Five years ago a revolution took place in the former Czechoslovakia that was so fundamentally moving, it transformed an entire political and economic empire toppling it from power. At the front of this "Velvet Revolution" was a mild mannered playwright and dissident, now three-time president Vaclav Havel. Havel became a public hero after severely criticizing the then communist regime, which ultimately let to his imprisonment for nearly five years. As three term president, two under the former independent state of Czechoslovakia and currently under the newly formed Czech Republic, Havel has developed an unique style of leadership. He has been known to converse with rock figures from Pink Floyd, to Bob Dylan, and the late Frank Zappa. He was reportedly drunk with President Clinton, while the two spent several hours in a Prague Jazz club. Early on as president, he found the job of an politician a very frustrating and uninspired task. He had seemed quiet content, and in many ways relieved in 1993 to resign from office as Czechoslovakia literally fell apart. "I don't feel sad or embittered or is appointed or pushed aside or inadequately appreciated. I feel relieved. I plan to take a vacation, and after that I will reemerge." Havel fought hard to keep the Czechoslovakia together but lost heart following the victory of Slovak separatists, led by the new Slovak prime minister, Vladimir Meciar. Meciar and the new Slovak deputies blocked his reelection as president.
In the aftermath of the splitting of Czechoslovakia, the Czech and Slovak republics were in political and economic turmoil. Havel was nominated to lead the Czech Republic, even as he showed no interest in the job. He accepted the presidency of the Czech Republic only after it was clear that he was the only one qualified to hold the reigns of power. As a president in his third term, he has recently proclaimed newly found happiness with holding office. He still remains frustrated however with achieving results and the pace of economic and political reforms. "The worst for me was getting used to the fact that visible results in politics are far more difficult to see.....politics is a sort of endless process, in which the results are always a bit different from the original aims."
One of Havel major goal for the Czech Republic is its integration into the European Community. At a recent meeting with European Community leaders he warned of dire consequences if the (EU) continued to ignore newly and still shaky east European countries. "The European Union will risk a return to the times of violence if it fails to include the newly democratized nations of Eastern Europe.
The prospect of (EU) expansion, and the expansion of its influence and spirit, is in its intrinsic interest and in the intrinsic interest of Europe as a whole,'' Havel said in a speech to the European Parliament. Havel has also expressed eagerness to join NATO and obtain security guarantees from the western military alliance. At a recent meeting NATO leaders endorsed a US.-proposed'partnership for peace' plan which formally invites the former Warsaw pact nations and other non-NATO members in Europe to join in military cooperation with NATO, in training exercises, and joint operations. Havel praised the 'partnership for peace', but said his country would still do everything in its power to gain full NATO membership.
In 1991 the former Czechoslovakia began its rapid yet costly economic transition. With the familiar policy in Eastern Europe of "Shock Therapy", it began a hard and difficult road to free market economics. While indications had shown that the Czechoslovakian economy would have grow in 1993, the dissolution of the federation had a negative economic effects on both republics. Since its separation, the Czech Republic has begun to grow modestly, unlike its neighbor the Slovak Republic who are still suffering from negative growth. In 1989 the former Czechoslovakian labor force was estimated at 8.4 occurred in the labor market, with unemployment (virtually non-existent under the Communists) became a fact of life. With new labor laws that came into effect at the end of 1990, work was no longer an automatic right that every citizen shared. Havel is finally bringing home some good economic results for a country that has suffered from negative decline since 1990.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has finally turned around into the positive range with a 2% to 3% upward change. Industrial production has finally stopped to drop, and is estimated to grow a modest 1%. Yet as Havel is experiencing such modest economic success, he is experiencing increasingly bitter political criticism. Many former friends and colleagues have charged him as a leader that lacks will and is fundamentally weak.
All that while claims of his deteriorating health seem to have much veracity. He apparently has a slipped disc in his back which causes him sever pain when standing. He is also reportedly an addicted chain-smoker, and has seemed to appear increasingly tired and weak when seen in public. Critics have used these as reasons that Havel's time is up and that he should step aside. With all these burdens, Vaclav Havel continues on his quest which he began in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution. He will undoubtedly be remembered in history as one of the great leader of Eastern Europe. A leader that confronted the mighty Communist system and continued to strive for political and economic freedom for the people.
1. David Rocks "The dissident as president: Havel adjusts" Boston Globe, October 2, 1994. pg. 2.
2. Jonathan Kaufman, "Havel steps off stage; For Czech dramatist, presidential interlude ends" Boston Globe, July 21, 1992. pg. 1 provided to Nexis by : The Boston Globe Newspaper Company. (c) 1992
3. Lincoln P. Bloomfield "Preventive Diplomacy" Washington Quarterly, Summer 1994. Vol. 17, No. 3; Pg. 142. Provided to Nexis by : The Center for Strategic and nternational Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (c) Oct. 3, 1994.
