photo credits: Wikimedia Commons
playwright, essayist, poet, former dissident and 1st President of the Czech Republic (1936-2011)wd:Q36233
country of citizenship: Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic
native language: Czech
language of expression: Czech
educated at: Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Theatre, Akademické gymnázium Štěpánská
occupation: writer, playwright, politician, director, poet, film director, human rights activist
award received: Charlemagne Prize, Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, Collar of the Order of the White Lion, Recipient of the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, 1st class, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Grand Cross of the Order of the White Double Cross, Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great, Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Order of the White Eagle, Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize, Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Grand Collar of the Order of the Southern Cross, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, St. George's Order of Victory, Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, 3rd class, Order of Brilliant Star, Gandhi Peace Prize, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (civil), Order of State of Republic of Turkey, Order of al-Hussein bin Ali, Order of Rio Branco, Order of the Liberator General San Martín, Order of the Republic, Order of Freedom, Erasmus Prize, Franz Kafka Prize, Concordia Prize, Companion of the Order of Canada, Peace Prize of the German Publishers' and Booksellers' Association, Olof Palme Prize, Indira Gandhi Prize, Princess of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities, Geuzenpenning, Four Freedoms Award - Freedom Medal, Philadelphia Liberty Medal, Freedom Award, Giuseppe Motta Medal, Light of Truth Award, Monismanien Prize, Democracy Service Medal, Delta Prize for Global Understanding, Ambassador of Conscience Award, Order of the Three Stars, 1st Class, Bridge Prize of the City of Regensburg, Catalonia International Prize, Lagun Onari, Fulbright Prize, Quadriga, International Simón Bolívar Prize, Order of the Star of Jordan, Sonning Prize, Honorary doctor of the Dresden University of Technology, honorary doctor of the Université libre de Bruxelles, Honorary doctor of the University of Liège, honorary doctor of the Bar-Ilan University, honorary doctor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, honorary doctor of the University of Warsaw, Jaroslav Seifert Prize, Karel Čapek Prize, honorary doctorate of Haifa University, 1st of June Award, Honorary citizen of Plzeň, Theodor Heuss award, Honorary citizen of Budapest, honorary doctor of the University of Padua, Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Austrian State Prize for European Literature, Honorary citizen of Prague, honorary doctorate of the Masaryk University, Deutscher Nationalpreis, Grand Collar of the Order of Liberty, Cena Point Alpha
position held: President of Czechoslovakia, President of the Czech Republic, spokesperson of Charter 77
Václav Havel (Czech pronunciation: [ˈvaːtslav ˈɦavɛl] (listen); 5 October 1936 – 18 December 2011) was a Czech statesman, writer and former dissident, who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992 and then as the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. As a writer of Czech literature, he is known for his plays, essays, and memoirs.
His educational opportunities having been limited by his bourgeois background (when freedoms were limited by the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic), Havel first rose to prominence as a playwright. In works such as The Garden Party and The Memorandum, Havel used an absurdist style to criticize communism. After participating in the Prague Spring and being blacklisted after the Soviet bloc's invasion of Czechoslovakia, he became more politically active and helped found several dissident initiatives, including 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 periods imprisoned, the longest being nearly four years, between 1979 and 1983.
Havel's Civic Forum party played a major role in the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989. He assumed the presidency shortly thereafter, and was re-elected 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, at the end of his presidency, he enjoyed greater popularity abroad than at home. Havel continued his life as a public intellectual after his presidency, launching several initiatives including the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, the VIZE 97 Foundation, and the Forum 2000 annual conference.
Havel's political philosophy was one of anti-consumerism, humanitarianism, environmentalism, civil activism, and direct democracy. He supported the Czech Green Party from 2004 until his death. He received numerous accolades during his lifetime including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Order of Canada, the Four Freedoms Award, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, and the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award. The 2012–2013 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour. He is considered by some to be one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century. The international airport in Prague was renamed to Václav Havel Airport Prague in 2012.
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