (concert that wasn't approved). They didn't care about the politics then, but overnight they become a dissidents.
Not quite the North Korean concentration camp, but ... to similar to someone => forbidden?
Another story is from my own family. My great-grand father was a head of ENT department in a hospital which is considered a prestigious job, he was a respected specialist. After 1948 he refused to join the communist party. The consequences influenced the whole family. He lost his job, and he spend the rest of his life as a broken man, he was assigned to work as a physician in a village far away from where their family originally lived. His son was to graduate in about a month, but he wasn't allowed to, so he didn't have a finished hi-school education. His daughter, my grand mother, was about to go to a hi-school but she was recommended (=ordered) to train for a chimney sweeper instead so that the family created a better bond to a working class. There are thousands of stories like this, people who had farms were forced to leave them and the properties were taken away from them, same goes for any private businessmen.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
The propagation of anticommunism has remained a top priority for Havel. He led "a frantic international campaign" to keep in operation two U.S.-financed, cold war radio stations, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, so they could continue saturating Eastern Europe with their anticommunist propaganda.

This is very true and very right also! Apart from the "cold war radio stations" part. These were the only reliable sources of information for people in Czechoslovakia as there were only state media at the time. It's frequencies were distracted so that people could not listen to it. Havel wanted them to continue their broadcasting so that people in less democratic countries could listen to them.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
In 1995, Havel announced that the 'revolution' against communism would not be complete until everything was privatized. Havel's government liquidated the properties of the Socialist Union of Youth - which included camp sites, recreation halls, and cultural and scientific facilities for children - putting the properties under the management of five joint stock companies, at the expense of the youth who were left to roam the streets.
There was no reason to let the properties to the organization that no longer existed... Socialist Union of Youth (SSM) was an organization hated by most. Every young person had to be a member, if you weren't it was written into your record and you automatically become suspicious to the regime. Another few minor things like this (you have long hair, uncle of your grandmother emigrated, patents not in communist party) and you could not study.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
Under Czech privatization and "restitution" programs, factories, shops, estates, homes, and much of the public land was sold at bargain prices to foreign and domestic capitalists.
Yeah, why would state keep it? Private owners take better care of their estates. These properties were all taken away from people in the past. It wasn't sold to some capitalistic mafia, it was sold or returned mostly to normal people.
After 1948 all private property become state property. If you had a piece of land/field it become a state property. I you have a shop, house, flat - nothing was yours anymore.
After 1989 all the "private" things returned to their owners or their relatives, the rest of the state property, like the big factories was sold also to normal people, everyone got a coupon and could have a share in the company he wanted. Of course, there were some non-transparencies, as always when it comes to large amounts of money, but in principle it wasn't a bad thing.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
In the Czech and Slovak republics, former aristocrats or their heirs were being given back all lands their families had held before 1918 under the Austro-Hungarian empire, dispossessing the previous occupants and sending many of them into destitution.
Again, nothing wrong with it, on the contrary. the state has stolen the properties away from the aristocracy. After 1948 most of the aristocrats emigrated, the ones who stayed got the most degrading jobs and had to leave their homes. All the castles and their surroundings belonged to state, but state didn't have money to take care of it. As the result, by 1989 most of the properties were nearly ruins, as it haven't been taken proper care of for 40 years. Many of beautiful historic architecture jewels were turned into agriculture buildings. After it was returned to their owners they invested enormous amounts of money to return their properties which once were their homes their former beauty.

MJKing985;3599512 said:
Havel himself took personal ownership of public properties that had belonged to his family forty years before. While presenting himself as a man dedicated to doing good for others, he did well for himself. For these reasons some of us do not have warm fuzzy feelings toward Václav Havel."
It is a well known theater called "Lucerna" in the center of Prague, he got it together with his brother. Again, nothing wrong with it. It belonged to Havel's family, was stolen from them and then returned.