4. Rupnik, Jacques "Europe's new frontiers: remapping Europe; political aftermath of the end of the Cold War; After Communism: What?" Daedalus, June 22, 1994. Vol. 123 ; No. 3 ; Pg. 91; ISSN: 0011-5266 Provided to Nexis by : American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (c) 1994
5. Peter Havlik "Transition Countries: The Economic Situation in Early 51994 and Outlook Until 1995" pg. 2,6,9,13,27.
6. Ing.Jan Fidrmuc "Economic Transition in Czechoslovakia and its Successors" Department of economics, University of Missouri -Columbia.
7. Walden Country Report "Czechoslovakia" Last updated: Jan. 20, 1993 Provided to Nexis by : Walden Publishing Ltd. (c)1993
8. UPI "Czech president appeals for further expansion of EU" March 8,
1994.Provided to Nexis by : United Press International (c)1994
9. Xinhua News Agency "Clinton promises full membership for Eastern Europe in future" Jan. 12, 1994. Provided to Nexis by : Xinhua News Agency (c)1994
|Vaclav Havel, a famous Czech writer and statesman was born in October 5th 1936 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Living in a family home which was full of culture and intellectual activity, he became one of the leading intellectual figures and moral forces in Eastern Europe. He was the son of a prominent wealthy businessman, Vaclav M. Havel, and Bozena Havlova. His bourgeois background caused him some trouble in his education. After completing his primary schooling, options for higher education were limited for him in the communist-ruled Czechoslovakia. in 1951, he started working in a chemical laboratory as a technician, and he attended night classes at a high school from which he graduated in 1955. His appliances to liberal art colleges in Czechoslovakia were turned down because of his background, but he managed to study economics at Czech Technical University in Prague.|
|He studied at this university from 1955 until he graduated in 1957.After completing his studies at the university, he served in the Czechoslovakian army for two years, where he became interested in drama and he started writing his first plays.|
After he was finished with his obligatory military service, Havel applied to the university drama school in Prague, but was turned down. Then he started working for the Prague "Theatre on the Balustrade" from 1960 to 1969. His first play, The Garden Party, was performed in 1963. One year later, in 1964, he married Olga Splichalova for whom Havel wrote books. He was subsequently enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and he graduated in 1967. Afterwards, the Soviet-dominated, hard-line Communist government banned Havel's plays, repeatedly arrested him. During the 1970s and 1980s Havel was repeatedly arrested, and he served several years in prison for his dissident activities (1977, 1978-79, 1979-83,1989). Besides his plays, one other reason for him to get arrested was writing a letter to President Gustav Husak which explained his thoughts about the current situation in Czechoslovakia.
During this time perion, he co-founded the Charter 77 human rights initiative in 1977 and he was one of its original spokesman with Jan Patocka and Jiri Hajek. This foundation protested the strict Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and he was sentenced for this. After his sentences completely came to an end in 1989, (he had been prisoned for nearly five years) he was a public hero because of his severe opposition to the Communist regime. The same year, in 1989, he merged as one of the leaders of the November opposition movement, also known as the Velvet Revolution, which brought about the end of Communist rule. Following the fall of communism Vaclav Havel was elected by direct popular vote as president of Czech and Slovak Federal Republic on the December 29th of the same year.
On July 5th of the following year, Havel was re-elected as the president of Czechoslovakia by the new, freely elected Parliament. This time, the established better relations with other foreign leaders and tried establishing foundations for Czechoslovakia's new foreign policy. His second term presidency lasted only for two years, because the elimination of the Soviet system also meant the elimination of other Eastern European countries, because of the separation of the ethnic groups. He fought hard to keep Czechoslovakia from division, but Slovak seperatists were the ones who won. He resigned from presidency on July 20th of 1992 to show his disapproval to the situation.
In 1993, a revolution took place in Czechoslovakia, dividing the country into two parts, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Vaclav Havel was re-elected as the first president of the newly found Czech Republic, for a five year term on January 26th. He accepted this mission only after it was clear that he was the only one qualified for the job. This time, he has been working for the Czech Republic's being a full member of NATO and the European Union.
His five year presidency period came to an end on January 20th 1998, but he was re-elected for another period. Although he is having major health problems, he is continuing his efforts to bring the Czech Republic to a better place among other nations.
