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Vaclav Havel

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Vaclav Havel (b. October 5, 1936) is a Czech playwright, human rights activist and president, one of the leading intellectual figures and moral forces in Eastern Europe, especially Czechoslovakia. He satirised the communist bureaucracy and supported the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968. He was co-founder of the human rights organization Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted.

In November 1989, Havel was one of the leading initiators of the founding of the Civic Forum, an association uniting opposition civic movements and democratic initiatives. From the very first days of its existence he was the head of the Civic Forum, becoming a key figure of the Velvet Revolution, when, beginning on November 17, 1989, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators for freedom took to the streets of Prague. This became a popular uprising that seized the reins of power from the incumbent Communist Party.

Havel’s works were banned by the government, but the manuscripts circulated privately and printed in Western Europe. He has been awarded numerous international prizes and honorary doctorates.

Rock music, especially that of Frank Zappa, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground (from which band, according to an interview with Lou Reed in Punk magazine, Havel told Reed the revolution took its name), and the Czech band Plastic People of the Universe, inspired Havel and other dissidents during their struggle against Soviet rule when many activists were in prison for their views, or even their taste in music.


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