Former Czech President, Playwright Vaclav Havel Dies

In 1989, Vaclav Havel led the Prague Spring, the popular revolution that brought an end to Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. Havel went on to be Czech president for 14 years, a role that, as an artist, he says he never felt completely comfortable in. He was 75.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


If there were a world leader who was the opposite of Kim Jong Il, it might have been former Czech President Vaclav Havel, a man who wanted to believe that truth and love must prevail over hate and lies. Havel died yesterday. He was 75.


He was a playwright and a political activist, jailed often in the 1970s and '80s because he criticized his country's communist rule. Then in 1989 came the Velvet Revolution. Vaclav Havel led that popular uprising that helped bring an end to Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. He was elected Czech president for 14 years, a role that, as an artist, he says he never felt completely comfortable in.

WERTHEIMER: Tomas Sedlacek was one of Havel's economic advisers in the last years of his presidency. He says that Havel had an inner strength which emerged when needed.

TOMAS SEDLACEK: You know, it reminds me a little of Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien. You know, to hobbits, he was just a fun little gadget-maker, so to speak, but you only realized how powerful he is when he actually met a demon from the ancient past. And this is exactly how Havel looked like.

WERTHEIMER: Vaclav Havel, who quietly helped change the face of Europe.


Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.