He will not only be remembered by being a great leader in Eastern Europe, but he will also be remembered as a great writer by his essays, plays, books, and awards.He has written numerous plays, books and essays before, during and after his imprisonement, and even when he was the president. After his four-year sentence, Havel wrote "Mistake" (1983), in which he criticized humans because of devising totalitarian societies at their own levels. In the long period of repression that followed the Soviet invasion, Havel turned to writing again. Those works included "Interview" (1975), "A Private View" (1975) and "Protest" (1978). He also wrote the full-length plays "Largo Desolato," criticizing humans being helpless against the totalitarian state, and he wrote "Temptation,". In 1988, he wrote "Tomorrow."
"Letters to Olga: June 1979-September 1982" contains letters Havel wrote to his wife from prison. "Living in Truth" (1986) is composed of six essays by Havel and 16 essays written about him by Samuel Beckett and Heinrich Boll. "Open Letters" (1991) is a collection of Havel's articles, speeches, interviews and writings between 1965 and 1990. Finally, after he was elected president, Havel wrote "Summer Meditations"(1992), in which he talks about his political experiences.
Of course, being a successfull president and a writer, he received many awards, prizes and medals from around the world. It would not be appropriate to mention all of the here, but the most important ones include, The President's Medal (awarded by George Washington University), Off-Broadway Theatre Award (Best Foreign Play), The International Freedom Prize for Charter 77 (1977), Humanist of the Year Award (1979), Off-Broadway Theatre Award (Playwriting, 1984), The Political Book of the Year (1990), UNESCO Bolivar Prize (1990), and European Statesman Award (New York City, 1997).
Vaclav Havel and
As a nation grows and goes through the steps of forming its government ad finding the economic market which would best suit its needs, many people grow to fame, fortune, or hate due to their certain views for or against certain programs. These people became the many faces and names that we as a people and society associate with a country or nation and its name. One such person who has become infamous with Czechoslovakia and its break away from the Communist regime in the late 1980’s. This person is non other than Vaclav Havel. Perhaps one of the most influential and beneficial men that Czechoslovakia has ever had.
Vaclav Havel had grown up in a well known entrepreneurial and intellectual families which was closely connected to many of the cultural and political events which had occurred during the 1920’s to the 1940’s in Czechoslovakia. It was the mere fact that Vaclav Havel was born into this family that he was kept repressed. The Communist regime which resided in power over Czechoslovakia as a nation kept Vaclav Havel from studying formally after allowing him to finish all the normal required schooling in 1951. However, Vaclav Havel did not let their attempts stop him from making something of his life. Instead of his schooling he attended a four year apprenticeship as a chemical laboratory assistant. As he worked his apprenticeship he simultaneously took evening classes to try to complete his secondary education. In 1954 after he had finished his classes, he applied for post – secondary school for humanities. However, once again Vaclav Havel was kept repressed by Communism and was denied entrance into any post – secondary school. After this refusal by the Communist regime Vaclav Havel decided to once again try to find a different way to achieve what he wanted to in life. He then enrolled to study at the faculty of economics at Czech Technical University. However, he left his studies after two year.
After he had sacrificed two years in the military Vaclav Havel worked and studied drama at the Faculty of Theater of the Academy of Musical Arts. It was here that Vaclav Havel began to express his political views through the arts. Through such plays as “The Garden Party,” ”The Memorandum,” and “The Increased Difficulty of Concentration” and by being a chair of the Club of independent writers which was a club of politically engaged people that he expressed his political view.
It was during the late 1970’s that Vaclav Havel when he wrote an open letter to the president Husak which showed his outrage with the government. This letter spoke and warned of the increasing antagonistic views towards the government by its citizens. In January of 1977 Vaclac Havel co-wrote Charter 77 which was a charter protesting the government and its repressive actions against its people. It was views and actions such as Charter 77 that caused Vaclav Havel to be imprisoned three times for a total of over five years spent in prison. While he was in prison the Communist authorities made it impossible to print any of his text.
In the late 1980’s Vaclav Havel once again proved to be an important figure in the social change that had started to occur in Czechoslovakia. Then in November of 1989 which provided the grounds for Vaclav Havel to become the leader figure of the Civic Forum, which was an umbrella group for organizations and individuals who demanded fundamental changes in the government of Czechoslovakia.
It was in the December of this year that Vaclav Havel as a candidate of the Civic Forum was elected president by the federal assembly of Czechoslovakia. Under this new presidency Vaclav led his country to big steps towards the democracy of his country. Czechoslovakia has done such things a starting an open market economy and having all the formally centrally owned industries privatized on a large scale.
It is because of the perseverance of such people as Vaclav Havel against the repressive nature of the Soviet Union Communist regime, that such things as social change happen. Without people such as Vaclav, Czechoslovakia could have still possibly been under the control of Communism or their views. However, such people do exist and continue to cause waves of social change.