After writing this, I feel like writing a blog on how I see Havel's role in the political history of Czechoslovakia, maybe I will do it someday. I feel the most important part of his influence was before 1989 (not even mentioned in the article above) and during the 1989 events. After all the revolution was called "Velvet Revolution" - hadn't it been for Havel and others who took part in the negotiations it could have simply resulted into a bloody repression of the thousands of people that wanted democracy.

Finally, I would like to state that the above is my personal opinion supported by personal experience. And sorry for being off topic as this goes far beyond Václav Havel and his passing. Again R.I.P.

If at least one person reads this, it was worth writing it.
 

No-Body

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respect77;3561714 said:
One of the legendary European politicians.

RIP Václav Havel.

So very true.

Pace said:
May he be at peace and happy. He came at a time when many were panicking like headless chickens. Those who think they could have done 'it' better are many- those who try, few.

Thank you, Mr. Havel, with all my heart, for your contribution.

Absolutely - i can only join you in extending my gratitude. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.

bouee;3599560 said:
I happened to be in Prague a few days after he passed. I was still there when his funeral was held. I was impressed by the respect that was shown to him. I remember seeing a huge line of people waiting to pay their respects at Prague Castle. The line was probably over 300 meters long, it was freezing cold. As I walked down from the castle through Mala Strana, it was late afternoon, there were still people climbing up to the castle with flowers and Czech flags.

His picture was everywhere in town, I remember seeing lots of candles and tributes. A minute silence was observed at the beginning of his funeral, and I was impressed to see everybody observe it. In the area where I was, everything stopped.

I was also impressed to see that it was people of many different generations, older people, but also younger people, who came with their children.

I am from France, and don't know much about the Czech Republic, I don't understand Czech. I have no idea what it was like to live in communist Europe. But I can tell you that since De Gaulle, I can't think of any French politician who can get that much popular respect. So maybe he was not perfect and made bad choices, but he did achieve something that really mattered to a lot of Czech people.

I remember landing at Prague airport, and seeing that famous cube shaped building with the huge letters "PRAHA" on it. My first thought, was "Gee, when I was a teenager, in the 80s, that is something I never thought would be possible. Me, a western girl, travelling freely to Eastern Europe". Back then, it sounded impossible, I didn't even have an idea of what the city looked like. The image we had back then, was all gray, dull, unhappy people.

Guess what, Prague is absolutely beautiful, the city center is amazing. One of the most beautiful city I've ever seen. The people I met there were really nice and welcoming. I think Mr Havel is one of the persons I can thank for making this trip, and so much more, possible.

Beautiful words, merci beaucoup :) I don't understand Czech either, but i totally know what you are saying. It is indeed because of people like Mr. Havel, Lech Walesa and 'my' wonderful Lolek (John Paul II's childhood name used by his friends in Wadowice) that Europe can now breathe with both of its lungs, like John Paul so beautifully said. Thank you for your testimony.

TheSilentOne;3599782 said:
After reading few lines of the article you have posted, I thought "what? I can't believe this!" After I read the rest I was left in silent consternation.

I know there are people from all over the world here and I really like it - people of all races who have different opinions, different religion; in fact that is what I like the most about human race - that every single person is different. The world would be so boring if we were all the same.

The things written in this article - I'm usually not that harsh - but IT IS ONE LIE AFTER ANOTHER. Not only did Václav Havel as a president NOT have a competence to do these things (as explained in the reply posted by qbee - thank you for that), but most of the things mentioned were just opposite to the way they were presented in the article and the people who managed to do them (mostly it wasn't Havel) should be praised for them. The person who wrote the article apparently does not have a slightest idea of what is it like to live under the communist regime.
Had he written something similar against one of the communist leaders in '50s Czechoslovakia, he would be imprisoned for at least 10 years, death penalty being one of the options when deciding about the verdict. Had he written it in '80s he might also have been imprisoned, he would loose his job and was given a manual work instead, his children would never be able to study at the high-school or university, his wife would loose her job too and all his relatives would be looked at with suspicion.

I'll try to comment on each part of the article, I apologize in advance for this lengthy post (and for the mistakes I make in my English), I usually am Silent, but when I see so many lies I can't help myself but reply and try to say the truth.


Havel was not a politician, he wasn't even allowed to study at the university because he was a "class enemy" only because he had "a governess and a chauffeur" as a child. He was a play-write. Then he became a president - it simply happened to him. He didn't know how to do it (and I doubt anyone else would know, as it was a really difficult time) and I firmly believe he tried to do his best. And considering all the circumstances I also believe he did well.


This is one of the things that Havel is sometimes criticised for. But the other way round. People blame Havel for being overly democratic here! Most people think he should have fight to FORBID the communist party the way it was before 1989 TOTALY!

After 1989 the communist party remained as it was, they only changed their name slightly, to this day in political debates on TV, they justify Stalin's crimes and murders and their own political criminal cases and executions from the '50s. They get support mostly from older people who think they lived better lives when they were younger and give credit to communists for it.

Communist party really was a criminal organization, who would arrest, imprison and even execute (in '50s) people for their political opinions on regular basis. It may seem that it concerned only a small group of so called dissidents who went hard against the regime, but it wasn't so. Without exaggerating I can say that the whole nation was suffering under the communist regime.
There were the general restrictions, like the lack of freedom of speech, people could not travel outside of Czechoslovakia, there were long lines in front of the shops when the new goods was to come, there wasn't enough fruit in the shops, and so on.
But not only this. In nearly every family I know there is a story about how the communists destroyed someone's life. Anyone who didn't join the party was persecuted. It wasn't as bad as e.g. in North Korea but still...
Last year I saw a document about Korea. There were different people who managed to escape from the concentration camps and from the country. One of them was a young lady, a singer, who was persecuted because her voice sounded too close to a voice of a South Korean singer. Another man was put into a concentration camp because he used a newspaper to cover the floor when he was painting his room and there happened to be a picture of Kim Jong Il which he didn't even noticed and someone denounced him. His whole family was persecuted as well.
Now few stories from Czechoslovakia. There was an underground rock group called The Plastic People Of The Universe, who really adored "western" underground groups like Velvet Underground. Each performance have to be announced in advance at the authorities and after hearing Plastic People play the authorities forbid them, because they sounded too western-like and most of the members had long hair. The group continued to play at illegal parties (concert that wasn't approved). They didn't care about the politics then, but overnight they become a dissidents.
Not quite the North Korean concentration camp, but ... to similar to someone => forbidden?
Another story is from my own family. My great-grand father was a head of ENT department in a hospital which is considered a prestigious job, he was a respected specialist. After 1948 he refused to join the communist party. The consequences influenced the whole family. He lost his job, and he spend the rest of his life as a broken man, he was assigned to work as a physician in a village far away from where their family originally lived. His son was to graduate in about a month, but he wasn't allowed to, so he didn't have a finished hi-school education. His daughter, my grand mother, was about to go to a hi-school but she was recommended (=ordered) to train for a chimney sweeper instead so that the family created a better bond to a working class. There are thousands of stories like this, people who had farms were forced to leave them and the properties were taken away from them, same goes for any private businessmen.



This is very true and very right also! Apart from the "cold war radio stations" part. These were the only reliable sources of information for people in Czechoslovakia as there were only state media at the time. It's frequencies were distracted so that people could not listen to it. Havel wanted them to continue their broadcasting so that people in less democratic countries could listen to them.


There was no reason to let the properties to the organization that no longer existed... Socialist Union of Youth (SSM) was an organization hated by most. Every young person had to be a member, if you weren't it was written into your record and you automatically become suspicious to the regime. Another few minor things like this (you have long hair, uncle of your grandmother emigrated, patents not in communist party) and you could not study.


Yeah, why would state keep it? Private owners take better care of their estates. These properties were all taken away from people in the past. It wasn't sold to some capitalistic mafia, it was sold or returned mostly to normal people.
After 1948 all private property become state property. If you had a piece of land/field it become a state property. I you have a shop, house, flat - nothing was yours anymore.
After 1989 all the "private" things returned to their owners or their relatives, the rest of the state property, like the big factories was sold also to normal people, everyone got a coupon and could have a share in the company he wanted. Of course, there were some non-transparencies, as always when it comes to large amounts of money, but in principle it wasn't a bad thing.


Again, nothing wrong with it, on the contrary. the state has stolen the properties away from the aristocracy. After 1948 most of the aristocrats emigrated, the ones who stayed got the most degrading jobs and had to leave their homes. All the castles and their surroundings belonged to state, but state didn't have money to take care of it. As the result, by 1989 most of the properties were nearly ruins, as it haven't been taken proper care of for 40 years. Many of beautiful historic architecture jewels were turned into agriculture buildings. After it was returned to their owners they invested enormous amounts of money to return their properties which once were their homes their former beauty.


It is a well known theater called "Lucerna" in the center of Prague, he got it together with his brother. Again, nothing wrong with it. It belonged to Havel's family, was stolen from them and then returned.

After writing this, I feel like writing a blog on how I see Havel's role in the political history of Czechoslovakia, maybe I will do it someday. I feel the most important part of his influence was before 1989 (not even mentioned in the article above) and during the 1989 events. After all the revolution was called "Velvet Revolution" - hadn't it been for Havel and others who took part in the negotiations it could have simply resulted into a bloody repression of the thousands of people that wanted democracy.

Finally, I would like to state that the above is my personal opinion supported by personal experience. And sorry for being off topic as this goes far beyond Václav Havel and his passing. Again R.I.P.

If at least one person reads this, it was worth writing it.

*Raises hand* I read it :D and looks like i wasn't the only one.....I must confess that initially i was tempted to quote only part of your post, but then i realized it would have been a sign of disrespect. People often confuse brevity with quality and consider quantity void of any worth. Your post is a definite proof to the contrary of such mistaken views.

I'm well aware that pictures can be worth thousands of words, a few precious words can be worth more than thousands of songs and a loving stare or a gentle touch can be worth more than all of the above, but there are also occasions when truth needs to spelled out in written form and it takes a lot of mental and physical effort to drive important points home.

There are few things as important on this earth as reaching people's minds and hearts and at times words are the most incredible tools for it. The tricky thing is they can be used in either way - to build people's hopes up and make them aware of higher truths than their immediate reality OR tear them down and shatter their world. It's up to each of us to decide how we use these powerful and awesome means at our disposal.

I can only congratulate you for your use of words and agree with your stance about Mr. Havel's role and legacy. If you allow me, i will also suggest that you do go ahead with the blog idea about his contribution to the history of the country and....of the region. I'm sure it will be a great read.


TheSilentOne;3561768 said:
"Truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred."
- Václav Havel

AMEN
 

MJKing985

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I understand that some things have been left out in this article but again i feel it is important to remain critical of people before praising them. I'm against totalitarian/authoritarian regimes in general and in this case totalitarian communism and the evils done by Stalin and the rest of these murderers just like everyone else. You have brought about certain good points however i feel that he has helped to sell east europe to western imperialism and that is something that i am completely against because as we all know it has been a major factor of mostly every war that have been started or will be started take a look at what happened in Libya ( NATO bombed thousands of innocent men, women and children, US funded Alqaeda and so called "rebels" to kill these people as well as black Lybians and for what!?) western media has been an outlet for promoting wars and imperialist agenda upon these regions because of Oil interests or Israeli Interests...
 

TheSilentOne

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srdce.jpg

This heart was created from the wax of candles that people started to spontaneously light on different places in Czech Republic for Vaclav Havel after he died last December. It is an open heart, people can step inside.

One of the authors of the project said:
"It was spontaneous. I got the idea after Christmas when I went to one of the commemoration places on the Venceslaw's Square. I knew right away that the material in which there is such a great human energy needs to be used somehow"

I think this is so beautiful! Wonderful idea!

(source: idnes.cz)
 
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